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Fiordland, Hautere and the South Coast | Wellington - Bluff | 10 Nights

New Zealand’s South Island

10 Nights | Departs Wellington 21 January 2024 | Arrives Bluff 31 January 2024 | Onboard Coral Geographer

Discover the captivating coastline of New Zealand’s South Island that abounds with marine life as we make our way to the deep and quiet fiords of Murihiku (Southland). This journey explores New Zealand’s charming east coast towns and will discover wildlife in their natural habitats along the way, including legions of bird species.

Aboard Coral Geographer, experience New Zealand from a different perspective with the ability to customise your expedition from a choice of all-inclusive experiences ranging from walks through historic cities to wilderness hikes guided by our knowledgeable expedition team. Enjoy access to remote and difficult-to-reach wilderness areas within the Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland and visit sheltered coves and islands to find fur seals, kakapos, and pods of friendly dolphins.

Join us as we return to these pristine regions with the greatest respect and care.

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Cruise Page - Milford to Wellington Fiordland and the South Coast

Expedition Highlights:

  • Spend a day exploring Queen Charlotte sound in the spectacular Marlborough Sounds, and discover the history of Ship Cove, or walk a section of the famous Queen Charlotte Track
  • Discover the unique character of east coast towns, from the French-influenced Akaroa to Dunedin’s Scottish heritage
  • Spend a day exploring Rakiura (Stewart Island), with opportunities for endemic birdwatching and an opportunity to hike a section of the Rakiura Track
  • Explore four of Fiordland’s most beautiful sounds – the astonishing and rarely-visited Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, Thompson Sound, and beautiful Milford Sound
  • Observe the wildlife, discover the history, and be immersed in the stillness of unforgettable Southland
  • Taste the world-renowned wines produced in the Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough regions on our specially curated New Zealand wine list
  • Encounter many species of endemic birds and marine wildlife, including the Fiordland crested penguin, Yellow-eyed penguin, little penguin and New Zealand fur seal in Southland, and the dusky dolphin and Hector’s dolphin at Akaroa


Bridge Deck Balcony Suite $19,190 n/a
Explorer Deck Balcony Stateroom $14,290 $21,435
Promenade Deck Stateroom $10,720 $16,080
Coral Deck Stateroom $8,920 $13,380

Prices are per person, listed in Australian Dollars (AUD) and include GST. Limited sole use occupancy available. 

The Itinerary

Embark: Board Coral Geographer at Wellington at 4:00 pm for 5:00 pm departure
Disembark: Arrive and disembark at Bluff at 8:00 am

This itinerary is an indication of the destinations we visit and activities on offer. Throughout the expedition we may make changes to the itinerary as necessary to maximise your expeditionary experience. Allowances may be made for seasonal variations, weather, tidal conditions, and any other event that may affect the operation of the vessel. Coral Expeditions suggests that you do not arrive on the day of embarkation or depart on the day of disembarkation due to any changes that may occur in scheduling.

Day 1: Depart Wellington

1 Milford Sound (1)

After a pre-cruise SailSAFE check-in, board Coral Geographer in Wellington at 4:00pm. Depart at 5:00pm and cruise towards the Marlborough Sound while you settle into your stateroom and relax. Take the time to become acquainted with all the facilities onboard before meeting your fellow travellers, the Captain and crew for the Captain’s Welcome Drinks.

Marlborough Sounds

Day 2 - Long Is - Marlborough Sounds (14)

The ancient river valleys that form the Marlborough Sounds make up 20% of New Zealand’s coastline. The webs of sunken channels are surrounded by forest-cloaked peaks and vineyards, all of which present a breathtaking view from any perspective.  This lush region produces much of New Zealand’s seafood, and 80% of its wine. The fertile soil in this region supported the country’s first known Polynesian settlement in the late 1200s AD at Wairau Bar.

Here, cruise the fiord-like Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui). Follow the path of Captain Cook’s exploratory voyages, including a stop at Cook’s favourite New Zealand base, Ship Cove, where he spent a total of 120 days. Discover the dolphins and seals of the sounds with marine spotting from the Xplorer and enjoy wonderful birdwatching on walks through Motuara Island birdlife sanctuary.  Guided by our expedition team and lecturers, there will be options to hike a section of the spectacular Queen Charlotte Track, or shorter walks available.  The history of the region is also brought to life with our visit to Ship Cove.

This evening, enjoy Captain’s Farewell Drinks in the beautiful surrounds of Marlborough, before crossing the Cook Strait overnight.


Napier New Zealand

Ringed by the breathtaking snow-dusted Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, the picturesque town of Kaikoura is renowned as possibly the best whale watching destination in the world. Kaikoura is one of the very few places it is possible to observe the Sperm Whale. Aboard a small, specialised vessel, we will explore the ocean in search of these amazing mammals, as well as fur seals, dusky and Hector’s dolphins and other migratory whales.

