Experience New Zealand as early Polynesians and explorers once did—by exploring its coastlines by ship. Voyage from Auckland to Milford Sound and explore New Zealand’s North and South Islands and breathtaking Fiordland.

Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 A moody Milford Sound  Typical New Zealand landscape with sheep farm  Sheep farmer with visitors. Credit: Tourism New Zealand  Dolphin swimming alongside ship. Credit: Chris Stephenson/Tourism New Zealand  Great Northern Albatross  Dramatic Milford Sound with Mitre Peak. Credit: Rob Suisted/Tourism New Zealand  Cruising in Milford Sound. Credit: Adam Bryce/Tourism New Zealand  Waterfalls in Fiordland National Park  View of the dramatic Doubtful Sound  Maori sculpture  Maori woman with traditional tattoos. Credit: James Heremaia/Tourism New Zealand  Marlborough Sound  Queen Charlotte Sound  Tasting cafe in Wellington. Credit: Tourism New Zealand  The city of Auckland. Credit: Tourism New Zealand

New Zealand by Sea

A Circumnavigation Cruise of the South Island

13 days | Full tour details to be announced soon

Experience New Zealand as early Polynesians and explorers once did—by exploring its coastlines by ship. Voyage from Auckland to Milford Sound and explore New Zealand’s North and South Islands and breathtaking Fiordland.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details


I have been with various travel groups but this trip was better than any I've ever been on. Everything was well planned; these guys had it to down to a science. On most tours at least one thing goes wrong, but not with Smithsonian. They're total experts and professionals and I can't think of anything that they could have done better.

- Valerie, M.


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New Zealand is a country of breathtaking natural beauty, astonishing flora and fauna, and towns and villages reflecting distinctive personalities.  Join us to circumnavigate the South Island by ship, just as early Polynesians and explorers did, and explore Auckland as well!

Highlights Include:

  • Fiordland National Park: Cruise the breathtaking landscapes of the World Heritage site – including Milford Sounds and Dusky and Doubtful Sounds–over two exciting days. Enjoy Zodiac rides that feature panoramic vistas and up-close looks of plunging fjords, mystical waterfalls, lush forests, and glacier-grooved cliffs. 
  • South Island Wildlife: From Dunedin to the west coast, admire amazing birdlife such as the northern royal albatross (the largest seabird in the world) and rare species of penguin, as well as bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, whales, and other marine wildlife.
  • Cultural Sites: Tour charming Christchurch, "the most English city outside of England," and the country's capital city of Wellington, a historic site for the Maori people.
  • Auckland and Marlborough Valley: Spend two days exploring the “City of Sails,” featuring the War Memorial Museum with its Maori treasures. Visit New Zealand’s wine region, the Marlborough Valley, plus stop at a farm to watch traditional sheep shearing and herding demonstrations.
  • Small Ship Experience: Launched in 2020, Le Bellot is among a new fleet of luxury expedition ships launched by the Ponant cruise line. This ship combines revolutionary design and a new standard of luxury. See more information about this ship on the Tour Details page. Each voyage will also host other leading cultural and educational institutions, which will add to the excitement and energy of the experience. 

I have been with various travel groups but this trip was better than any I've ever been on. Everything was well planned; these guys had it to down to a science. On most tours at least one thing goes wrong, but not with Smithsonian. They're total experts and professionals and I can't think of anything that they could have done better.

- Valerie, M.


Day 1 & 2— Depart US

Depart home on an overnight flight to Auckland, the “City of Sails,” on New Zealand’s North Island. Lose one day crossing the International Date Line

Day 3 — Auckland

Arrive in the morning at Auckland International Airport and then transfer to the Pullman Auckland Hotel where rooms will be ready for your early morning arrival.  Stop by the Hospitality Desk for any help during your time in Auckland. 

Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to get accustomed to New Zealand before joining your fellow travelers this evening for a Welcome Reception.  Dinner this evening is on your own. (R)

Day 4 — Auckland

After breakfast, travel a short distance to the Auckland War Memorial Museum to view its extensive collection of exhibits on the Cultures of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.  The Collection features the world’s largest assortment of Maori taonga (treasures). Marvel at the special performance of the Museum’s cultural performance group, the Haka Legend. Through their traditional stories, chants, dancing, they provide an insight into Maori mythology, genealogy, and spirituality. The cultural sharing culminates in the celebrated Maori haka dance. (traditional war cry or challenge). 

The morning tour continues with a panoramic tour of Auckland situated between two different bodies of water—the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  The central part of Auckland showcases a contrast in architectural styles with modern skyscrapers in harmony with restored Victorian buildings and Colonial-style shops.

Your stop at one of the many vantage points provides stunning views of Auckland’s harbor and skyline.

Your afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B)

Day 5 — Auckland/ New Zealand Farm Visit

Visit black-sand Muriwai Beach for spectacular views of the Tasman Sea. See the Muriwai Gannet Colony, one of only three mainland gannet colonies in New Zealand and observe thousands of pairs of gannets tending to and protecting their chicks. Meet friendly, local Kiwi and enjoy light refreshments at a family-run farmstead.

