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Stewart Island Discovery Expeditions

Discover the magic of New Zealand's third island on a multi-day expedition of Stewart Island

Discover New Zealand’s third and southernmost island – Stewart Island – from aboard the purpose-built Milford Wanderer.

Most of Stewart Island is part of the Rakiura National Park with settlement mainly confined to Oban, the only township.  The island’s densely forested hills, tiny population and untouched coastline of rocky outcrops and creamy golden sand beaches make it a natural refuge for marine and bird life and a wonderful destination for people who value nature and wild places.  

Your journey starts with a cruise across Foveaux Strait from Bluff to Stewart Island’s eastern shoreline.  After boarding the Milford Wanderer, you’ll spend the next days cruising some of the most magical waters in New Zealand, venturing ashore regularly for guided walks and visits to historic sites.

  • Five or six day expedition cruise
  • On-board specialist nature guides who provide informative commentary and evening talks
  • Guided walks through rainforest and along beautiful deserted shorelines
  • Great facilities, friendly crew and outstanding food
  • Visit historic sites and abandoned settlements
  • Tender craft and kayaks for exploration of the coastline
  • Coach connections available from Invercargill


More Information

Departures & Availability

Below is a list of departure dates with availability status.  We try to keep this as up-to-date as possible.  These cruise are very popular and do book out.  When the departure shows "limited spaces",  please call us on 0800 656501 for the latest number of cabins available for booking. Private Single Occupancy rooms also available, please contact us for pricing.

2022 departures:        
5 - 10 Jul 2022 6 days Cruise $3075 pp SOLD OUT
10 - 15 Jul 2022 6 days Cruise $3075 pp SOLD OUT
17 - 22 Jul 2022 6 days Cruise $3075 pp SOLD OUT
22 - 27 Jul 2022 6 days Cruise $3075 pp SOLD OUT
28 Jul - 2 Aug 2022 6 days Cruise $3075 pp Available

Stewart Island Discovery Expeditions depart from Bluff Visitor Terminal.

Getting to Bluff

Bluff is around 25 minutes from Invercargill, 3.5 hours from Dunedin and around 3 hours from Queenstown by road. Coach connections are available from Invercargill.

Milford Wanderer

Just because you’re escaping civilisation doesn’t mean you have to go without its comforts. Our vessel, the Milford Wanderer, is a modern motorised vessel that has been purpose built for navigating southern New Zealand.

The Milford Wanderer​

Designed along the lines of a traditional sailing scow, it has old world charm combined with modern facilities and the latest in safety equipment.  After recent refurbishment the Milford Wanderer offers "twin-share" compartments and shared bathroom facilities. 

  • 32 passengers per departure
  • Warm, comfortable accommodation (two passengers per sleeping compartment)  
  • Duvets, sheets and towels provided
  • Modern shared bathroom facilities with hot showers 
  • Delicious meals prepared by onboard chef  
  • Open bridge policy - chat with the skipper during the voyage
  • Kayaks and small motorised craft available for passenger use

A courtesy coach is available between Invercargill and Bluff. This departs at 8am on the morning of departure from Invercargill. Bookings are essential so please contact us or add a comment to your booking.

Getting to Bluff:
Bluff is around 25 minutes from Invercargill, 3.5 hours from Dunedin and around 3 hours from Queenstown by road.

For accommodation options in Invercargill and Bluff, we suggest contacting Invercargill iSITE (information centre): 03 211 0985 or visit

Please note the vessel has steep stairs & high sills on all doorways. Please discuss any mobility issues with us prior to departure.

Medical conditions and allergies:
If you have a medical condition, allergies or mobility problems please ensure you notify us prior to departure. This information will remain strictly confidential to the crew but is essential in case of a medical emergency in this remote location.

If you are over 70 years, please consult your doctor to check your physical fitness.

Please note there is little or no cell phone coverage during the cruise. However, the Milford Wanderer is in daily contact with RealNZ Manapouri and messages can be left there.

Smoking is only permitted in the designated outdoor areas on board the Milford Wanderer. You cannot buy cigarettes on board the Milford Wanderer.

