FAQs

Our experience and destination pages should provide you with all the information you need to make a decision or plan your trip. 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.

You can refine the list of FAQs by clicking on the topics below.

  • 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.

  • Is there car parking at Manapouri?

    Overnight car parking is 950m from the Manapouri Visitor Centre and daytime car parking is provided adjacent to the Visitor centre.

  • Are there luggage storage facilities at Manapouri?

    Yes, there is very limited luggage storage available at the Manapouri Visitor Centre for our overnight cruise passengers (maximum one bag only per person).

  • Is the Manapouri Underground Power Station always accessible?

    Access is not always possible as it is a working power station.  However due to scheduled maintenance the Manapouri Underground Power Station will be CLOSED from 1 Nov 2014 - 31 Jul 2015.

  • Is there an alternative to visiting the Manapouri Power Station?

    Most people choose to visit the power station as it is very interesting.  For those who choose not to visit the power station* there is the option of staying longer in the informative West Arm Visitor Centre. *Due to scheduled maintenance the Manapouri Underground Power Station will be CLOSED from 1 Nov 2014 - 31 Jul 2015.

  • What is the difference between the Scenic and Nature Cruises?

    The Scenic and Nature Cruises follow the same route in Milford Sound.  The Scenic Cruises have a multilingual commentary, wide range of lunch options, comfortable viewing in luxury vessels and are shorter (1hr 40mins) than the Nature Cruises (2hrs 30mins).  The Nature Cruises have English only commentaries, an on board nature guide, picnic lunches and smaller vessels designed along the lines of traditional trading scows.

  • What is the difference between the Milford Mariner and Milford Wanderer Overnight Cruises?

    Each cruise has the same focus on sharing the wonders of Milford Sound through in-depth commentaries and a variety of activities (wildlife viewing, kayaking and cruising in the tender craft).  They differ, however, in terms of accommodation - the Milford Mariner offers private cabins with ensuite bathrooms and since its recent refurbishment, the Milford Wanderer offers twin-share compartments with shared bathroom facilities.

  • How long does it take to travel to Milford?

    If you are travelling from Queenstown it will take around 5hrs to reach Milford.  Te Anau to Milford is around 2hrs 20mins.  This timing allows for stops along the way for photos or short walks to places of interest.  If driving make sure you fill your vehicle with petrol in Te Anau before travelling to Milford (there are no petrol stations at Milford Sound or en route).

  • What are the road conditions to Milford like in the winter?

    Driving conditions during winter (May to September) can be difficult.  Extreme care is needed as freezing temperatures mean the road can ice over in shaded places.  During the winter it is mandatory to carry snow chains in your vehicle as the road can sometimes be covered in snow.  These are available for hire from petrol stations in Te Anau and Queenstown.

    If you are not confident about driving in winter conditions then take a Real Journeys coach to Milford Sound and relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.

  • At Milford where do you park and go to check in?

    There is a large car park at Milford Sound.  You will need to allow around 10 minutes to walk from the car park to the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal where you check in for your cruise.  Check in is required 20 minutes prior to departure.

  • Is there luggage storage at Milford Sound?

    There is limited luggage storage available at the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal.

  • What happens if the weather changes and we can’t fly out from Milford?

    Your travel agent or the outlet where you purchased your Milford Sound trip will refund the flight component of your ticket.  You will return to Queenstown by coach.

  • Are linen and towels provided on the Milford and Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruises?

    Yes.

  • 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.

    Note: quad-share: we endeavour to assign compartments as "all female" or "all male" but we cannot guarantee this.

  • What is the difference between Milford and Doubtful Sounds?

    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 road (coach or car) or by 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 travel to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and coach over Wilmot Pass.

    Visitors with enough time choose to experience both fiords as they have different characters.

  • 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.

  • 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: summer (December-February) 19-23 Celsius,autumn (March-May) 8-18 Celsius, winter (June-August) 5-9 Celsius, spring (September-November) 10-19 Celsius.


  • 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 board the coach or vessel this landscape is spectacular.

  • Do you pick up from local accommodation in Queenstown or Te Anau?

    If you have booked a coach and cruise to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound our coaches pick up from most accommodation in Queenstown and Te Anau.  When booking either from our website or directly with our staff, please let us know if you want to be picked up from your accommodation or from our Visitor Centre.

  • 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.

  • Where can we securely park our car / campervan in Te Anau whilst we are going to Milford or Doubtful Sound?

    Whilst parking in and around Te Anau is safe, we cannot guarantee this. 'Safer Parking' offers paid secure day-night parking for customers who wish to ensure their valuables are safe. Please visit the Safer Parking website to find out more details for rates, information, etc. Real Journeys coaches do collect customers from Safer Parking - simply select this option when booking your excursion from Te Anau.

  • Can you use cameras or videos in the Te Anau Glowworm Caves?

    Photography and video cameras are not permitted in the Glowworm Caves because flash lights affect the glowworms and visitor acclimatisation to the dark.

  • What is the weather like in Queenstown?