New Zealand is home to over 27 million sheep, a ratio of six sheep for every person. Your introduction to this important agricultural sheep ranching tradition will be enhanced with a specially arranged sheep herding demonstration, highlighting the New Zealand Huntaway sheep dog’s essential role in high country sheep station farming.

Near Matakana in the beautiful Northland, visit the playful open-air gardens and museum of the Sculptureum to see classic works by Cezanne, Chagall, and Rodin along with whimsical, modern-day sculptures. Lunch is included. (B,L)

Day 6 — Christchurch

Fly from Auckland to Christchurch, known as “the most English city outside of England,” named after Christ Church College at Oxford University and the oldest established city in New Zealand. The panoramic tour introduces you to this vibrant city in transition, where the restoration of Victorian architecture recaptures the provincial charm of Britain as a renaissance of new structures emerges along the Avon River.

Visit the New Zealand Heritage site of Mona Vale. See the late-19th-century homestead designed by J.C. Maddison, responsible for the English-inspired architecture in Christchurch. Enjoy a guided tour of the gardens and fernery built to showcase the indigenous silver leaf fern in the 1907 New Zealand International Exhibition. See the prominent Cathedral Square, the heart of Christchurch.

Following lunch, embark Le Bellot. Attend the Captain’s Welcome Reception on board this evening. (B,L,R,D)

Day 7 — Dunedin

Arrive in Dunedin, noted for its rich Scottish heritage, even having its own tartan. Dunedin is surrounded by dramatic, rolling hills with endless scenic vistas. See the Octagon—the eight-sided town center—and visit the grand, 1906 Flemish Baroque-influenced Dunedin Railway Station, one of the most photographed railway stations in the world. Tour historic 20th-century Olveston, the English Country house in the city and home of the philanthropic Theomin family.         

New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach (1871), was designed completely in Scotland and built atop a spectacular hill overlooking Otago Harbor. Enjoy a walk through its period rooms and magnificent, award-winning gardens. (B,L,D)

Day 8 & 9 — Dusky Sound/Doubtful Sound/Milford Sound Fiordland National Park

Enter the World Heritage-designated Te Wähipounamu, where, according to Māori legend, the demigod Tu Te Raki Whanoa created what is now New Zealand’s stunning Fiordland National Park, comprised of spectacular ice-carved fiords, rugged snow-topped mountains, and deep valleys.

Enjoy a rare cruise into Dusky Sound, where sheer cliffs plunge into the sea and (un)believably beautiful Doubtful Sound, the deepest of the fiords, where waterfalls cascade down steep, verdant slopes, misting into a sequence of rainbows. Legendary Milford Sound offers majestic scenery worthy of novelist Rudyard Kipling’s appellation, the “Eighth Wonder of the World.

Explore this contrasting topography of alpine peaks, rugged shores, virgin rainforests, plummeting waterfalls, and pristine glaciers aboard Zodiacs guided by expert naturalists—the best way to view the rare flora and fauna of this incredibly biodiverse South Island. See impressive Mitre Peak, arguably one of the most photographed mountains in the country. Look for fur seals, dusky dolphins, Hector’s dolphins, the distinctive yellow crests of the Fiordland penguins, and the iconic pear-shaped flightless kiwis. (2B,2L,2D)

Day 10 — Cruising the Tasman Sea

Enjoy a day cruising the dazzling west coast of the Southern Alps aboard your Five-Star expedition ship, with enriching educational lectures and opportunities to watch for rare species such as wandering albatrosses and Hector’s dolphins, endemic to New Zealand’s waters and identifiable by their distinctive black and white markings and round dorsal fin. (B,L,D)​

Day 11 — Picton for Marlborough and Blenheim

Cruise the beautiful coves and islets of Queen Charlotte Sound, where Captain Cook anchored the HMS Endeavour in 1770. Look for spotted shags perched on rocks and the endangered Hector’s dolphin frolicking nearby. The seaport of Picton serves as the gateway to the Marlborough District, New Zealand’s largest wine region and internationally acclaimed for its sauvignon blanc. Transfer through the fertile Wairau Valley to Blenheim and enjoy a wine tasting and tour; the area has rich alluvial soil, creating a unique terroir ideal for winemaking.

Tour the impressive Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, home to a collection of authentic and replica World War I and II aircraft—many from the private collection of Sir Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the recently released documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old. (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Wellington

Cross the Cook Strait to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and a historic site for the proud Māori. See the city’s Parliament buildings—including the distinctive “Beehive.” Enjoy spectacular views of Wellington and Cook Strait from the top of Mount Victoria; the South Island is visible on a clear day.

Visit Te Papa Tongarewa, Māori for “container of treasures,” the National Museum of New Zealand showcasing an impressive Māori art collection as well as the special exhibit Gallipoli: The Scale of War, which tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign in WW1 through the eyes and words of eight New Zealanders. Attend the Captain’s Farewell Reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)

Day 13 — Lyttelton/Return to US

After breakfast onboard and arrival into Lyttelton, you disembark Le Bellot and continue on the Southern Alps and The Remarkables Post-Program Option or transfer to the Christchurch airport for your return flight to the US. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)