Kaikoura means ‘to eat crayfish’, and you may have the opportunity to taste the seafood available here. You will also have the opportunity walk through this small town to visit the museums, galleries, and cafes, before joining the expedition team on a guided walk over the peninsula to marvel at the spectacular scenery.


Akaroa Coral Expeditions

This morning, sail into the long harbour of Akaroa, formed by the breached volcanic crater that makes up the Banks Peninsula. The village of Akaroa has the unique identity of being the only French settlement in New Zealand, and its charming cottages and French street names still carry that identity today.

Ringed by the pastoral rolling hills of the Peninsula, the scenic village was once a bustling whaling outpost. Here enjoy a harbour cruise with a local operator to spot marine wildlife. Guests will also have free time to explore the scenic village, and visit cafes inspired by French cuisine. A variety of short walks are available into the surrounding nature reserves, guided by our expedition team.


Dunedin Coral Expeditions

Dunedin, settled in and around an ancient volcanic crater, is known for its Scottish and Maori heritage. Named after the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the city’s heritage buildings, cathedrals, and charming atmosphere share an old-world atmosphere. Dunedin City is regarded as New Zealand’s architectural heritage capital.

The Otago Peninsula is an area of exceptional diversity, and as we enter the long Otago Harbour, we will be welcomed with sights of the world’s only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross and a colony of yellow-eyed penguin  – the world’s rarest penguin – as well as Hookers sea lions. and various other unique species.

You will have time to explore the city at your own leisure: perhaps visit the famous Speight’s Brewery, art gallery, museum, and New Zealand’s oldest botanic gardens. There will also be a choice of included excursions with local operators – choose between a coach tour of the Otago Peninsula’s most scenic beaches and Dunedin’s highlights, or a railway journey through the rugged and spectacular Taieri River Gorge.

Stewart & Ulva Islands

Dunedin New Zealand

Known in Maori mythology as Te Punga o Te Waka – The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe’ – Stewart Island (Rakiura) is New Zealand’s little known ‘third island’.  Apart from the communities on the island, many people never venture to remote Stewart Island.  Nearby Ulva Island is also found within the Rakiura National Park, offering a predator-free environment for rare and endangered birds including South Island Saddleback, Stewart Island Weka, New Zealand Pigeon/Kereru, South Island Kaka, Yellow- and Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki), Morepork, Rifleman (New Zealand’s smallest bird), New Zealand Fantail, South Island Tomtit, Stewart Island Robin, Yellowhead (Mohoua), Brown Creeper, Grey Warbler, New Zealand Bellbird and Tui.

On Ulva Island, a guided walk will provide the opportunity to spot a vast array of birdlife and hopefully a few fur seals lazing on the shore during the tour. There will be free time to explore the village of Oban, and a guided Xplorer cruise to Prices Point Whaling Station will unveil the history of the region.

Fiordland - Dusky, Doubtful & Thompson Sounds

Fiordland & The South Coast

Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage site once described as the Eighth Wonder of the World, is characterised by 14 fiords carving through just 215km of coastline.  These fiords were carved by glaciers over thousands of years, and you will see waterfalls cascading down the sheer cliffs, rainforest cloaking the steep ridges, and granite peaks reflected in the deep shimmering waters.

These mostly inaccessible and awe-inspiring landscapes were the mysterious source of powerful pounamu (New Zealand jade), gathered by Maori from the riverbeds and boulders of the South Island – the only place it occurs.  While some European settlers took shelter here, the deep isolation and rugged terrain thwarted all except the toughest from staying. Many of the flora and fauna species have developed in relative isolation, so many of the diverse plants and animals are unique to the area.

Enter Fiordland National Park at dramatic Tamatea / Dusky Sound, and cruise among towering cliffs and sheer granite walls of Facile Harbour, cascading waterfalls, pass some of the 365 small islands and explore the depths of the inlets in the zodiacs.  Inaccessible by road, Tamatea / Dusky Sound is the largest and most complex of the Fiordland Sounds.  It is also a designated Important Bird Area for the Fiordland Penguins that breed here.

We will discover the fur seals of Luncheon Cove and cruise Astronomer’s Point – Captain Cook’s base when exploring Fiordland. We may have the opportunity to visit the site where the scientific team from HMB Endeavour set up their equipment.

In the afternoon, trace Acheron Passage to Breaksea Sound, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes on all sides as we retrace Cook’s journey. It is easy to imagine the small wooden Endeavour being dwarfed by the steep-sided fiords and encircled by the blanketing silence of the fog-cloaked peaks.

Doubtful Sound / Patea is the deepest and widest fiord, flanked by towering cliffs and adorned by cascading waterfalls.  The stillness and silence of this Fiord is compelling and unforgettable.  We will cruise into Doubtful Sound / Patea, and past the outer Seal Islands, Nee Islets and through ‘the Gut’, before cruising by Blanket Bay. You may spot fur seals lounging on the rocks, pods of dolphins, and the Fiordland penguin. Tonight, enjoy the Captain’s Farewell Drinks.

