We are operating all experiences under Alert Level 1 protocols. Face masks are required on the Stewart Island Ferry. Find out more >
Explore Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third and southernmost island, a place of rare beauty and solitude – with our six-day Discovery Expedition.
Stewart Island's densely forested hills, remote coastline of rocky outcrops and beautiful golden beaches make it a natural refuge for marine and bird life and a wonderful destination for people who value nature and wild places.
Your Discovery Expedition begins with a leisurely cruise across Foveaux Strait from Bluff to Stewart Island’s eastern shoreline. You will visit Oban, the small township surrounded by Rakiura National Park, which comprises most of Stewart Island.
Upon boarding the Milford Wanderer, you’ll spend six days cruising some of the most magical waters in New Zealand, venturing ashore regularly for guided walks, visits to historic sites, wildlife encounters and exploring the coastline upclose with some kayaking or by stabicraft. If you prefer, the opportunity to relax on deck amidst the beauty that is the island. Your trip includes a visit to the renowned wildlife sanctuary of Ulva Island.
For more detailed information, please visit our Discovery Expeditions website.
Rakiura is the Maori name for Stewart Island.
It translates as the Land of the Glowing Skies.
|DEPARTS - RETURNS||DURATION||DETAILS||PRICING||AVAILABILITY|
|9 - 14 Jul 2021||6 days||Cruise||$2900 pp||SOLD OUT|
|15 - 21 Jul 2021||6 days||Cruise||$2900 pp||SOLD OUT|
|21 - 26 Jul 2021||6 days||Cruise||$2900 pp||SOLD OUT
|5 - 10 Jul 2022||6 days||Cruise||$3075 pp||SOLD OUT|
|10 - 15 Jul 2022||6 days||Cruise||$3075 pp||SOLD OUT|
|17 - 22 Jul 2022||6 days||Cruise||$3075 pp||Limited Spaces|
|22 - 27 Jul 2022||6 days||Cruise||$3075 pp||Limited Spaces|
|28 Jul - 2 Aug 2022||6 days||Cruise||$3075 pp||Available|
Stewart Island Discovery Expeditions depart from Bluff Visitor Terminal.
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).
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.
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.
A courtesy coach is available between Invercargill and Bluff. This departs at 8am on the morning of departure from Invercargill. Bookings are essential so please contact us or add a comment to your booking.
Getting to Bluff:
Bluff is around 25 minutes from Invercargill, 3.5 hours from Dunedin and around 3 hours from Queenstown by road.
For accommodation options in Invercargill and Bluff, we suggest contacting Invercargill iSITE (information centre): 03 211 0985 or visit www.invercargill.org.nz
Please note the vessel has steep stairs & high sills on all doorways. Please discuss any mobility issues with us prior to departure.
Medical conditions and allergies:
If you have a medical conditions, allergies or mobility problems please ensure you notify us prior to departure. This information will remain strictly confidential to the crew but is essential in case of a medical emergency in this remote location.
If you are over 70 years, please consult your doctor to check your physical fitness.
Please note there is little or no cell phone coverage during the cruise. However, the Milford Wanderer is in daily contact with Real Journeys Manapouri and messages can be left there.
Smoking is only permitted in the designated outdoor areas on-board the Milford Wanderer. You cannot buy cigarettes on board the Milford Wanderer.
Charters & Group Bookings:
Discovery Expedition are available for charter and group bookings. We can tailor cruises to suit your requirements and can include team building sessions or arrange guest speakers. Contact our Events team - email: [email protected]
What to bring:
Discovery Expedition are casual and informal. We recommend light, quick drying materials (e.g. polypropylene) for wearing next to your skin, covered by warm outerwear and a waterproof layer. We also suggest at least two changes of clothing for both on-board and walking/wet weather gear.
Please try to limit your luggage to one pack or soft suitcase. We recommend that you bring gumboots, as we often do beach/shore landings where the tide sweeps in/out. We mostly do short walks and gumboots 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.
Please carry all medications in your day bag & keep them with you at all times. DO NOT pack in your suitcase as you will be separated from your luggage at times.
A full list of the items to pack will be sent to you before the trip.
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.
The Southern Ocean provides an incredible habitat for all sorts of marine wildlife, not to mention the amazing wildlife you will encounter on your guided walks.
Let us take you on an adventure to the most secluded parts of the deep south. An expedition cruise is never predictable. No two trips are the same in such a dynamic environment where the elements uniquely shape each experience. Being flexible can yield incredible rewards and from the comfort of the Milford Wanderer, you will have the opportunity to explore this remote wilderness to its fullest.
Our crew are experts in the area with years of experience and ensure you are getting the very best bespoke experience. Every night they will advise of the plan for the following day to give you plenty of time to take it in. Weather, tides and sea conditions all play a role in the planning, as does the ability of the group.
Therefore, the sample journey is a general guide only, all trips are subject to change based on weather conditions and crew judgment and that’s what makes this expedition unique.
Where time allows, additional walks, tender craft exploration and kayaking activities are offered.
Day 1 - Take the express ferry across Foveaux Strait - from Bluff to Half Moon Bay, where you will board the Milford Wanderer and cruise to Port Adventure, where oysters were first harvested commercially in the 1800s. Finish the day with an afternoon beach and/or forest walk or kayak.
Day 2 - Spend the morning at the historic Norwegian Whalers base at Prices inlet with original machinery and remains of a bygone settlement. In the afternoon explore the predator free Ulva Island bird sanctuary.
