insights from the ultimate cruising team

The Best of New Zealand

The Best of New Zealand

Check out this wee gem of a cruise!  Everybody knows New Zealand is famous for its beautiful, clean, green scenery.  It’s a stunning contrast of craggy, snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes, geysers, hot springs, volcanoes and breath-taking expanses of deserted beaches and coastline.  It’s been the much-hailed setting for movies like Lord of the Rings, The Last Samurai and The Chronicles of Narnia, to name just a few and it’s currently the site for the filming of Avatar 2.  For a small country, it certainly punches well and truly above its weight in spectacular scenery! 

But when planning a New Zealand holiday, do you choose the North Island or South Island?  The North is littered with gorgeous beaches, beautiful bays dotted with islands, harbours, cultural sites, volcanoes and of course, the famous Rotorua geysers.  There’s the sprawling metropolis of Auckland with cafes, restaurants, sailing out on the harbour and cool, waterfront vibe.  There’s the gorgeous Bay of Islands, home to Waitangi and a bay so beautiful you can’t help but be drawn out on the water to explore!


Or do you go South where the mountains stand guard over mystical fiords, where whales play and the lakes defy belief in their colour?  Do you wind your way through the beautiful native bush, full of towering kauri and puriri trees where the kakapo roam and the cheeky kea try to steal your lunch?  The landscape here envelops you, filling your senses with the beauty, the sounds of the birds calling or the whisper of the sea, the smell of kowhai and lemonwood trees or the dense, earthy scent of the forest.

Milford Sound

You could spend weeks exploring New Zealand with endless hours in the car navigating the twisting and windy roads or flying between towns.  This cruise with Ponant, however, is a good alternative.  It takes in a smattering of ports in both North and South Islands sailing at night and exploring by day.

The cruise starts in Dunedin, although we would highly recommend arriving a few days earlier to explore Queenstown and the Milford Sound before stepping aboard your ship.

Known for it’s student life, street murals and easy access to The Otago Peninsula, home of the seals and the albatross, Dunedin is New Zealand’s oldest city with a Scottish heritage and some of the country’s best preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture. 

Then it’s up the coast of the South Island, calling at the pretty port of Akaroa, gateway to Christchurch.  There’s plenty to do and see in Christchurch but you can also easily fill in a day exploring Akaroa.


With stops in Lyttleton (starting point for the polar expeditions to the South Pole in yesteryear) and Picton, nestled amid the spectacular Marlborough Sound, you’ll get to see some of the South Island’s beautiful vistas before heading across Cook Straight to Wellington. 


After exploring Wellington, you’ll continue further north to Napier where you can sample some excellent wines from the region and admire the magnificent Art Deco style of the city.  A further stop at Gisborne is in order before heading around the point to the Bay of Plenty. Whether you spend the day in Tauranga, at the beach at Mt Manganui or venture into the geothermal city of Rotorua – the choice is yours!

The cruise finishes in Auckland, City of Sails.  It’s the perfect spot to disembark and spend an extra few days exploring the city, doing some shopping, getting out onto the harbour for a sail or discovering one of the many attractions.  If you can spare an extra few days, continue up to the Bay of Islands for a fantastic finale to your adventure!


To find out more about this “Best of New Zealand” luxury cruise aboard Ponant’s Le Bellot – a small, exploration ship taking a maximum of just 184 guests, click here.  For other options for cruising New Zealand, you can request a call from one of our Ultimate Cruising experts.


Main Image:  Tourism NZ | Rob Suisted