This was a true pleasure. We took a bus from Queenstown, a boat on Manapouri lake, then another bus to the edge of Doubtful Sound, followed by an overnight cruise in the sound. The sites were magnificent! It rained pretty hard the first day, but the result was an incredible number of waterfalls that disappeared the following day (which was beautiful sunshine). All of the staff (bus, boat, visitors center, etc.) were all very helpful, and made the experience very worthwhile.
One of the easiest 5/5 to give. The boat trip over the lake was beautiful. The coach journey the other end was enjoyable and the driver with his commentary excellent. The navigator ship was amazing - spacious, everything we needed. The staff were all really friendly and knowledgeable. The food was incredible- so much choice, so delicious and potentially the best soup I have ever tasted. Doubtful itself is beautiful, dolphins came to say hi. We have been truly spoilt and have the biggest smiles on our faces. Thank you real journeys. Probably the highlight of my time in NZ to date.
I really couldn’t recommend this more highly. The small ferry trip across the lake was scenic enough, as was the coach ride up and over the pass. But the overnight trip on the Sound was so much better. The nature guide (Carol) was excellent and seemed to be on deck giving commentary at all hours of the day or night! Her after dinner talk was worth attending. The scenery is simply awe-inspiring. The kayaking was great fun and one of our kids even took the invitation to jump in for a swim off the back of the boat (apparently it was VERY cold!). Food was excellent and plentiful. Staff were excellent. We stayed in the cheapest accom (4 berth share) and it was very comfortable - even had a little porthole at water level. The sunrise in the morning was stunning and we were lucky enough to have clear skies. We saw plenty of seals at the fjord entrance and even encountered a pod of dolphins on our way back to the dock. Apparently far less busy on the water than Milford, and it certainly felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
The organizing, the service, the care and the extra touches of the overnight boat trip on Doubtful Sound were brilliant. Can't say enough about what a wonderful experience the trip offered us - we learned a great deal, and saw an amazingly wild, ancient part of the world, safely cared for by the entire team, including Alan, who drove us over the pass to Doubtful, the ship's captain and crew lead expertly by Marky, who informed us, taught us and fed us so generously. Seeing fur seals and Fiordland crested penguins, the magnificent rain forest mountains, cliffs, valleys, fjords, plants and deep waters left us awestruck. Right up there with the Great Barrier Reef, Petra, and all the wilderness experiences. Highly recommended - go to Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys!
This was our second trip here and being repeated because we had enjoyed it so much 8 years ago. This time weather and season was totally different but ‘Real Journeys’ are totally committed to everyone having a stunning trip. Doubtful Sound can only be reached with a tour company as it involves crossing Lake Manapouri by boat, crossing the Wilmott Pass by coach before boarding the boat. Carol and the team on board worked tirelessly to give us ‘an experience of a lifetime’ - all worked hard and were enthusiastic and engaging with visitors. Food was terrific and plentiful, trip by tender, kayaking and swimming on offer plus Carol’s amazing nature knowledge on hand and an after dinner talk. Cabins were well equipped and comfortable. For 5 mins in the morning a ‘Sounds of silence’ was held - no talking, photos, phones and engine silent. It’s a powerful time listening to birdsong, watching ripples and clouds and just breathing! Hugely enjoyable and highly recommended.
Stunning, breathtaking, a New Zealand trip highlight are not sufficient to describe our time on the overnight cruise on the Navigator. Real Journeys is incredibly organized and has an efficient transportation system to get us from Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound via ferry, bus over Wilmot pass and to the Navigator waiting for us at Deep Cove. I was initially disappointed to hear a rainy weather report but we had the most incredible experience rain or shine. The steep fjord walls come alive with abundant waterfalls that only appear when it rains and the fjords are rather mystical and mysterious when mist shrouded. Even though there was a pretty stiff wind our skipper gave us the Tasman Sea experience complete with fur seal viewing at Nees islets. After anchoring up in the calm Precipice Cove we were given opportunities for water activities in the rain. Turns out kayaking around the cove near the waterfall drenched shoreline was tremendous fun. After working up an appetite we were fed the most delicious 3 course dinner with numerous appetizer, entree and dessert options. Even a person who is vegetarian or gluten free had tasty options. Our family enjoyed a quad-share bunk style room to ourselves with shared bathroom facilities. This is the least expensive option. The Navigator is spacious and there is plenty of room to walk around the decks at different levels. The beds were very comfortable and all bedding and towels are provided. A wonderful hot breakfast with lots of options as well as fruit, cereals, yogurt, pastries and juices is provided in the morning. There is complimentary hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate) throughout the cruise. Also very worthwhile was the insightful commentary of the history and nature provided by our coach drivers and our onboard nature guide. The staff onboard were friendly and helpful doing whatever they could to give us the best experience. I really appreciated the "Sound of Silence " in Hall arm. I would recommend this trip for all ages, rain or shine. We did experience Doubtful Sound sun-drenched and blue sky the 2nd day.
