Itineraries → New Zealand → Stewart Island
25 Feb - 05 Mar
Stewart Island - Southbound
Travelling from Queenstown, through the wonders of the Doubtful and Dusky Sounds, into the rarely explored Chalky and Preservation inlets, deep into Long Sound. Then a further two days on Stewart Island before arriving into Bluff. These are two absolutely awesome voyages, with the second operating in reverse as it carries travellers from Bluff to Queenstown.
Arrival in Queenstown is always spectacular, especially by air. Your comfortable room and a warm welcome await you at the Heritage Hotel. We recommend you plan in enough time to explore this world-class alpine destination and enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants beside the lake. It’s a beautiful location, and you’ll find numerous tempting dining options.
Soon after breakfast, we’ll have you out in the big scenery on a private coach trip to Lake Te Anau. You’ll have time to explore Te Anau township before boarding the helicopters for a 20-minute scenic flight to the ship. The helicopter flight is an experience-of-a-lifetime, a chance to take in the panoramic grandeur of Fiordland, before descending into the wild solitude of Doubtful Sound – and the helipad on Island Escape. Once bags have been stored in your cabin, we will ask you to gather on deck so our crew can acquaint you with the ship layout and the safety systems. Your cruise begins – we make our way to the Tasman Sea along Doubtful Sound then down the coast to anchor for the evening in Dusky Sound. Chef has prepared a welcome dinner that is served alfresco on the aft deck.
Day 3 - 4
Our journey starts to delve into the early history and exploration of Fiordland. The Captain will give an orientation of the history of the area and on the life of Captain James Cook and his visits to this part of New Zealand. We head ashore in Pickersgill Harbour to explore the area where Captain Cook beached his ship Resolution in 1773 to repair her hull. Nearby is Astronomers Point, the site of a temporary observatory set up during Cook’s stay. Back onboard, feel free to relax and take in the view from the jacuzzi on the Island Escape top deck. On clear evenings this is the perfect place for some stargazing into a pure NZ dark sky.
We explore inland to the head of Dusky Sound and Supper Cove. This cove is the western trailhead for one of New Zealand’s greatest wilderness hikes – the Dusky Track. We visit Cascade Cove, Cook Channel, Fanny Bay and Nine Fathom Passage. There will be an opportunity to join the Zodiac´s excursion to Seaforth Hut and perhaps explore the Seaforth River. Morning tea will be served in peaceful Sportsman’s Cove. Lunch is served underway, and with a taste for adventure, we sail to Long Sound for the evening.
Captain James Cook was the first European to see Taiari / Chalky Inlet during the second voyage in 1773, naming both it and Chalky Island after the white cliffs on the island’s seaward side. Cook did not enter the fiord. The first Europeans known to have entered and explore came in 1813, when the cutter Snapper entered the fiord and established a camp for a number of months.
Pest control efforts on the islands in Chalky Inlet have led to the eradication of pests from Great Island, the Passage Islands and Chalky Island, with the latter three having been declared predator free since 1999. This has allowed the islands to become a sanctuary for many native species which have been reintroduced to the area since 2002, including the mohua, orange-fronted kakariki, little spotted kiwi and tieke. Chalky Island is also home to the Te Kakahu skink.
With 3,672 hectares, Long Sound Marine Reserve is the largest reserve in Fiordland. It includes the main Long Sound basin, ‘the Narrows’, and Revolver and Useless Bays.
The first shore-based whaling station in New Zealand was established here in 1828 exploiting southern right whales in the area. In the 1890s gold deposits were found. Two settlements, known as Cromarty and Te Oneroa, were established in Kisbee Bay for miners. By 1904 only a few miners were left, and few traces of the settlements remain.
This is an amazing area of NZ history we explore as only a very few have ever visited here in the recent past.
We arrive for breakfast within the shelter of the inlet. Oban is the only town on Stewart Island. It is located in Halfmoon Bay within Paterson Inlet, with access via aircraft from Invercargill and regular ferry services from Bluff. It has a choice of places to eat, a few souvenir retailers, and all the essential shops. We walk the numerous tracks across the islands, kayak the beautiful coastline and cruise the very nearby islands.
Ulva Island is a small island about 3.5 km long lying within Paterson Inlet. It has an area of 267 hectares. Ulva Island’s relative isolation, but easy access from Stewart Island has allowed it to become an important natural resource area. It is a sanctuary for both birds and plants, holding species that on the mainland of New Zealand are rare or have died out. In 1997, the island was declared rat-free, following an eradication programme, and extirpated birds have been reintroduced to the island. The birds include the South Island saddleback, yellowhead and Stewart Island robin Other birds on the island that are rare on the mainland include the Stewart Island subspecies of southern brown kiwi, rifleman, yellow-crowned and red-fronted parakeet and South Island kaka while the endangered yellow-eyed penguin uses the island for breeding sites.
We sail at breakfast to arrive alongside the main Bluff wharf by 10:30am and disembark by 11am.