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New Zealand's East Coast | Auckland - Milford Sound | 12 Nights

New Zealand’s East Coast

12 Nights | Departs Auckland  | Arrives Milford Sound 

Departures: 7 January 2023 onboard Coral Adventurer, and 23 December 2023 onboard Coral Geographer

Explore over 7,000km of New Zealand’s spectacular coastline while experiencing vibrant Māori culture and discovering wildlife thriving in their natural habitats. From Auckland, this voyage takes you to the pastoral wine country of Hawke’s Bay which gives way to the wild coastlines of the South Island, where our journey continues to the deep and quiet fiords of Murihiku (Southland).

Experience New Zealand from a different perspective, with the ability to customise your expedition from a choice of all-inclusive experiences ranging from walks through historic cities to wilderness hikes guided by our knowledgeable expedition team. Enjoy access to remote and difficult-to-reach wilderness areas within the Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland and visit sheltered coves and islands to find fur seals, kakapos, and pods of friendly dolphins.

Return to your ship after the day’s excursions to sample the country’s famed produce and wine.  There is no better way to experience New Zealand than by small ship expedition.

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Cruise Page - Auckland - Milford Sound New Zealand's East Coast

Expedition highlights

  • Walk through the lush Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the world’s youngest geothermal valley
  • Stroll through the quiet forests of Ulva Island to spot New Zealand’s iconic birds, including the Stewart Island Weka, South Island Saddleback, Yellow-and Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki) and Rifleman (New Zealand’s smallest bird)
  • Experience the vibrant energy and stories of Maori culture, with a cultural greeting at Hauiti Marae
  • Discover the unique character of east coast towns, from the French-influenced Akaroa to Dunedin’s Scottish heritage and Napier’s distinctive art deco character
  • Taste the renowned wines produced in the Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough regions on our specially curated New Zealand wine list
  • Encounter many species of endemic birds and marine wildlife, including the Fiordland crested penguin, Yellow-eyed penguin, little penguin and New Zealand fur seal in Southland, the Sperm Whale in Kaikoura, and the dusky dolphin and Hector’s dolphin at Akaroa
  • Enjoy walks through spectacular scenery in the Marlborough Sounds and the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
  • Explore four of Fiordland’s most beautiful sounds – the astonishing and rarely visited Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, Thomson Sound, and otherworldly Milford Sound.  Observe the wildlife, discover the history, and be immersed in the stillness of unforgettable Southland



7 January 2023

Bridge Deck Balcony Suite $24,120 n/a
Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom $18,790 n/a
Explorer Deck Balcony Stateroom $17,120 $25,680
Promenade Deck Stateroom $12,890 $19,335
Coral Deck Stateroom $10,720 $16,080


23 December 2023

Bridge Deck Balcony Suite $22,990 n/a
Explorer Deck Balcony Stateroom $17,120 $25,680
Promenade Deck Stateroom $12,890 $19,335
Coral Deck Stateroom $10,720 $16,080

Prices are per person, listed in Australian Dollars (AUD) and include GST. Limited sole use occupancy available. 

Cruise Page Map - East Coast New Zealand - Auckland - Milford Sound

Travel Update - Covid Page


The Itinerary

Embark: Board at Auckland Harbour’s Queens Wharf at 4:00 pm for 5:00 pm departure.
Disembark: Arrive and disembark at Deepwater Basin in Milford Sound at 08:00 am for coach transfers to Queenstown (approx arrival 1:30 pm).

This itinerary is an indication of the destinations we visit and activities on offer. Throughout the expedition we may make changes to the itinerary as necessary to maximise your expeditionary experience. Allowances may be made for seasonal variations, weather, tidal conditions, and any other event that may affect the operation of the vessel. Coral Expeditions suggests that you do not arrive on the day of embarkation or depart on the day of disembarkation due to any changes that may occur in scheduling.

Day 1: Auckland

After a pre-cruise SailSAFE check-in, make your way to Auckland’s Queens Wharf to board  at 4:00pm. We depart the ‘city of sails’ at 5:00pm to make our way into the Hauraki Gulf; with its string of islands guarding the harbour, including the iconic Rangitoto Island – a dormant volcano. Take in the sights while enjoying the Captain’s welcome drinks and meeting the crew and your fellow passengers.