    Queenstown has a climate with four distinct seasons however, being located in an alpine environment means the weather can be changeable. A guide for the temperatures you can expect is as follows: summer (December-February) 19-29 Celsius,autumn (March-May) 15-25 Celsius, winter (June-August) 5-10 Celsius, spring (September-November) 9-15 Celsius.

  • Where is the car parking in Queenstown?

    Queenstown parking spaces are scarce with most downtown parking being metered 7 days a week. There is a pay and display parking area in Athol Street (entry from Shotover Street), large underground car parks in Church and Man Streets.

  • How long does it take the TSS Earnslaw to get to Walter Peak High Country Farm?

    The scenic cruise from Queenstown to Walter Peak takes 45 minutes and it takes in views of Walter Peak, Cecil Peak and the Remarkable Range plus panaromic views around Lake Wakatipu.

  • Can I take my car to Stewart Island?

    No, we only carry passengers and light freight on the ferry services between Bluff and Stewart Island. Rental cars, motor scooters and mountain bikes are available for hire from our Oban Visitor Centre.

  • Is there car parking at Bluff Ferry Terminal?

    Day and overnight vehicle parking is available adjacent to the Bluff Visitor Terminal (extra cost) for self-driving visitors taking the ferry to Stewart Island.

  • Is there a coach service that connects with the ferry?

    Yes, we offer coach transfers between Queenstown, Te Anau, Invercargill and Bluff (extra cost). The Invercargill – Bluff coach service operates for each ferry departure and arrival. Pick-ups and drop-offs are available from most Invercargill accommodation properties and the Invercargill i-Site Visitor Centre.

  • How can I get from Invercargill airport to Bluff to catch the ferry?

    We operate a coach transfer service from Invercargill to Bluff, connecting with each ferry sailing. If you need to be collected or dropped off at Invercargill Airport, please let us know at the time of your booking.

  • How rough does it have to be before you cancel the sailing?

    Stewart Island Experience's vessels are specially designed to operate on Foveaux Strait. We are committed to providing visitors with a safe and comfortable crossing. If, on rare occasions, a scheduled departure is cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, visitors will be rebooked onto a later trip or refunded in full.

  • Where is the nearest ATM/money machine in Bluff?

    There is an ATM/money machine in Bluff's "4 Square" shop however it is only possible to withdraw cash with a NZ bank card. You can purchase your ferry tickets at the Bluff Visitor Terminal using both EFTPOS and Credit Cards. The nearest bank is located at Invercargill.

  • Can you use your EFTPOS card on Stewart Island?

    Yes, most places on Stewart Island have EFTPOS and credit card facilities. There is an ATM/money machine at the "4 Square" shop on Stewart Island however it is only possible to withdraw cash with a NZ bank card. There are no banks on the island itself and the nearest bank is located at Invercargill.

  • Can I buy food on Stewart Island?

    Yes, there is a general grocery store, cafés and restaurants and a Kai cart (take-aways summer only).

  • What sort of birds will we see on Ulva Island?

    The bird life on Ulva Island and Stewart Island is of exceptional interest, not only because of the presence of high profile species such as weka, wood pigeon, Stewart Island Robin and kaka, but also because Stewart Island and its small outliers provide a refuge for a range of less well-known birds, among them the NZ dotterel, South Island saddleback, Rifleman, Oystercatcher and the red and yellow-crowned parakeet.

  • What other activities and sightseeing are available?

    There are a huge range of activities available on Stewart Island, from kayaking, fishing trips, golf, walking tracks and more. To find out more information and to make bookings, we operate the Oban Visitor Centre. The Department of Conservation (DoC) also operates a Visitor Information Centre and can provide more information on walking tracks and activities.

  • Is Stewart Island worthwhile for a day trip?

    Yes, there are many activities you can fit into one day on Stewart Island. Ask our reservations team for suggested itineraries.

  • What sort of shopping can I do on Stewart Island?

    Stewart Island is not the place for a shopping spree as there is a very small range of shops - from small gift shops with locally produced items to the general store for groceries and fresh food.

  • I often suffer from seasickness - what can you suggest to help me?

    Here's a few handy hints to help motion sickness: Ginger is known to contain properties to alleviate nausea. It is available in a number of different forms - from tablets, powder and capsules, which are sold at pharmacies and supermarkets. These need to be taken before your trip, sometimes a few hours before travelling. Other recommendations to reduce motion sickness include not travelling on an empty stomach, as gastric juices can promote nausea. Whilst on the ferry, if possible, sit outside on the back deck to breathe fresh air. Look out to the horizon, rather than looking at the boat's movement in the water.

  • Does the ferry have wheelchair access?

    Yes. Please notify us beforehand to ensure we can assist you.

  • What time do we need to check in?

    For visitors travelling on the Stewart Island Ferry Service, you are required to check in 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time (to allow for luggage loading, etc). The check in and boarding gates are closed 10 minutes prior to scheduled ferry departure. For all our cruises and tours, check in is required 20 minutes prior to the schedule departure.