This was one of the highlights of our trip to New Zealand. We spent two days on the Navigator and loved it. The vessel was comfortable, the meals were excellent, and the crew was fun and enthusiastic. The onboard nature guide provided great information about the fiords and marine life. Our first day was sunny. Everyone was on deck while our guide pointed out whales and seals and penguins. That night we were all on deck again as a billion stars lit the sky. The next morning we woke to a completely different scene. Heavy cloud cover created a moody atmosphere that was beautiful in its own way. At one point we came close to shore. Our guide asked us to put away our cameras and cell phones and remain perfectly still. The captain then cut the engines. A distant waterfall and occasional bird song were all we could hear. It was a unique and wonderful experience that we’ll always remember.
We booked the overnight cruise - what a wonderful experience - lovely boat, great staff and good food. Such a serene peaceful cruise to the mouth of the Sound - kayaking also part of the experience and saw seals, penguins and dolphins! The scenery, the sky and the silence were breathtaking - all very different from the Milford Sound cruise which is much busier, shorter cruise but lovely drive over. Worth doing both if you can.
Doubtful Sound is unspoiled, unmatched and unforgettable. So get ready to create some lifelong memories as the Mariner takes you through the ultimate Doubtful Sound experience.
Your itinerary starts in Manapouri with a short cruise across Lake Manapouri. A coach then takes you across Wilmot Pass, travelling on a sub-alpine road through dense rainforest. Arriving at Deep Cove you’ll be met by our crew and the majestic Mariner vessel.
Designed along the lines of a traditional scow, the Mariner blends old world charm with modern comforts that include spacious viewing decks, a dining saloon with a fully licensed bar and an observation lounge.
As you cruise through some of New Zealand’s most stunning scenery, our knowledgeable nature guides will provide commentary ensuring you miss nothing, be it the pod of resident dolphins, fur seals or rare penguins you might encounter.
After dropping anchor in a sheltered cove, you can choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or tender boat – or to simply relax onboard. For the adventurous (or very brave), there’s even a chance to go swimming. All activities are weather dependent.
In the evening, you’ll enjoy a delicious three-course buffet dinner prepared by our onboard chef and served in the dining saloon. Mingle with fellow travellers, savour some of the fine wines at our licensed bar and if the skies are clear in the evening, spend some time on the upper deck gazing at the stars.
Kick off the next day with a hearty cooked breakfast menu and get ready to enjoy the rest of the morning exploring other parts of the fiord. Finally, you’ll return to Deep Cove, the trip back to Manapouri and many, many conversations telling friends just how amazing your trip was.
Things you should know:
Duration is 1 night or 2 nights
Private cabins (twin, double or single occupancy)
Quad share bunk - style compartments
Enjoy a hearty dinner including soups, buffet of salads and hot dishes and a selection of desserts and cheeses (vegetarian options available)
There is a licensed bar on board. Due to the remote location, we can only accept cash
Includes kayaking and tendercraft (small boat) activities
You’ll enjoy a buffet breakfast on-board
2-night cruise includes lunch on the second day
Due to the multi-leg journey and floating wharf access, guests will need to have a reasonable level of mobility
Duvets, sheets and towels provided
Complimentary tea and coffee is available
Suitable for all ages, with the exception of infants in quad share
The trip leaves Pearl Harbour, Manapouri at 12.30pm and returns 12pm the following day.
You are required to check-in at the RealNZ Visitor Centre 30min before your departure time.
All our Doubtful Sound experiences start in Manapouri which is around 2.5 – 3 hours from Queenstown and 30 minutes from Te Anau.
Free parking is available in Manapouri.
What to bring
Only one carry-on bag is recommended for passenger convenience and for safety reasons. Don't forget the following:
Non-slip walking shoes/boots
Warm sweater/fleece jacket
Change of clothes*
Cash for bar and snacks
Lunch and snacks for the first day
Small bag only
* Essential items if you are doing activities. Activities take place even if it is raining.
About the Mariner
The Mariner is a purpose-built vessel designed to replicate a traditional trading scow and is perfectly suited to cruising the fiords.
Private cabins with ensuites (twin or double bed configuration)
Limited quad-share bunk-style compartments with ensuites (mixed gender)
Spacious viewing decks and observation lounge
Dining saloon and licensed bar
Carries 30 kayaks and 2 tender craft onboard
About the Wanderer
Designed along the lines of a traditional sailing scow, the Wanderer has old world charm combined with modern facilities and the latest safety equipment. After a recent refurbishment, the Wanderer offers 'twin-share' compartments and shared bathroom facilities.