Tauranga & Waimangu Valley

Waimangu means ‘black water’ – this fascinating place was named for the geyser that regularly erupted here until 1904. Waimangu is the world’s youngest volcanic valley, and there is much to see: spectacular volcanic craters, enormous hot water springs, and many birds. Enjoy views of mysterious and beautiful Inferno Crater which rises and falls as it heats and cools.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is home to Frying Pan Lake, one of the largest hot water springs in the World. Brilliantly coloured microbes cloak the hot rocks. Tiny springs and geysers play. Wonder at the unusual plants that grow on the hot earth of Waimangu, surrounded by forests.


Gisborne is rich in historical significance.  Captain Cook first came ashore in New Zealand here in 1769, and the European settlers met with the local Maori tribes on the banks of the Tūranganui River.  Old Maori traditions also record this region, specifically Titirangi Hill as the point of arrival for the first Maori canoe to arrive in the area.  Here, we will venture to the small township of Tolaga Bay, where we will be welcomed at the Hauiti Marae. Enjoy a traditional Maori welcome, with a guided viewing of the marae.  Have the opportunity to visit the historic Tolaga Bay wharf before returning to Gisborne.



This morning, cruise into Hawke’s Bay and anchor at the city of Napier, which contains one of the largest concentrations of art deco architecture in the world.  In 1931 Napier was destroyed by an earthquake that shook Hawke’s Bay for more than 3 minutes, flattening the city. Rebuilding began, and the new buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – stripped classical, Spanish mission and art deco. Few other places in the world have such a deep identity with these architectural styles, and Napier’s stylish shops and fabulous restaurants and bars echo the classic atmosphere.

Napier is surrounded by the award-winning wineries of the Hawke’s Bay Region, one of the world’s great wine regions. With a temperate maritime climate and plentiful sunshine, the region is similar to Bordeaux, France, and produces a wide range of different styles but is best known for red blends and Chardonnay.

Two tour options are available here – choose between a city tour to uncover the remarkable architecture and history of the city – from the earthquake and rebuilding, through to the growth of the vibrant wine industry, and finishing with a flight of wines at New Zealand’s oldest winery, Mission Estate Winery. Alternatively, enjoy an excursion to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, with spectacular views of this dramatic coastline.

Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds Coral Expeditions

The ancient river valleys that form the Marlborough Sounds make up 20% of New Zealand’s coastline. The webs of sunken channels are surrounded by forest-cloaked peaks and vineyards, all of which present a breathtaking view from any perspective.

This lush region produces much of New Zealand’s seafood, and 80% of its wine. The fertile soil in this region supported the country’s first known Polynesian settlement in the late 1200s AD at Wairau Bar.

After a relaxing day at sea cruising across Cook Strait to the South Island, we anchor at historic Ship Cove. Spend the day exploring Queen Charlotte Sound. Discover the dolphins and seals of the sounds with marine spotting from the Xplorer and enjoy wonderful birdwatching on walks through Motuara Island birdlife sanctuary.  Guided by our expedition team and lecturers, there will be options to hike a section of the spectacular Queen Charlotte Track, or shorter walks available.  The history of the region is also brought to life with our visit to Ship Cove, where informative storyboards tell of Captain Cook’s time here. Finish the day with a scenic cruise up the length of the sound before we depart for our next destination.


Kaikoura Whale Coral Expeditions

Ringed by the breathtaking snow-dusted Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, the picturesque town of Kaikoura is renowned as possibly the best whale watching destination in the world. Kaikoura is one of the very few places it is possible to observe the Sperm Whale! Aboard a small specialised vessel, we will explore the ocean in search of these amazing mammals, as well as fur seals, dusky and Hector’s dolphins and other migratory whales.

Kaikoura means ‘to eat crayfish’, and you may have the opportunity to taste the seafood available here. You will also have the opportunity walk through this small town to visit the museums, galleries, and cafes, before joining the expedition team on a guided walk over the peninsula to marvel at the spectacular scenery.


Akaroa Coral Expeditions

This morning, sail into the long harbour of Akaroa, formed by the breached volcanic crater that makes up the Banks Peninsula. The village of Akaroa has the unique identity of being the only French settlement in New Zealand, and its charming cottages and French street names still carry that identity today.

Ringed by the pastoral rolling hills of the Peninsula, the scenic village was once a bustling whaling outpost. Here, choose between two included excursions: a harbour cruise to spot marine wildlife, or a tour to visit the world’s largest colony of little penguins at Pohatu Bay, with the chance to learn more about the conservation efforts that are protecting them. A variety of short walks are available into the surrounding nature reserves, guided by our expedition team.


