Top 10 boat cruises in New Zealand

Taking a boat trip is a must do in New Zealand. Cruise near ancient fiords, through a glacier lake or to idyllic beaches.

Find out more about the top 10 boat cruises in New Zealand. 

1. Cruise through the ancient fiord of Milford Sound

Mitre Peak is just one of the highlights on a cruise of Milford Sound. Kayak on the ancient fiord, under towering peaks and near misty waterfalls. Keep a lookout for seals, dolphins and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguins. If you cruise to Milford Sound with Southern Discoveries(opens in new window) you'll have access to New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory. Te Anau is the gateway to Milford Sound and a great place to base yourself for a few days. 

2. Step back in time on the TSS Earnslaw steamship

The TSS Earnslaw is known as "The lady of the lake" and is a Queenstown icon. This grand old steamship was launched the same year as the Titanic (1912) and was originally used as an essential link between isolated farmers and the outside world. Today, the ship is still hand-fired and has been restored to its original condition. Cruising across Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw with Real Journeys is a must-do experience when in Queenstown. 

3. Experience the America's Cup first hand

Sail an authentic America’s Cup race yacht with Explore Group(opens in new window). Tours onboard give you the opportunity to step into the shoes of the America's Cup crew, so grab a friend and take up the grinder challenge or simply relax and take in the Waitematā Harbour views. During The 36th America's Cup races you can take a spectator cruise - the equivalent of front row seats!  

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4. Get up close to giant icebergs on the Tasman Glacier Lake

Glacier Explorers operate the only glacial boat tour in New Zealand. The tour starts at the Hermitage hotel(opens in new window) and begins with a 25 minute alpine walk to the lake front. You'll be surrounded by snow capped alps and the tour allows plenty of time for photos. Onboard the boat your expert driver will navigate you through icebergs and the Tasman Glacier wall. You'll be treated to 60 minutes of amazing scenery and time to get up close to huge icebergs! 

5. Try whale watching in Kaikōura

A tour onboard Whale Watch Kaikōura is the ultimate marine life experience. As the skipper finds the best spot to view sperm whales, make sure you also keep a lookout for humpbacks, orca, southern right whales and dolphins. You'll no doubt come across a few New Zealand fur seals and albatross with impressive wingspans.

6. Jump on board a wildlife cruise in Dunedin

Next time you're in Dunedin you should cruise the Otago Harbour with Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours. The one hour wildlife tour sails from Wellers Rock Wharf and stops to view resident royal albatross, Otago shag colonies and New Zealand fur seals, blue penguins and dolphins. Expert guides will point out New Zealand's first lighthouse perched on top of a volcanic cliff top. 

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7. Sail through the untouched waters of the Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound is located at the south-west of the South Island and is an untouched wilderness of beautiful fiords, peaks and rainforest. There isn't direct road access to Doubtful Sound, so let Real Journeys take care of the logistics - you'll start with a cruise over Lake Manapouri, then a stunning drive over the Wilmot Pass and into the heart of the Fiordland National Park. Then the three-hour cruise on Doubtful Sound is your chance to see one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand, only visited by a few. 

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8. Explore Rotorua with a luxury cruise

When you take a cruise on Lake Rotoiti with Pure Cruise(opens in new window) you'll not only have amazing views but you'll also learn stories of the lakes and the history of local Māori. Cruise in style to sandy coves and cultural sites and then rejuvenate with a soak in the lakeside hot pools overlooking the lake. Charter a luxury Pure Cruise vessel and create your own perfect day in Rotorua. 

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9. Deliver the mail to remote Marlborough Sounds residents

The Pelorus Sounds in Marlborough is one of the most beautiful places to live in New Zealand. With deep teal coloured waters and hidden coves it really is something special. It's also remote. So remote that residents have their mail delivered by the 'sea-postie'. You can experience a day in the life as a sea postie with a Pelorus Mail Boat cruise where you'll help deliver mail to friendly locals who are often accompanied by their dogs and quirky pets at the wharf. Keep a look out for dolphins, seals, stingrays and penguins too. 

Help deliver the mail

10. Sail your away around the Abel Tasman

With a range of vessels and activities, Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures is a great way to experience the Abel Tasman National Park. Explore the crystal clear waters onboard the catamaran tour or charter a private catamaran. Sit-on-kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, fishing and snorkeling gear are provided and walking and hiking tours are available. Your skipper can give excellent local knowledge and offers a personalised tour for your group. 

Sail the Abel Tasman

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