Day 3 - Port William, the northernmost destination of the expedition, has something for everyone. Learn about the fascinating Maori history and of the attempted European settlement there. Choose a 1.5 hour walk in beautiful bush to venture to Maori Beach, or arrive via tender craft for a more relaxed option.
Day 4 - The early bird catches the worm, and a chance to see kiwi. Wake up and head to Little Glory Bay where your guide will lead you through spectacular coastal forest to a secluded sandy beach where you’ll have one of the best chances to spot our national bird searching for food. Enjoy a relaxed morning, filled with either a short walk or a gentle kayaking taking in the highlights around the various bays.
In the afternoon, a local guide will accompany you to The Neck, a narrow peninsula that separates Paterson Inlet from Foveaux Strait. This a scenic place of historical significance with beaches, caves and graves sites and home to abundant wildlife.
Day 5 - Your final day takes you to explore the quaint Oban village, where a local guide will share their knowledge of the area during mini-bus tour of the Island. Highlights include a visit to the gateway to Rakiura National Park at Lee Bay and Observation Rock with its stunning views of Paterson Inlet.
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 walk to Broad Bay or Small Craft Harbour in the afternoon.
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.
Absolutely stunning food. Joss has done a wonderful job feeding us vegans. Keep her on! All of the crew were friendly and helpful and contributed to a wonderful week. Thanks for a wonderful trip.
Doreen, via customer feedback
I am so impressed by the way the crew support each other and work together as a team. I feel so caref for by this crew. Well done.
Marion, via customer feedback
Compliments to the chef and staff - a very enjoyable trip. Thank you for all the extra tender trips for the less able.
Paige, via customer feedback
Had a wonderful time. Fab crew, great food.
Michelle, via customer feedback
We had a fantastic trip, fantastic weather, fantastic crew. The crew on this boat couldn't have been more helpful, friendly and prepared to take time to pass on information etc. You are lucky to have such an exceptional cook in Joss - the food was amazing.
Rob, via customer feedback
Thanks for a wonderful trip - the facilities were really good. We enjoyed the company of the guides on the walks. Their knowledge made everything very interesting. The ship's skippers were thoroughly professional in making sure passengers had a pleasant and safe journey. Joss' food was fabulous and I appreciated the variety of gluten free goodies she produced.
Pat & John, via customer feedback
This has been a wonderful trip and I will certainly be recommending it to friends. Things that have impressed me are: the food, tasty fish, was great variety and excellent catering for a vegetarian diet. Joss was really good at checking in with us about her meals (and we loved sharing the recipes). Great balance of activities: walks, kayaking and different levels of challenge. Nature guides had excellent knowledge and were passionate about the area and about sharing their knowledge. They were really approachable and always willing to answer questions.
Beth, via customer feedback
20 October 2015
I wanted to give a review for Real Journeys Stewart Island Discovery Expedition but can't find that particular trip on Trip Advisor. The entire journey, from Sun, 11 October 2015 through Friday, 16th October 2015 was the most awesome ever. Regardless of high winds and some rain the amazing crew kept us busy exploring. Walks for all levels of ability, from tough to ambling . Nothing was too difficult for this crew. For me it was an amazing spiritual journey and even if you can't walk much, take this trip! The scenery, the crew, and the most awesome, yummy food (and way to much of it) would be worth the trip alone. Skipper Chris, Chrissy, the trained chef, intrepid staff members Keran, Richard, Mike and Felix are a encyclopaedia of information and if by chance they didn't know the answers we looked it up in a book. Every place we explored was a different experience, loved Ulva Island although there wasn't a huge amount of bird life to be seen on our day as we had just gone through a week of high winds and rain but we saw amazing things anyway. The crew pointed out tiny orchids and other things we would have never seen on our own. I can't say enough about this trip - every single moment was "beyond perfection"!! Thank you so much Milford Wanderer!!
Anyone reading this is more than welcome to contact me with questions or wanting more information. BTW, I am 73 if that info helps for others considering this trip!
Visited October 2015
Power points are 240volts and available 7am – 9pm, while the main generators are operating.
Unfortunately we cannot provide to this level of detail as some places visited are weather dependent. We visit historic places, abandoned settlements, deserted shorelines and places of interest.
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.
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.
We set up an account for you for the duration of your cruise and we accept cash, cheque or credit card payments.
We offer a discount for groups of 10 or more people. Please enquire about availability and bookings.
Yes, we offer returning Discovery Expeditions customers a 10% discount. Please enquire directly with us about making your booking to receive the discount.
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.
Nearer the departure date, we will provide a detailed list of “what to bring”. However, 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a space for guests to hang your wet clothes however it is not a specific drying room.
Unfortunately we cannot cater to guests who wish to scuba dive on our vessel.
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.
The Milford Wanderer was also utilised for our Milford Sound Overnight Cruises (Real Journeys) during the summer season (November to March).
For November 2020 to March 2021 - we will be operating Discovery Expeditions during these months and new departures have now been added.
Click on “Choose Date” and search for your preferred departure date, then 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 6000 or email us at [email protected] and our Reservations team will assist you. Please note that for website bookings the full payment will be required to confirm your booking, whereas phone & email bookings can be secured with a non-refundable deposit, with the remaining balance due 120 days before departure.
Smoking is only permitted in the designated outdoor areas on-board the Milford Wanderer. You cannot buy cigarettes on board the Milford Wanderer.