Dunedin Coral Expeditions

Dunedin, settled in and around an ancient volcanic crater, is known for its Scottish and Maori heritage. Named after the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the city’s heritage buildings, cathedrals, and charming atmosphere share an old-world atmosphere. Dunedin City is regarded as New Zealand’s architectural heritage capital.

The Otago Peninsula is an area of exceptional diversity, and we will be welcomed with sights of the world’s only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross and a colony of the rare yellow-eyed penguin. There will be a choice of included excursions with local operators – choose between a coach tour of the Otago Peninsula or Dunedin City Highlights. Alternatively  you can take time to explore the city at your leisure: perhaps visit the famous Speight’s Brewery, art gallery, or New Zealand’s oldest botanic gardens.

Stewart & Ulva Islands

Known in Maori mythology as Te Punga o Te Waka – The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe’ – Stewart Island (Rakiura) is New Zealand’s little known ‘third island’.  Apart from the communities on the island, many people never venture to remote Stewart Island.  Nearby Ulva Island is also found within the Rakiura National Park, offering a predator-free environment for rare and endangered birds including South Island Saddleback, Stewart Island Weka, New Zealand Pigeon/Kereru, South Island Kaka, Yellow- and Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki), Morepork, Rifleman (New Zealand’s smallest bird), New Zealand Fantail, South Island Tomtit, Stewart Island Robin, Yellowhead (Mohoua), Brown Creeper, Grey Warbler, New Zealand Bellbird and Tui.

On Ulva Island, a guided walk will provide the opportunity to spot a vast array of birdlife and hopefully a few fur seals lazing on the shore during the tour. There will be free time to explore the village of Oban, and a guided Xplorer cruise to Prices Point Whaling Station will unveil the history of the region.

Fiordland: Dusky, Doubtful & Thomson Sounds

Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage site once described as the Eighth Wonder of the World by author Rudyard Kipling, is characterised by 14 fiords carving through just 215km of coastline.  These fiords were carved by glaciers over thousands of years, and you will see waterfalls cascading down the sheer cliffs, rainforest cloaking the steep ridges, and granite peaks reflected in the deep shimmering waters.

These mostly inaccessible and awe-inspiring landscapes were the mysterious source of powerful pounamu (New Zealand Jade), gathered by Maori from the riverbeds and boulders of the South Island – the only place it occurs.  While some European settlers took shelter here, the deep isolation and rugged terrain thwarted all except the toughest from staying. Many of the flora and fauna species have developed in relative isolation, so many of the diverse plants and animals are unique to the area.

Enter Fiordland National Park at dramatic Tamatea / Dusky Sound, and cruise among towering cliffs and sheet granite walls of Facile Harbour, cascading waterfalls, pass some of the 365 small islands and explore the depths of the inlets in the zodiacs.  Inaccessible by road, Tamatea / Dusky Sound is the largest and most complex of the Fiordland Sounds.  It is also a designated Important Bird Area for the Fiordland Penguins that breed here. We will also encounter the fur seals of Luncheon Cove.

Early in the morning, a dawn cruise traces Acheron Passage to Te Puaitaha / Breaksea Sound, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes on all sides as we retrace Cook’s journey. It is easy to imagine the small wooden Endeavour being dwarfed by the steep-sided fiords and encircled by the blanketing silence of the fog-cloaked peaks.

Doubtful Sound / Patea is the deepest and widest fiord, flanked by towering cliffs and adorned by cascading waterfalls.  The stillness and silence of this Fiord is compelling and unforgettable.  We will cruise into Doubtful Sound / Patea, and past the outer Seal Islands, Nee Islets and through ‘the Gut’, before cruising by Blanket Bay and into Te Awa-o-Tū / Thomson Sound. You may spot fur seals lounging on the rocks, pods of dolphins, and the Fiordland penguin. Tonight, enjoy the Captain’s Farewell Drinks.

This afternoon, we enter Milford Sound / Piopiotahi to a world-famous view of Mitre Peak, rising some 1,682 metres. Its triangular silhouette rises opposite beautiful Stirling Falls, falling from the top of a 162m high cliff between two towering ridges into the inky dark water. You may have a chance to feel the spray from the waterfall – according to Maori legend, it will make you ten years younger! The steep overhanging cliffs are awe-inspiring as we cruise to Harrison Cove, where an ancient glacier entered the fiord, and visit Bowen Falls.

