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.
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.
|DEPARTS - RETURNS||DURATION||DETAILS||PRICING||AVAILABILITY|
|30 Jul - 4 Aug 2023||6 days||Cruise||$3375 pp||Available|
|4 - 9 Aug 2023||6 days||Cruise||$3375 pp||SOLD OUT|
|11 - 16 Aug 2023||6 days||Cruise||$3375 pp||Available|
|16 - 21 Aug 2023||6 days||Cruise||$3375 pp||Available|
Stewart Island Discovery Expeditions depart from Bluff Visitor Terminal at 21 Foreshore Road.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For accommodation options in Invercargill and Bluff, we suggest contacting Invercargill iSITE (information centre): 03 211 0985 or visit www.invercargill.org.nz
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click on “Choose Date” and search for your preferred departure date, then follow the prompts to complete your booking via this website. Alternatively contact us on 0800 65 65 01 (Freephone within New Zealand), phone +64 3 249 6000 or email us at [email protected] and our Reservations team will assist you. Please note that for website bookings the full payment will be required to confirm your booking, whereas phone & email bookings can be secured with a non-refundable deposit, with the remaining balance due 120 days before departure.
We offer free parking in a secure car park in Bluff. Please contact us or provide details in the comments field when making your booking.
All walks are optional. The Nature Guides provide a briefing prior to heading ashore so you can decide if you wish to join in. The walks are generally leisurely and not too strenuous, allowing you time to take in the area’s flora and fauna. Please note that the tracks are often muddy.
We recommend that you bring both gumboots and sandshoes/hiking/tramping boots. As we often do beach/shore landings where at the tide sweeps in/out and short walks, gumboots (preferably ones just below the knee) 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.
We recommend all our guests reconfirm 48 hours prior to departure and provide details of where you will be staying the night prior to departure, confirm your pickup point and departure time.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included in the price of your trip. Complimentary tea and coffee is available throughout the cruise. We have an licensed bar on board the Milford Wanderer and these drinks are available for purchase.
We set up an account for you for the duration of your cruise and we accept cash, cheque or credit card payments.
We offer a discount for groups of 10 or more people. Please enquire about availability and bookings.
Yes, we offer returning Discovery Expeditions customers a 10% discount. Please enquire directly with us about making your booking to receive the discount.
We strongly prefer our guests to limit their luggage to 1 soft sided suitcase or backpack and 1 day pack (ie small backpack or handbag). Luggage is especially restricted for helicopter transfers.
The kayaks are available on all our Discovery Expedition departures – please ensure you talk to the crew onboard if you wish to go kayaking. Please note that all kayaking is weather and time dependent.
Due to RealNZ's commitment to the preservation of diminishing fish stocks, it is our company policy not to fish within the Fiordland waterways (in accordance with the Guardians of the Fiordland Fisheries). We therefore ask that you do not bring any fishing gear on board. However, if weather and timing permit, there may be an option to fish outside these areas (hand line and barbless hooks are provided, must adhere to quota).
We can cater for most food requests, ranging from celiac, gluten free, vegetarian and lactose intolerant. Unfortunately we cannot cater for Kosher. Please contact us to discuss any of your dietary requirements.
We have an licensed bar on board the Milford Wanderer and these drinks are available for purchase on-board. The Milford Wanderer is not licensed for BYO so please leave any alcohol at home.
Unfortunately we cannot cater to guests who wish to scuba dive on our vessel.