I was fortunate to travel with Heritage Expeditions on their Best of New Zealand expedition cruise from Queenstown to Wellington in March and wow, what an adventure!
This was my first-time cruising, and I am prone to seasickness so I was loaded up with every possible medication I might ever need and off I went!
Starting our adventure in Queenstown, we boarded the bus and made our way down to the Port of Bluff, where we were welcomed aboard the Heritage Adventurer by the one and only Nathan Russ and his expedition team and ship’s crew. The ship is designed to accommodate 184 guests however Heritage cap at just 140 guests onboard which allows for plenty of space and comfort with fourteen (14) zodiacs. The superior cabin has a large panoramic window, a desk with a lounge area and storage aplenty!!
We set off sail at sunset through the Foveaux Straight enroute to Fiordland. It was a bumpy night, but we awoke to find ourselves anchored just offshore from an impressive cascade down a bush clad Fiordland mountainside. We spent 2 full days exploring the remote Dusky sound sighting birds galore, Bottlenose Dolphins, New Zealand Fur Seals and learning about the history of Captain James Cook visit on the Resolution almost 250 years ago.
Next stop was Stewart Island and the predator free nature reserve of Ulva Island where we enjoyed a walk through the reserve spotting Fantail, Rifleman, Brown Creeper, Kereru and Bellbirds and the most beautiful rainbow for our arrival on the beach!
Overnight we set sail for Dunedin arriving just after sunrise and spent the day exploring the Tuhura Otago Museum and the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Heads. As we sat in a viewing hut on the edge of the hill we witnessed young Albatross waddling around on their wobbly feet and even saw a large female take off and land with her massive wingspan. It was quite phenomenal!!
We were treated to a refreshing daiquiri out on the deck as we sailed out of Dunedin on our way to Lyttleton in Christchurch.
Heritage Expeditions is a family-owned operation, and this was so refreshing to see with Nathan having his wife and two young boys on board and meeting Shirley (his Mum) in Christchurch who was our tour guide of her hometown. If you are visiting Christchurch than a visit to the Ohinetahi Garden is a MUST! We were treated to a visit to Rossendale Winery for a beautiful lunch and wine tasting and then back into town for an afternoon of free time in Christchurch city.
Our next stop was the Queen Charlotte Sounds in Marlborough Sounds and wow, was it stunning although a little wet. We trekked up a wet, muddy and slippery track to the top of the island to take in the spectacular views over Queen Charlotte Sound, Hippah Island and across Cook Strait. As we were cruising past Motuara Island, some of us, including me, were lucky enough to spot an Orca Whale. It was in the distance but still counts!!
Our last full day of exploring was spent in the Abel Tasman National Park with the sun shining and the azure blue water glistening. I opted for the medium walk down to Te Pukatea beach where we had a picnic lunch and a checky Weka thought my arm looked like a tasty treat!! The afternoon was spent relaxing on the sand with some people opting to swim. Whilst it did look inviting, my QLD acclimatised body said no thank you!
That evening we enjoyed a lovely BBQ dinner out on the back deck whilst cruising out of the Abel Tasman for our final stop, Wellington.
As I first time cruiser, I was nervous about what to expect, would I get seasick, am I fit enough, what if the weather was terrible but I can honestly say, it was one of the most amazing experiences!
There were options to suit all fitness levels, the seasick patches worked a treat, yes, we got wet, but it was all part of the fun and New Zealand simply blew me away with the different scenery and experiences each place had to offer. If New Zealand is on your list of places to visit, this is a great way to do it!!