Day 13: Milford Sound & Queenstown

Milford Sound Coral Expeditions

This morning, disembark at Deepwater Basin, Milford Sound at 8:00am before transferring by coach to Queenstown. The coach arrives in Queenstown at approximately 1:30pm.

January 2023

Departure Departure Arrival Arrival Cost Per Person Cost PP Ship Availability  
07 January 2023 07 Jan 2023 19 January 2023 19 Jan 2023 From $10,720 From $10,720 Coral Adventurer Call Us Contact Us

December 2023

Departure Departure Arrival Arrival Cost Per Person Cost PP Ship Availability  
23 December 2023 23 Dec 2023 04 January 2024 04 Jan 2024 $10,720 to $22,990 $10,720 to $22,990 Coral Geographer Available Book

January 2024

Departure Departure Arrival Arrival Cost Per Person Cost PP Ship Availability  
23 December 2023 23 Dec 2023 04 January 2024 04 Jan 2024 $10,720 to $22,990 $10,720 to $22,990 Coral Geographer Available Book

Your Cruise Price Includes

  • The services of an expert Expedition Team
  • All excursions, including Xplorer and zodiac cruises
  • Local operator excursions at some locations
  • All meals, prepared fresh by our chefs
  • Showcase wines, selected beers and soft drinks with lunch and dinner service
  • 24 hour coffee and selection of teas
  • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Events, and Open Bridge Access with the Captain
  • Guided sightseeing in each destination
  • All entrance fees to National Parks and Ports
  • Post-cruise transfers to Queenstown

What’s Not Included

  • Travel insurance
  • Flights
  • Pre-cruise transfers
  • Entry visas or travel permits
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to phone and internet communications and bar charges (outside of the included drinks package as highlighted) laundry charges and souvenir purchases

Tipping not required

Other cruise lines automatically add gratitudes to your account and service charges to your bar invoices. At Coral Expeditions our crew have no other agenda than your delight.

Our friendly reservations specialists are on hand to assist with your booking arrangements to ensure your holiday runs as smoothly as possible. Contact our team on 1800 079 545 during business hours in Australia or email

Travel Insurance:

Comprehensive Travel Insurance is strongly recommended for all travellers as protection against any unforeseen events that may necessitate the cancellation or interruption of your holiday and should be purchased at the same time as you purchase your cruise. Please refer to our Pre-Departure page for facts that should be considered and shared when speaking with Travel Insurance suppliers.

Additional Information:

Photos From Your Expedition

Following your expedition, you will receive a link by email to free download the images taken throughout your voyage by our Expedition Team. Please make sure that you have provided our reservations team with your relevant email address.

Countries Visited/ Currency Accepted:

This cruise begins and ends in New Zealand, with one call in an Australian Territory (Macquarie Island). The currency is New Zealand Dollar (NZD) – You cannot use Australian (AUD) in New Zealand. Please note, all purchases on board will still be in AUD.

Languages Spoken/ Dress Codes & Etiquette:

The official languages of New Zealand are Māori and English. New Zealand is known for its friendly and laid-back inhabitants. The culture of New Zealand is primarily western, with strong influences from the indigenous Maori and the waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed the British colonisation.

Visa Information:

Entry into NZ requires a passport. As of October 2019, the NZ government is introducing an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) and International Visitor Conservation & Tourism Levy (IVL). Australian citizens are exempt from the ETA & IVL, however any other passport holder will have to organise the ETA/IVL prior to travelling to NZ.

Some nationalities are not eligible to obtain an ETA and must apply for a visa. Please consult the NZ immigration website or your travel agent for more information. It is the responsibility of all guests to ensure they meet visa/ETA requirements ahead of arrival to NZ.

Hike/Walk Opportunities:

Our Expedition Team will advise walking conditions and fitness requirements prior to each excursion.  There are several walking/hiking options available on this departure at:

  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Kaikoura
  • Akaroa
  • Stewart Island

Medical/Vaccination Requirements:

Please refer to the CDC website for up to date information:

Suggested Readings:

  • The Penguin History of New Zealand – Michael King
  • The Bone People – Keri Hulme
  • Stewart Island: A Rakiura Ramble – Neville Peat
  • The Quest for Origins – K.R. Howe
  • Vaka Moana – Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific – K.R. Howe
  • To the Is-land – Janet Frame
  • Journals of James Cook – Penguin paperback edition

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