Explore the hidden coves, beaches, tranquil waterways, wildlife and rich history of the top of New Zealand’s South Island on this unforgettable 9-day adventure.
This unique expedition cruise of Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds, French Pass and d’Urville Island, and Abel Tasman National Park offers an unparalleled exploration of the breath-taking beauty of their winding cobalt waterways, iconic landscapes, lush native forests, wildlife, gold sand beaches and remote coastlines. These regions are also rich in early New Zealand history and the location of some of the country’s most important conservation efforts.
Formed by a system of submerged valleys carved out following the last ice age around 10,000 years ago, the scenic playground of Marlborough Sounds encompasses some 1,500-kilometres of forested coastline, sheltered inlets and bays awaiting exploration, many only accessible by sea. The union of three main bodies of water – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds – Marlborough Sounds has more than 50 Department of Conservation managed reserves and several predatorfree wildlife sanctuaries.
Just 500 treacherous metres from the mainland, d’Urville Island was named after French admiral Jules Sebastian Cesar Dumont d’Urville and his ill fated passage of the infamous French Pass in January 1827. After several near misses while seeking passage inside the island, he came close to losing his ship Astrolabe after hitting the reef. Now a conservation reserve, it is one of the last strongholds of the critically endangered Long-tailed Bat and provides a respite for the world’s rarest shag – the King Shag – and several species of rare birds and geckos.
This expedition also includes an exploration of the beautiful maritime landscape of Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s smallest national park, its waters home to New Zealand Fur Seals and Little Blue Penguins.
• Enjoy Queen Charlotte Sound
• Explore Pelorus Sound
• Travel to Abel Tasman National Park
Day 1: Blenheim
Make your way to the designated meeting point in Blenheim for your transfer to Heritage Explorer in Picton (times and meeting point will be confirmed with your voyage documents). The captain and expedition team will be waiting to welcome you aboard Heritage Explorer and show you to your cabin. You will have the opportunity to familiarise yourself on board then join the captain on the bridge or fellow travellers on deck as we set sail along Queen Charlotte Sound this afternoon. ***Note: Some voyages will operate the itinerary in reverse.***
Days 2 to 3: Queen Charlotte Sound
First sighted in 1642 by Abel Janszoon Tasman while seeking shelter for his ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen from a storm near d’Urville Island, it was Captain James Cook who would first set foot here aboard the Endeavour during his five visits to Ship Cove, his New Zealand base between 1770 and 1777, in what he would call Queen Charlotte Sound. We spend two full days exploring the waterways and islands of scenic Queen Charlotte Sound with opportunities to head ashore and walk a section of the Queen Charlotte Walkway as well as search for birdlife on the predator free islands. A visit to Tory Channel brings the whaling history of the Perano Whalers to life. We also plan to visit Ship Cove and learn of its history, exploring the region and visiting Captain Cook’s memorial inaugurated in 1913.
Days 4 to 5: Pelorus Sound
The largest in the Marlborough Sounds, Pelorus Sound’s main channel winds some picturesque 55 kilometres south between steep verdant hills from Cook Strait to Havelock. Boasting 380 kilometres of shoreline, the endless bays and sheltered coves of Pelorus Sound are perfect for exploration. Venturing into Pelorus Sound we head to Ngawhakawhiti Bay where nature surrounds us and it’s possible to get a glimpse of what the sounds would have been like before the native forest was cleared. The more active are able to enjoy the walking part of the Nydia Track before we explore Nydia Bay.
Days 6 to 7: d’Urville island
Depending on the weather and tides we will venture to the seldom visited northern coast of d’Urville Island, either through French Pass or via Stephens Island. The outermost island in the Marlborough Sounds, d’Urville Island is named after French Explorer Dumont d’Urville and features imposing sea cliffs along its west coast, a high mountainous backbone and the fastest moving tidal flows in New Zealand between the French Pass tempered by some of the country’s finest peninsula scenery. Dolphins and New Zealand Fur Seals are frequently seen in the waters surrounding the island and it was here that Pelorus Jack, the endearing Risso’s Dolphin who famously stole the nation’s heart, guided ships through these waters between 1888 and 1912.
Day 8: Abel Tasman National Park
New Zealand’s smallest national park, Abel Tasman National Park is a wilderness reserve where hills cloaked in regenerating native forest flanked by impressive granite formations meet sandy beaches and crystalline streams cascade through mossy valleys en route to the sea. There is much to experience and enjoy here as we expedition cruise this scenic coastline. Depending on the weather there will be opportunities to kayak secluded inlets and shores, walk among the forest, swim and explore beaches. Named after the Dutch explorer officially recognised the first European to discover New Zealand in 1642, Tasman anchored at Whariwharangi Bay, near Wainui Inlet to the north of what is now Abel Tasman National Park, on 18 December. More recently in 2016, New Zealanders famously banded together to buy stretch of sand now known as ‘New Zealand Beach’ at Awaroa Bay through a crowdfunding campaign, gifting the 800-metre beach to Abel Tasman National Park for all to enjoy. Several sustainability initiatives are working together to restore and revive the native plants, birds and wildlife in the park including Project Janszoon, a privately funded trust, set up to restore the park’s ecosystems which takes its name from Tasman’s middle name and is aiming to complete the restoration in time for the 400th anniversary of Tasman’s visit and the park’s 100th anniversary in 2042.
Day 9: Nelson
After an early morning departure from our anchor in Abel Tasman National Park we arrive at the Port of Nelson. After a final breakfast and farewells, you are transferred to a central Nelson drop off point or the airport. In case of unexpected delays we ask you not to book any onward travel from Nelson until after midday today. During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.
Itineraries are subject to change.
• Voyage on board in selected cabin category
• Pre/Post cruise transfers
• Experienced expedition leader and team
• All meals while on board
• House beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
• All expedition shore excursions
• Transfers in Blenheim & Nelson
• House drinks
• International and Domestic flights, both commercial and charter
• Travel insurance
• Passport and visa costs if applicable
• Additional beverages other than those noted
• Any items of a personal nature including laundry
WE – 2023
Images courtesy of Wild Earth Travel