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Pristine Milford Sound, New Zealand

Exploring New Zealands North & South Islands

Example 15 Day Cruise
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A quiet paddle at sunsetScenic New ZealandExplore New ZealandSnorkelling with the localsPristine Milford Sound, New Zealand
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Queenstown, New Zealand

Arrive in Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island, and transfer to the fine Crowne Plaza. In the afternoon, walk through the town and take the gondola for a panoramic view over the city, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding peaks. Gather tonight for a welcome dinner. (D)

Day 2: Milford Sound / Embark Oceanic Discoverer

In the morning, drive, with a stop at Lake Te Anau, to incomparable Milford Sound, the best known and perhaps the most spectacular of all New Zealand’s fjords. Embark Oceanic Discoverer, and spend the afternoon exploring Milford. You will be surrounded by sheer peaks, of which the tallest and best known is Mitre Peak. Look for dolphins and New Zealand fur seals and see the cascades of Stirling Falls. (B,L,D)

Day 3-4: Doubtful & Dusky Sounds

Sail on Doubtful Sound, which got its name because Captain Cook was uncertain whether the winds would be sufficient to allow him to exit. It’s the largest of New Zealand’s fjords and a place where magnificent vistas extend in every direction. Plan to land on one of the beaches to explore, seeing the native plants up close and looking for unique birdlife including the Fiordland crested penguin, the world’s rarest penguin. A cruise in the Xplorer shows you some of the landscapes for which the fjords are famous. Dusky Sound is among the most remote of New Zealand’s fjords, and can be reached only on foot or by sea. It has a special place in New Zealand history, as Captain Cook stayed here for five weeks in 1773. (B,L,D)

Day 5: Stewart Island

Stewart, the southernmost of New Zealand’s major islands, has a population of just 380 and the feel of a frontier outpost. A highlight is a walk on the sanctuary of Ulva Island, with outstanding birdlife that includes the weka (a flightless rail), the kaka (a forest parrot), the confiding New Zealand robin and perhaps even a brown kiwi. In the afternoon, you can choose to explore Stewart Island by road or take a walk with your naturalists. Stewart Island’s only town, Oban, has a relaxed waterfront atmosphere. (B,L,D)

Day 6: Dunedin

Lively Dunedin combines outstanding natural history with a rich cultural heritage. Explore the town, seeing the ornate Edwardian railway station and the Octagon plaza at the center of town. You can choose to visit the Otago Peninsula, looking for fur seals, yellow-eyed and little blue penguins and royal albatross; or else (if available) you can take the railroad along the coast for splendid views. (B,L,D)

Day 7: Akaroa

You’ll spend the day at Akaroa, near the head of the scenic Banks Peninsula. Its history is unique in New Zealand. Originally inhabited by Maori, it was settled by French immigrants in 1840, and many early houses still stand in the town. You have a number of choices for exploring Akaroa: taking an excursion boat in the bay to observe Hector’s dolphins; taking a guided walk through the town; visiting a nearby farm to see how sheep are raised and sheared; and a more strenuous walk in the countryside above the town. (B,L,D)

Day 8: Kaikoura

The continental shelf drops off rapidly just off Kaikoura, producing upwelling that creates ideal conditions for marine mammals, notably enormous sperm whales, dolphins and pelagic birds. Your choices here include taking a local boat in search of whales; another excursion to look for albatrosses and other birds; swimming with gregarious dusky dolphins (all equipment is supplied); visiting a fur sea colony; and walking along the cliff tops of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, with spectacular views of mountains, cliffs and the Pacific, including a visit to Fyffe House, a small museum that was originally the home of whalers. (B,L,D)

Day 9: Wellington

Vibrant Wellington is New Zealand’s capital and second largest city, although the town center, with a lively waterfront, is compact and readily explored. Explore Wellington, including a visit to the superb Te Papa Museum, opened in 1998 as a showplace for New Zealand’s diverse cultures. In the afternoon, you may explore on your own or enjoy a visit to the Zealandia Sanctuary, where the elimination of predators has allowed native birds and plants to get reestablished. (B,L,D)

Day 10: At Sea

Spend an enjoyable day at sea, with talks by your expedition staff, preparing for the days ahead. (B,L,D)

Day 11: Napier

After the devastating earthquake of 1931 leveled Napier, residents decided to rebuild it as a shining example of contemporary architecture. The result is many of the finest showpieces of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and related styles in the world. They fill the town. Have a guided exploration of the town and its history, and also visit the world’s largest gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers outside Napier — where 5,000 pairs of birds raise their young. You’ll be able to get remarkably close. (B,L,D)

Day 12: Gisborne

Enjoy a special, intimate reception at the meeting houses of one of the small Maori communities, where you’ll learn of the residents’ history and traditions, with a chance to meet some of the people who live here. In the afternoon explore the marvelous Eastwoodhill arboretum, with trees and plants from all over the world, planted over a period of decades by the eccentric New Zealander Douglas Cook. (B,L,D)

Day 13: White Island

Today visit White Island, an astonishingly active marine volcano with powerful steam vents, boiling mud pots and a highly acidic crater lake. At this unique site, clouds of steam and rivulets of hot water are everywhere, as is the roar from the vents. You’ll also see the remains of the sulfur mining operations that were abandoned in 1933. (B,L,D)

Day 14: Auckland

Arrive Auckland, disembark Oceanic Discoverer and tour the city, taking in the views from the renowned Sky Tower and seeing the marvelous exhibits on Maori culture and natural history at the Auckland Museum. Check in to the Crowne Plaza, in the heart of the city. The afternoon is at leisure to shop or explore further. In the evening, gather for a farewell dinner. (B,D)

Day 15: Auckland / Return Home

The day is free until your departure for the airport for connecting flights home. (B)

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Kate was great to work with in the planning stage. She was prompt, helpful, and efficient. Our tour guide, Edwin, was knowledgeable and passionate. We were very happy to have traveled with Adventure Life, it made the trip easy and a true pleasure. We could concentrate on enjoying the experience rather than the details of travel.
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