One of the most remote parts of New Zealand can be found in the fjords of Fiordland. In total, there are 14 fjords, the most famous of these are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. The key difference between the two, is that Milford Sound is the only one with a public road access. For Doubtful Sound, you have to go on a guided tour, all of them starting at the wharf Manapouri. You can do both fjords as a day tour or a Doubtful sound overnight cruise. View both in comparison with this blog.
Fiordland Overnight Options
Real Journeys – Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise
Real Journeys is the largest local tour operator in the Fiordland region. They have a number of purpose-built vessels in Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. The Fiordland Navigator operates during the summer season and is designed along the lines of a traditional scow. This design blends old world charm with modern comforts, including spacious viewing decks, a dining saloon/fully licensed bar and an observation lounge.
As for accommodation, the Fiordland Navigator offer private cabins with en-suite bathrooms (all rather small but manageable for one night) or a limited number of quad share bunk style compartments. Meals provided are a three-course buffet dinner and a cooked breakfast. The journey begins by boat from Lake Manapouri, then transfer by coach over Wilmot Pass. This part of the experience takes about 2.5 hours. In Doubtful Sound you can opt to join a guided tour. These include kayaks (they have them on the Navigator) or with a dingy boat.
Whatever option you choose, you will be crusing cruise through some of the fiord’s most stunning scenery. Knowledgeable nature guides will provide commentary. You can be assured of the most amazing encounters – pods of resident dolphins, fur seals or rare penguins.. In the evening, you can mingle with fellow travellers and if the skies are clear, spend some time on the upper deck gazing at the stars. You’ll need to pinch yourself to prove that you really are in a wild and remote location. The next morning, you’ll return back the same way to Manapouri Wharf.
Southern Secret Overnight Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise
The ‘Southern Secret’ overnight option for Doubtful Sound is more boutique in nature and a much smaller operation. This 20 metre vessel is based in Deep Cove in Doubtful. The vessel has only five private cabins and accommodates a maximum of 12 passengers on a charter.
Each cabin has an en-suite bathroom including toilet and shower. Linen and towels are provided. Of course, you will need to bring an overnight bag with personal belongings and warm clothing. The service on-board is very personalised and the local skipper is also your guide and host. You will also arrive via Manapouri Wharf (or fly in by helicopter). Activities on board include fishing, kayaking and mammal watching during the Overnight Cruise.
Fiordland Expeditions Overnighter in Doubtful Sound
Once again, you will take cross Lake Manapouri to West Arm first and then with coach over Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound. As you board TUTOKO II, your friendly crew will welcome you for an overall 22 hour journey into the Fiordland’s wilderness.
You’ll be surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas on this cruise. Your captain will give an informative commentary on the area’s history and how Fiordland was formed. The meals will be a memorable part of this journey. There’ll be plenty of local fare being presented at the table. If you’re up to it, have a go at fishing for your dinner. Meanwhile, just to be doubly sure, the crew will be harvesting lobster for the plate.
During the cruise you’ll get to visit the nesting seal colony. There is something incredibly joyful watching bottle-nose dolphins ride the bow; enjoying a free ride on the surf. In the evening whilst the crew prepare dinner try your hand at kayaking and enjoy a close-up personal experience. There’s no one to bother you here, so go at your own pace. Alternatively, kick back with a wine and relax on the top deck – it’s a great way to relax before dinner.
The next morning, the vessel makes an early start. Whilst the crew prepare a full and hearty cooked breakfast, you can enjoy the peace among the most awesome scenery. All too soon, the wharf looms and you’ll be heading back over the pass to meet the ferry across Lake Manapouri. But not before you’ve swapped email addresses with new-found friends.
Kayaking Overnight Tour in Doubtful Sound
Now, this overnight kayaking experience is completely different to the others. It is a more physically demanding experience, but a highly satisfying way of exploring this wilderness area of New Zealand. You’ll need to be prepared for some ‘discomfort’ such as sandflies, rain or both. Each day involves about 5 hours of kayaking.
Along with your guide and a maximum of 8 guests, you’ll camp out at a base camp nestled in the forest up Hall Arm. Nearby a freshwater stream flows quietly, lulling you asleep. The campsite is very photogenic. You’ll get plenty of time to enjoy the birdsong and soak up the atmosphere. There is a communal tent for socialising at night while everyone cooks their own meals. Note: if kayaking is not possible due to bad weather, then a boat cruise will be offered instead and the camping will be replaced with a hostel in Doubtful Sound.
Winter Cruises in Fiordland National Park
Surprisingly, Winter is really the best time for the fjords of Fiordland. Yes, it’s a bit more chilly, but between May and September, there is less rain and wind. The good news is that there are ‘special ‘expedition cruises’ into Dusky Sound, Preservation Inlet and to Stewart Island. These are run by Real Journey on specific dates and are very popular with the 50+ age group looking for adventure, good cuisine and social company. If you are in New Zealand during the winter season, then the multi-day overnighter cruise in the Fiordland region is highly recommended.