Charters & Group Bookings:
Discovery Expeditions are available for charter and group bookings. We can tailor cruises to suit your requirements and can include team building sessions or arrange guest speakers. Contact our Events team - email: [email protected]

What to bring:
Discovery Expeditions are casual and informal. We recommend light, quick-drying materials (e.g. polypropylene) for wearing next to your skin, covered by warm outerwear and a waterproof layer. We also suggest at least two changes of clothing for both onboard and walking/wet weather gear. 
Please try to limit your luggage to one pack or soft suitcase.  We recommend that you bring gumboots, as we often do beach/shore landings where the tide sweeps in/out. We mostly do short walks and gumboots are ideal to stomp around in if the tracks are wet and boggy underfoot. The crew will advise you of what they recommend you wear on each adventure.
Please carry all medications in your day bag & keep them with you at all times. DO NOT pack in your suitcase as you will be separated from your luggage at times.
A full list of the items to pack will be sent to you before the trip.


True adventure knows no itinerary

The Southern Ocean provides an incredible habitat for all sorts of marine wildlife, not to mention the amazing wildlife you will encounter on your guided walks.

Let us take you on an adventure to the most secluded parts of the deep south.  An expedition cruise is never predictable. No two trips are the same in such a dynamic environment where the elements uniquely shape each experience.  Being flexible can yield incredible rewards and from the comfort of the Milford Wanderer, you will have the opportunity to explore this remote wilderness to its fullest.

Our crew are experts in the area with years of experience and ensure you are getting the very best bespoke experience.  Every night they will advise of the plan for the following day to give you plenty of time to take it in.  Weather, tides and sea conditions all play a role in the planning, as does the ability of the group.

Therefore, the sample journey is a general guide only, all trips are subject to change based on weather conditions and crew judgment and that’s what makes this expedition unique.

Where time allows, additional walks, tender craft exploration and kayaking activities are offered.


Stewart Island - 5 days 4 nights Sample Journey

Day 1 - Take the express ferry across Foveaux Strait - from Bluff to Half Moon Bay, where you will board the Milford Wanderer and cruise to Port Adventure, where oysters were first harvested commercially in the 1800s. Finish the day with an afternoon beach and/or forest walk or kayak.

Day 2 - Spend the morning at the historic Norwegian Whalers base at Prices inlet with original machinery and remains of a bygone settlement. In the afternoon explore the predator free Ulva Island bird sanctuary.

Day 3 - Port William, the northernmost destination of the expedition, has something for everyone. Learn about the fascinating Maori history and of the attempted European settlement there.  Choose a 1.5 hour walk in beautiful bush to venture to Maori Beach, or arrive via tender craft for a more relaxed option.

Day 4 - The early bird catches the worm, and a chance to see kiwi. Wake up and head to Little Glory Bay where your guide will lead you through spectacular coastal forest to a secluded sandy beach where you’ll have one of the best chances to spot our national bird searching for food. Enjoy a relaxed morning, filled with either a short walk or a gentle kayaking taking in the highlights around the various bays.
In the afternoon, a local guide will accompany you to The Neck, a narrow peninsula that separates Paterson Inlet from Foveaux Strait. This a scenic place of historical significance with beaches, caves and graves sites and home to abundant wildlife.

Day 5 - Your final day takes you to explore the quaint Oban village, where a local guide will share their knowledge of the area during mini-bus tour of the Island. Highlights include a visit to the gateway to Rakiura National Park at Lee Bay and Observation Rock with its stunning views of Paterson Inlet.

Stewart Island - 6 days 5 night Sample Journey

Please note this is a general guide only, all itineraries are subject to change based on weather conditions and crew judgement. In addition to below there is also lots of cruising, and extra kayaking or walking where time allows.

Day 1 - Bluff to Port Adventure
Take the express catamaran across Foveaux Strait - from Bluff to Halfmoon Bay, where you will board the Milford Wanderer and cruise to Port Adventure. Port Adventure is where Oysters were first harvested commercially in the 1800s. Finish the day with an afternoon beach and or forest walk.

Day 2 - Port Adventure to Port Pegasus
A 3-hour morning sea passage to Port Pegasus. Time for kayaking and or a walk to the lookout above Evening Cove.

Day 3 - Port Pegasus
Activities around Port Pegasus including a morning walk up the impressive granite peak of Bald Cone and a walk to Broad Bay or Small Craft Harbour in the afternoon.

Day 4 - Port Pegasus to Paterson Inlet
Visit the old 1800s fishing base at North Pegasus and the Belltopper falls, then a 4 hour sea passage to Paterson Inlet in the afternoon.

Day 5 - Paterson Inlet
Spend the morning on the Ulva Island bird sanctuary.  In the afternoon visit the historic Norwegian whaling station in Prices Inlet and or kayak Kaipipi Bay.

Day 6 - Paterson Inlet to Bluff
A morning walk from Golden Bay across to Halfmoon Bay and Oban township. Express catamaran to Bluff in the afternoon.


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