insights from the ultimate cruising team

New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands

New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands

You’ve probably heard a lot about Antarctica with her prolific wildlife and untamed landscape. But New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, although lesser known, will also give you an incredible wildlife experience.

Among the world’s least modified environments, the Subantarctic Islands are wild, beautiful, untouched and home to a variety of animals and plants, many of which can not be found anywhere else in the world. Here, you will find an abundance of penguins and other seabirds such as albatross, petrels, shearwaters, fulmars, prions, shags, gulls, skuas and terns. You’ll even find some that have been extinct for some 1,000 years on the mainland, still thriving in the Subantarctic Islands.

These remote islands are fiercely protected and have UNESCO World Heritage status so visitation is strictly limited and you may leave only footprints. In fact, it is prohibited for tourists to set foot on some islands in order to protect the unique and fragile bird, animal and plant life there.

For those lucky enough to visit the Subantarctic Islands, a rare treat awaits. The Snares, lying approximately 100km southwest of Stewart Island, is one of the most pristine and untouched parts of New Zealand. While New Zealand has a reputation for being “clean and green”, The Snares outshine the rest of the country by a country mile. Hundreds of birds and seals inhabit these islands, with several endemic species found here.


For birdlovers, the Auckland Islands are often a favourite with an abundance of seabirds living and nesting here. You’re likely to see yellow-eyed penguins, white capped mollymawks, Gibson’s wandering albatross, Auckland shags and more.

Because these islands are so fiercely protected in order to retain their pristine condition and ensure the bird and wildlife can exist and breed without threat from humans, there are restrictions on how many people can visit each year. Therefore cruises to this unique part of the world are few and highly sought-after.

We have some amazing cruise itineraries travelling to the Subantarctic Islands.  You can combine New Zealand's Fiordland and Stuart Islands with a Subantarctic Adventure, or cruise via the Subantarctic Islands to Antarctica or visit just the Subantarctic Islands and then do your own thing exploring the beautiful South Island of New Zealand.

To find out more about these cruises, have a look at our packages page or click here to request a call from our Ultimate Cruising experts to discuss the options.


All Images Courtesy of Ponant/Nath Michel