The Cruising Guide for What to See in New Zealand
New Zealand is a land that feels at once ruggedly exotic and familiar thanks to blue-tinged glaciers and deep fjords located just a few hours from vibrant city life, sprawling vineyards, and friendly locals. A cruise is an excellent way to visit New Zealand since it will give you a taste of both sides of life on this island country – from the cities to the beach and the peaks to the crevices. When it comes to what to see in New Zealand, there is no shortage of natural wonders, but there is some cosmopolitan fun to be had, too.
Where do New Zealand Cruises Sail?
First, a quick geography lesson on New Zealand. You probably already know that it’s down somewhere by Australia. You also might figure that it takes eons to get to.
It is indeed down by Australia, to the east about 1,330 nautical miles, and is made up of two main islands: the South Island and the North Island, which are separated by a narrow strait of water. Smaller islands are scattered off the coast and can make for lovely day excursions from the mainland.
New Zealand is a long flight, but it doesn’t take as long as you may think depending on where you’re located. Those departing from airports in the southwestern United States can get direct flights that will take you to Auckland in around 12 hours (Flights by Celebrity can help you find the shortest flight to your cruise embarkation city). Sure, twelve hours is a long flight, but it’s not nearly the 24+ hours some people think of when they hear you lose a day as you cross the International Date Line.
Cruises to New Zealand typically depart from Auckland on the North Island, or from two of Australia's most iconic cities, Sydney and Melbourne. Cruises from Sydney or Melbourne will spend a couple days at sea as you sail across the beautiful Pacific to your first port of call in New Zealand.
What to See in New Zealand: South Island Guide
If your list of what to see in New Zealand mostly consists of natural wonders, the South Island needs to play a prominent part of your New Zealand cruise itinerary.
Home to towering peaks and deep crevices that create icy blue glaciers and waterfall-laden fjords, the South Island will have you feeling like you’ve landed in the middle of nowhere and that nowhere just happens to be a rugged paradise. It will very likely have you understanding why New Zealand is nicknamed Middle Earth.
The main cruise port of call for the northern half of the South Island is Picton. Located on the eastern coast of the South Island, a stop in Picton offers excursions to the wonders of the northern part of the South Island. Wine lovers will enjoy a journey to Marlborough Valley to taste its famously crisp Sauvignon Blanc while nature enthusiasts will enjoy one of the hiking or scenic drive excursions offered.
Heading south, you’ll be able to explore Queenstown, an exciting place that's known as the “action capital of the world.” You can get your thrills doing some speed boat racing or bungee jumping while in Queenstown or just take a leisurely stroll around the picturesque downtown area that has a gorgeous garden park and a promenade that looks out over serene Lake Wakatipu and the jagged mountains in the not-far-off distance.
A great aspect of taking a cruise around New Zealand is that is also gives you an easy opportunity to visit the less-visited southland plains. This southern most area of New Zealand is a long drive for visitors on land who have to navigate through national parks and thick forests.
Cruisers can simply board the ship and enjoy the coastal sights of New Zealand and the entertainment and cuisine on board the cruise ship while en route to Dunedin, the main cruise port of the southern coast. Along the way, cruises often sail the Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, and the famous Milford Sound for some gorgeous views.
What to See in New Zealand: North Island Guide
The North Island is the more cosmopolitan neighbor to the South Island and is home to the majority of New Zealand’s population. While it may be the location of Auckland, the largest city, and Wellington, the capital, it still has miles upon miles of countryside and even a bit of fairytale magic thrown in.
When in Auckland, you’ll have a chance to explore New Zealand’s largest city or head out to experience one of the sites or activities located nearby. Cruise ships dock right by the city center, making it easy to walk to Queens Arcade for some shopping or amble down Princes Wharf for a drink right by the harbor.
The Sky Tower is noticeable from most streets in Auckland, jutting up into the sky like a round spaceship stuck on a wide pole, and it makes for a great excursion to go up to the top of it. While up there you’ll have photo-worthy panoramic views and can even dine in its sky-high, revolving restaurant.
From Auckland, you can also head to nearby wineries, visit working farms, or head to Hobbiton. Other ports of call that provide shore excursions to Hobbiton and wineries on the North Island include Tauranga and Napier.
Another New Zealand destination in the North Island that is excellent for those who love some adventure and culture during their vacation is the Bay of Islands, a collection of tiny islands off the northeastern tip of the North Island. While there, you can partake in some of the most adventuresome things to do in New Zealand, particularly if you love water sports.
Popular things to do in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands include paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, or exploring the islands by sailboat. On land, go bicycling or take a tour to the mesmerizing glow worm caves.
From a cultural perspective, the Bay of Islands is a great port of call to learn more about the local Maori culture and how the history of the native Maori population has grown with New Zealand into the 21sts century.
Book Your New Zealand Cruise for a Stress-Free Vacation
If you’re ready to plan your cruise to New Zealand, we offer many different New Zealand and Australia itineraries. In addition, you’ll find that booking with us is quite effortless since you can reserve your staterooms, airfare, and excursions all in one convenient place.