9 Reasons to Cruise New Zealand


Stunning New Zealand cruise scener
Photo Credit: Thanks to Pixabay

Are you thinking about cruising New Zealand? Here are 9 reasons to help you with your decision.

  • Firstly -Stunning scenery! Stunning scenery! And even more stunning scenery!
  • Secondly, about eight or nine extremely picturesque cruise ports that you will get to visit while you cruise the length of both the North and South Islands!
  • Most cruises that focus on New Zealand leave from either Auckland or Sydney. There are also other options for cruising New Zealand available from various ports in Australia and Asia as part of a South Pacific cruise, but the 10 to 14-day cruises that leave from Auckland or Sydney are the ones that usually have the most New Zealand destinations.
  • Itineraries vary a little, but listed below are the main ports of call you would visit.

Reason 1:           AUCKLAND

Rangitoto Island Auckland

Let’s start with the main cruise ship hub in New Zealand, Auckland. When you sail into Auckland you pass a large symmetrical cone shaped island that is actually a volcano! Auckland has been built on a volcanic field of over 50 volcanoes! Fortunately, the last eruption in Auckland was Rangitoto over 600 years ago. The volcanoes are considered by scientists to be dormant, not extinct, but there is an extremely slim chance of any of them erupting in the near future. Many are now unrecognisable as they have been quarried away, or built into or over, but the main ones that still can be seen and visited are Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, Mangere Mountain, Mount Wellington and Pukekawa where the Auckland Museum is built.

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand (population about 1.6 million) but not the capital city. It is an extremely multi cultural city with about 40% of its population born overseas and this is reflected in the very wide variety of excellent ethnic cafes and restaurants.

AUCKLAND cruise port

Waiheke Island, about 40 minutes ferry ride from downtown, is on every visitors ‘must visit’ list. It has been voted amongst the top islands in the world on several well known international polls in recent years and has become probably the number one place to visit on all tourists lists of places to go and things to do. Why? It has about 30 vineyards- most with tasting rooms and restaurants with stunning views. It has white sandy beaches and coves and estuaries. A real artsy bohemian feel. Olive groves, hiking trails, and native bush, farms and a quaint main village and plenty of activities from zip lining to kayaking.

Matiatia Bay PHOTO BY- Mark In New Zealand.

Reason 2:                      TAURANGA / MOUNT MAUNGANUI

Sailing out of Auckland, in a clockwise direction, the next port of call will probably be Tauranga. The port is situated at Mount Maunganui, which is about 15 minutes bus or car ride from Tauranga city itself. Many people use this port as an opportunity to visit Rotorua, which is less than an hours drive away and is famous for its geothermal activity, geysers and mud pools, and as the home to Maoridom features the native Maori culture.

Mount Maunganui itself is an interesting spot. The “Mount” is situated at the end of a long peninsula with a great surf beach on one side and harbour beach on the other. The township, with plenty of cafes and boutiques, runs down the centre and everything is within walking distance.

Mount Mauganui on cruise.jpg

Reason 3:        NAPIER

The next port, continuing to travel in the clockwise direction is Napier, a very popular port of call, with its strong Art Deco influence. The locals dress up in 1930’s fashions and put on a great day with vintage car and bus rides and tours and markets. Lots of vineyards, a rugged coastline and rural farmland scenery in this area.

Art Deco Architecture Napier NZ
Napier. Photo by Stephen Colebourne

Reason 4:         WELLINGTON

The next port is Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city and located at the southern end of the North Island. A shuttle bus will take you downtown where you will have plenty of options of things to do and places to go. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you can take a tour visiting locations from the movies or visit the Weta Cave. Another popular thing to do is to take a cable car ride up to Kelburn and then walk back down through the Botanic Gardens. A visit to the Te Papa Museum on the waterfront is a must.

Wellington from top of the cable car

Reason 5: PICTON via Marlborough Sounds

CruoiseMarlborough Sounds NZ
Photo- D’Urville Island by Seabird NZ

You are now heading over to the South Island. If you are lucky, your cruise ship will have Picton on its itinerary. The main reason for this port of call is actually the sail in and out through the Marlborough Sounds. On a good day, this has to be one of the most picturesque waterway sails in the world. At the port, you will be taken into the small pleasant township of Picton. A tour to the Marlborough vineyards is a good option or maybe a whale and dolphin watching tour.

Reason 6: AKAROA

Cruising into Akaroa
By tender boat into Akaroa Harbour
Akaroa Cafe on Cruise.jpg

The next stop will be the charming small French influenced colonial settlement of Akaroa serving the Christchurch area.  After the Christchurch earthquake ships were unable to berth in Christchurch and now use the small port of Akaroa. You are well advised to pre-book any tours and get off the ship as early as possible as you will be taken by tender boats to the wharf and this process is quite slow. Akaroa is a very scenic hour and a half drive from Christchurch and the buses stop departing from Akaroa after 10.30am.

From Christchurch the Tranz Alpine train through the Southern Alps is a stunning trip and the International Antarctic Centre is an interesting experience.

Akaroa is a pretty little town with a French influence and fine if you want a nice quiet day with a long lunch in a pleasant cafe. There’s a couple of local buses and harbour wildlife tours but there’s not a lot to keep you entertained for an entire day.

Dunedin Railway Station Architecture.jpg


Then it’s sail-on down the east coast of the South Island to Port Chalmers, which serves the very Scottish influenced city of Dunedin. Plenty to see and do here! A wide variety of wildlife including an albatross colony, sea lions, blue penguins can be seen. There’s interesting architecture and 72 acres of New Zealand’s oldest public garden.

The only way to get to Dunedin City is by shuttle bus. It’s a pleasant trip following the coast and takes you into the centre of the city. There are some great rail tours from Dunedin and I would suggest that if you are interested, you pre- book them and get off the ship and into Dunedin as soon as possible.

Reason 8:                         FIORDLAND

The southwest corner of New Zealand is a definite highlight of the cruise, especially if you have either a clear day to be able to clearly see everything on display, or a rainy day that creates dramatic waterfalls! Fiordland is New Zealand’s largest National Park and a World Heritage Site. It comprises 14 fiords that indent into the coastline. You may get the chance to sail into three of them and each is quite different. They are Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and the world famous Milford Sound with their breathtaking mountain peaks, cliff faces, ancient rainforests, and pristine valleys.

Cruising Fiordland- Mountains
Waterfall cruising  Fiordland

Reason 9:         BAY OF ISLANDS

Russell, Bay Of Islands.jpg

Back up to the top of the North Island on the east coast is the marine playground Bay of Islands port of call, which usually features on the cruises that are leaving Auckland, heading over to Australia, then back to the South Island of New Zealand and on up to Auckland in an anti-clockwise direction. This is a tender port and you will anchor at Waitangi, New Zealand’s most important historic site where the founding document of New Zealand the Treaty Of Waitangi was signed in 1840.

You can take a shuttle bus or walk the 20-minute walk into Paihia. There are plenty of local boating options taking you to spectacular spots in the Bay of Islands and the possibility of swimming with dolphins or across the harbour to the very quaint historic town of Russell with its great cafes and the famous Duke of Marlborough hotel. Great food here!

Waitangi Port of call
Waitangi Photo by Waitangi8_tuckr56_Flickrfiles
  • So don’t hesitate!
  • 9 excellent reasons to cruise around New Zealand!
  • Now is the time to start looking and booking for next season’s New Zealand cruises.

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