Real Journeys have teamed up with the Department of Conservation (DoC) to offer a unique Discovery Expedition of Stewart Island. On this cruise, you will learn about DoC's conservation efforts from DoC staff onboard. Discover New Zealand’s third and southernmost island – Stewart Island – from aboard the purpose-built Milford Wanderer.
Learn about DOC’s conservation efforts from onboard DOC staff.
Spend time doing real conservation work like clearing vegetation, preserving mining artefacts and assisting with the preservation of historic structures from the tin mining era.
This 6 day, 5 night expedition includes a return ferry across the Foveaux Strait, comfortable cabins on board the Milford Wanderer and delicious meals prepared by our on-board chef.
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 six days cruising some of the most magical waters in New Zealand, venturing ashore regularly for guided walks and visits to historic sites.
6 day / 5 night expedition cruise options
On-board specialist nature guides who provide informative commentary and evening talks
Guided walk led by DOC to the Tin Range
Visit historic sites and abandoned settlements
Tender craft and kayaks for exploration of the coastline
Rakiura is the Maori name for Stewart Island. It translates as the Land of the Glowing Skies.
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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 (extra cost).
Milford Wanderer - your home in the fiords
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 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
One of the few pest-free open sanctuaries in the country, Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara in Maori) offers threatened native species a safe haven in which they can flourish.
There exists healthy populations of kiwi, saddleback and yellowhead birds on the island.
Stewart Island - 6 days 5 nights
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 3 - 4 hour conservation trip led by DOC on the Tin Range.
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.
Power points are 240volts and available 7am – 9pm, while the main generators are operating.
Are there hairdryers onboard?
There are hairdryers available on-board in the communal bathrooms.
Can you provide a detail itinerary of where we will be each day?
Unfortunately we cannot provide to this level of detail as come places visited are weather dependant. We visit historic places, abandoned settlements, deserted shorelines and places of interest.
Do we need to pay for our meals or drinks while on-board?
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 on-board.
What can I purchase onboard?
We have an licensed bar on board the Milford Wanderer and these drinks are available for purchase on-board. We also sell a range of bar snacks and some souvenirs.
How can I pay for things onboard?
We set up an account for you for the duration of your cruise and we accept cash, cheque or credit card payments.
What is essential for the helicopter transfer?
We ask all guests to keep any of their medication with them during the transfers as you may be separated from your main bags for some time (possibly hours). We also request hand luggage is limited to a day pack/ handbag, camera, raincoat and your medication.
Do you offer discounts for a group?
We offer a discount for groups of 10 or more people. Please enquire about availability and bookings.
I have been on a Discovery Expedition before – do you offer a repeat discount?
Yes, we offer returning Discovery Expeditions customers a 10% discount. Please enquire directly with us about making your booking to receive the discount.
How much luggage can I bring?
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.
What should I pack/bring?
Please see our detailed list of “what to bring” on the ‘More Info’ tab on this page. We recommend our guests to bring gumboots / waterproof boots for onshore activities as it is often muddy on land and guest have to step into sea surge when going ashore. Please note that all shoes for wearing onshore are to be kept outside your luggage at check-in, as we need to put them in a salt water bath to eliminate any seeds or didymo before entering the National Park (new shoes do not need to be dipped).
Do you offer kayaking on all your Discovery Expeditions?
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.
Do you allow fishing?
Due to Real Journeys’ 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 not to bring any fishing gear on-board. However, if weather and timing permits, there may be an option to fish outside these areas (hand line and barbless hooks are provided, must adhere to quota).
How fit do I need to be to take part in the activities?
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.
Where can I park my car / campervan in Bluff?
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.
Do I need to reconfirm before departure?
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.
What types of dietary intolerances/allergies can you cater for on-board?
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.
Are we allowed to bring alcohol on-board the boat?
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.
Is there a drying room on-board?
There is a space for guests to hang your wet clothes however it is not a specific drying room.
Are we able to scuba dive if we have our certificates?
Unfortunately we cannot cater to guests who wish to scuba dive on our vessel.
What footwear do we need to take on-board and for when we go for walks in the bush?
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.
Do you provide pick ups and drop offs from Queenstown, Te Anau to Manapouri?
We offer courtesy transfers from Te Anau to Manapouri. For transfers from Queenstown, coach connections are available for an extra cost. Please contact us for further details.
Why don't the Discovery Expeditions operate all year round?
Click on “Book your cruise now” and search for your preferred departure date and 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 7416 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and our Reservations team will assist you.
Are we allowed to smoke on-board the vessel?
Smoking is only permitted in the designated outdoor areas on-board the Milford Wanderer. You cannot buy cigarettes on board the Milford Wanderer.
Are the rooms ensuite?
The Milford Wanderer has shared bathroom facilities on board.
What music instruments do we have on-board?
We have a guitar on board the boat but you are most welcome to bring along your own.