32 passengers per departure
Warm, comfortable accommodation (two passengers per sleeping compartment)
Modern shared bathroom facilities with hot showers
Delicious meals prepared by an onboard chef
Kayaks and small motorised craft available onboard
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
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How long does it take to travel to Manapouri?
From Queenstown to Manapouri by car or coach takes around 2 hrs 45 mins and from Te Anau around 30 minutes. For more information refer to our Driving Times webpage.
Is there car parking at Manapouri?
Yes, we have plenty of free parking at Manapouri. Daytime car parking is provided adjacent to the Visitor Centre. Overnight car parking is a available on View St, a short 2 minute walk from our Manapouri Visitor Centre.
Are linen and towels provided on the Milford and Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruises?
Overnight Cruises and Quadshare - We are a group of three people and would like to book a shared quad-share room. Will this mean we would be sharing with another person?
Yes, you could potentially be sharing with another guest. Alternatively you could choose to pay for the entire quad cabin, or two double cabins, to ensure privacy. If you wish to pay for an entire quad cabin, please contact us directly by email, by phone or via webchat.
Note: quad-share cabins are mixed gender.
What is the difference between a double room and a twin room?
A double room is a private room for two people, with one bed to share. A twin room is a private room for two people, with two single beds.
What is the difference between Milford and Doubtful Sounds?
Our places. Our experiences. Milford and Doubtful Sounds, NZ.
Milford Sound at the mountainous north end of Fiordland National Park is the classic fiord - a deep water inlet between steep sided high mountains. Milford Sound is a middle-sized fiord at around 13 kms in length and it is famous for its dramatic scenery, especially Mitre Peak. This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and it can be reached by bus, car or flight connections from Queenstown.
Doubtful Sound is located in the heart of Fiordland National Park where the mountains are still very impressive but not as high as Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is three times longer and has a sea surface area roughly ten times larger than Milford Sound. Its three arms are Hall, Crooked and First Arm. It is famous for its wilderness scenery and wildlife sightings. To get to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and drive over Wilmot Pass.
Visitors with enough time choose to visit both fiords as they have different characters.
What weather can I expect in Fiordland?
Fiordland’s weather is what gives the region its unique character. Rainfall is what makes Fiordland a land of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and fiords. Visitors should always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during their stay. It is recommended to bring sensible clothing for cool and wet weather to fully appreciate your stay.
The temperatures you can expect in the different seasons are as follows:
Spring (September-November) 10-19 Celsius / 50- 66 Fahrenheit
Is it worth going to Milford/Doubtful Sounds on a wet day?
Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain. When it rains in Fiordland the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains and rivers and streams rage. From a dry comfortable vantage point on the bus or boat, this landscape is spectacular for sightseeing.
How much luggage can I take on my overnight cruise?
We recommend each passenger brings no more than a carry-on sized bag due to space restrictions in the cabins. For a list of what to bring please see the 'more info' section or your booking confirmation.
Are there luggage storage facilities at Manapouri?
Yes, there is very limited luggage storage available in the waiting area at our Manapouri Visitor Centre for our overnight cruise passengers (maximum one bag only per person).
How likely are we to see wildlife in Fiordland?
While we cannot guarantee you will see wildlife, sightings of fur seals are reasonably common in both Doubtful and Milford Sounds. A pod of bottlenose dolphins resides in Doubtful Sound so you have a good chance of seeing these fascinating mammals, and in Milford Sound dolphins are occasional visitors. In both sounds the rare Fiordland crested penguin can at times be observed.
What is the difference between a sound and a fiord?
Throughout Fiordland the fiords are officially mapped as sounds. Strictly speaking, they should be called fiords.
A fiord is a glaciated valley - typically narrow and steep-sided - that has been flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat. A sound, on the other hand, is a river valley flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both.
Is the Manapouri Underground Power Station accessible?
The Manapouri Underground Power Station visit is CLOSED indefinitely due to maintenance by operators Meridian Energy. We are not permitted to access the Power Station for tours during this time. The Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise tour will still operate without the visit underground to the Powerstation.
Online transactions/prices are conducted in what currency?
All prices and transactions on the RealNZ website are in New Zealand dollars (NZD). This is specified on the Terms & Conditions page.
What happens if there is an emergency?
Our staff are trained to deal with incidents and in case of an emergency you should listen to their instructions. We have a portable defibrillator on each of our overnight cruise vessels (Milford Mariner, Milford Wanderer and Fiordland Navigator). In addition to this we also have portable defibrillators at the following locations: • Milford Sound Visitor Terminal • RealNZ Visitor Centre, Manapouri • Cavern House (Te Anau Glowworm Caves) • Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, Walter Peak • TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship • Stewart Island Ferry (Bluff - Oban - Bluff)
Our places. Our experiences. Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruises. Escape to the peace and tranquillity of Doubtful Sound on a magical overnight cruise.