Experience New Zealand as early Polynesians and explorers once did—by exploring its coastlines by ship. Make a complete circumnavigation of the South Island aboard a deluxe small ship and enjoy time exploring Auckland. 

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. Make a complete circumnavigation of the South Island aboard a deluxe small ship and enjoy time exploring Auckland. 

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 the World Heritage Site of Fjordland National Park with Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds.  Your Zodiac adventures feature panoramic vistas, plunging fjords, mystical waterfalls, lush forests and amazing birdlife of the South Island.  Tour charming Christchurch, “the most English city outside of England.” On the North Island, enjoy four nights visiting the “City of Sails”, Auckland, featuring the Auckland War Memorial Museum with its superb collections of military history and Maori treasures and a call in the country’s capital city of Wellington.

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. 
  • Stunning Destinations: 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: Enjoy two days exploring the “City of Sails,” featuring the Auckland War Memorial 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.

*During this voyage, we will share the ship with 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 Stamford Plaza 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. (B/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

Travel into the countryside around Auckland for one hour, passing through a wine and farming districts to the powerful coastal shoreline of Muriwai Beach. Here one encounter, the flaming red flower of the Pohutukawa Tree, New Zealand’s own Christmas Tree. On this shoreline lives a thriving gannet (takapu) colony. From the cliffs overlooking the beach, enjoy a close-up look at the life cycle of this native seabird colony. Continue through the lovely through the lovely countryside to visit a local New Zealand family farm.

This working farm offers you the opportunity to see the sheep dogs in action and to watch a sheep-shearing demonstration.  Also, home to a herd of gentle, friendly, fallow deer will welcome you to this picturesque setting overlooking breathtaking views of Kaipara Harbor.  Enjoy a buffet lunch and you will return back to Auckland via the magnificent Harbour Bridge, a relaxing end to your bucolic day.

This evening is at leisure. (B,L)

Day 6 — Christchurch

Fly this morning from Auckland to Christchurch.  Upon arrival tour this lovely city of New Zealand, well-known for its familiar English feel and character featuring Victorian architecture, well-tended parks, and elegant public squares.  The tour visits the treasures of the central city whilst enjoying spectacular views.  You will see the areas affected by the Canterbury earthquakes and learn about the exciting rebuild that is now taking place.

After lunch, we travel to the port of Lyttelton, where we embark the new ship, Le Laperouse.  This afternoon we cruise out of the harbor and begin our Circumnavigation of the South Island. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Dunedin

After lunch on board, begin your tour of Dunedin, a well-preserved Victorian city noted for its rich Scottish and Maori heritage. Soak up the grandeur of its architecture and lively business district, as you view notable landmarks as the Town Hall, the Municipal Chambers, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Pass by Olveston House, a 35-room, a Jacobean-style mansion built by a prominent Dunedin businessman built between 1904-1906. 

Join your fellow travelers in meeting the Captain of Le Laperouse at this evening’s Welcome Reception. (B,L,R,D)

Day 8 — Dusky and Doubtful Sound

This day features cruising in the spectacular Fiordland National Park or the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Te Wahipounamu region known for its contrasting topography of alpine peaks, rugged shores, virgin rainforests, plummeting waterfalls, and pristine glaciers.  

In the morning cruise through Dusky Sound viewing its spectacularly dramatic wilderness with its sheer cliffs and tumbling waterfalls.  The afternoon brings a Zodiac adventure as you navigate through the magnificent maze of waterways comprising Doubtful Sound. During these two days in the UNESCO World Heritage region, you will have opportunities to view the rare flora and fauna of the incredibly diverse South Island. Fjordland penguins, endangered yellow-eye penguins, flightless kiwis, bottlenose dolphins, and black coral can be found in this region. We finally depart in the late evening as we now head cruise due north along the rugged western coast of the South Island. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Milford Sound

We arrive in the morning at the well-known Fjord of Milford Sound, regarded by Rudyard Kipling as, “The Eight Wonder of the World”. Home of the Milford Trek, and the Arthur Valley, the cruise from the Tasman Ocean up the Sound provides beautiful views of the majestic waterfalls of the region. 

You are there for the entire day to enjoy the Zodiac adventures in this pristine wilderness.  You will have the chance to participate on an optional flightseeing view of the region as well as an optional opportunity to walk a bit of the Milford Road. (Both offered at an additional cost). (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Day at Sea

After two spectacular and active days in the UNESCO World Heritage region of the Fjordland National Park, enjoy a day at sea cruising up the West Coast of the South Island. This is a wonderful time to relax and to hear presentations by the excellent team of lecturers from Smithsonian Journeys and other educational institutions and universities. (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Queen Charlotte Sound/Picton/Blenheim/Marlborough Valley

Le Laperouse weaves its way through coves, inlets, and past picturesque islands as it cruises Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton. From charming Picton travel through the rich farmland of the Koromiko and Wairau Valleys to Blenheim, the main town of the Marlborough Province, New Zealand’s largest wine region. 

We begin with a walk through Pollard Park, presenting the best in New Zealand gardens and plantings. Then visit Spy Valley Winery, known for its proximity to an international satellite communications monitoring Station in the Waihopai Valley, for a wine tasting and lunch. We follow our wine tasting with a visit to the Makana boutique chocolate factory

Tonight, we depart Picton for the short cruise over to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, situated at the southern tip of the North Island. (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Wellington

New Zealand’s capital city and world’s southernmost capital city in the world provides an insight to the government of this unique country and the historic importance of the Maori people, whose heritage proudly remains a key feature of New Zealand’s traditions and identity. Ride the red Cable car up to Kelburn and the Botanical Gardens

Enjoy time to walk through the unique flora of New Zealand with views over Wellington City. Continue to the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, situated on the waterfront in an impressive, contemporary building. The diverse landscapes and cultures of this wonderful country are featured. 

Sailing from Wellington this afternoon, we will cruise along the Kaikoura Coast, with opportunities to watch for whales and dolphins that populate the waters. 

Enjoy a Captain’s Farewell Reception this evening as you cruise back to Lyttelton. (B,L,R,D)

Day 13 — Lyttelton/Return to US

After breakfast on board and arrival into Lyttelton, you disembark Le Laperouse and 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)