Solander Islands (Hautere)

Macquarie Island - King Penguins

The Solander Islands, with the Maori name Hautere translating to ‘flying wind’, are a trio of uninhabited volcanic islets that lie just beyond New Zealand’s South Island. Aboard the Endeavour, Captain James Cook spotted the islands in early 1770, and was named after a Swedish scientific crew member on board, Daniel Solander. The islands have only been known to be inhabited briefly due to marooning or shipwreck.

With one third of the wildlife on the islands being incredibly rare, the bulk of the species include ferns and orchids. Birds known to call the islands home include fernbirds, snipe and white-fronted terns with the islands being declared an Important Bird Area as it is a breeding site for common diving petrels and Buller’s albatrosses amassing some 5000 pairs. The area is well-known whale migration with sightings of extraordinarily large sperm whales.

Day 11: Arrive Bluff


This morning, we arrive at Bluff to disembark at 8:00am. Complimentary post-cruise transfers to Queenstown is available.

January 2024

Departure Departure Arrival Arrival Cost Per Person Cost PP Ship Availability  
21 January 2024 21 Jan 2024 31 January 2024 31 Jan 2024 $8,920 to $19,190 $8,920 to $19,190 Coral Geographer Available Book

Your Cruise Price Includes

  • Expedition Voyage aboard Coral Geographer as described in the itinerary
  • The services of an expert expedition team
  • All excursions, including Xplorer and zodiac cruises
  • Local operator excursions at some locations
  • All meals, prepared fresh by our chefs
  • Showcase wines, selected beers and soft drinks with lunch and dinner service
  • 24 hour coffee and selection of teas
  • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Events, and Open Bridge Access with the Captain
  • Guided sightseeing in each destination
  • All entrance fees to National Parks and Ports

What’s Not Included

  • Travel insurance
  • Flights
  • Pre-cruise transfers
  • Entry visas or travel permits
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to phone and internet communications and bar charges (outside of the included drinks package as highlighted) laundry charges and souvenir purchase

Tipping not required

Other cruise lines automatically add gratitudes to your account and service charges to your bar invoices. At Coral Expeditions our crew have no other agenda than your delight.

Our friendly reservations specialists are on hand to assist with your booking arrangements to ensure your holiday runs as smoothly as possible. Contact our team on 1800 079 545 during business hours in Australia or email

Travel Insurance:

Comprehensive Travel Insurance is strongly recommended for all travellers as protection against any unforeseen events that may necessitate the cancellation or interruption of your holiday and should be purchased at the same time as you purchase your cruise. Please refer to our Pre-Departure page for facts that should be considered and shared when speaking with Travel Insurance suppliers.

Additional Information:

Photos From Your Expedition

Following your expedition, you will receive a link by email to free download the images taken throughout your voyage by our Expedition Team. Please make sure that you have provided our reservations team with your relevant email address.

Countries Visited/ Currency Accepted:

This cruise begins and ends in New Zealand, with one call in an Australian Territory (Macquarie Island). The currency is New Zealand Dollar (NZD) – You cannot use Australian (AUD) in New Zealand. Please note, all purchases on board will still be in AUD.

Languages Spoken/ Dress Codes & Etiquette:

The official languages of New Zealand are Māori and English. New Zealand is known for its friendly and laid-back inhabitants. The culture of New Zealand is primarily western, with strong influences from the indigenous Maori and the waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed the British colonisation.

Visa Information:

Entry into NZ requires a passport. As of October 2019, the NZ government is introducing an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) and International Visitor Conservation & Tourism Levy (IVL). Australian citizens are exempt from the ETA & IVL, however any other passport holder will have to organise the ETA/IVL prior to travelling to NZ.

Some nationalities are not eligible to obtain an ETA and must apply for a visa. Please consult the NZ immigration website or your travel agent for more information. It is the responsibility of all guests to ensure they meet visa/ETA requirements ahead of arrival to NZ.

Hike/Walk Opportunities:

Our Expedition Team will advise walking conditions and fitness requirements prior to each excursion.  There are several walking/hiking options available on this departure at:

  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Kaikoura
  • Akaroa
  • Stewart Island

Medical/Vaccination Requirements:

Please refer to the CDC website for up to date information:

Suggested Readings:

  • The Penguin History of New Zealand – Michael King
  • The Bone People – Keri Hulme
  • Stewart Island: A Rakiura Ramble – Neville Peat
  • The Quest for Origins – K.R. Howe
  • Vaka Moana – Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific – K.R. Howe
  • To the Is-land – Janet Frame
  • Journals of James Cook – Penguin paperback edition

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