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An Unforgettable Overnight Voyage

Updated: Mar 6

The Doubtful Sound cruise is one of the best reviewed experiences in the South Island


Photo: courtesy of RealNZ who run these cruises.


There are actually three choices for the Doubtful Sound cruise - a day trip, an overnight for one night and an overnight for two nights. We recommend the one-night cruise as you get the overnight experience and you have enough time to explore the sound without the added expense.


On the bus ride from Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound there is a pull-over spot take photos of Doubtful Sound from above. That's the shot on the left.


The trip involves a couple of hours to get to Doubtful Sound, which includes a boat excursion over Lake Manapouri and a short bus ride over the hill and down to the dock where you board the ship. The overnight ships are large, powered sailboats, which is great for the environment and for cruising with very little engine noise.

The overnight ships are large, powered sailboats, which is great for the environment and for cruising with very little engine noise.

On this cruise we had lots of people choose to kayak and swim (including me:). RealNZ, who run this cruise, do a great job of managing the kayak distribution and making it easy to swim off the ship.


The typical route for the ship is to cruise out to the head of the sound, where it meets the ocean to see the natural beauty of this rugged coast. The peaks and little islands dotting the route are amazing and picturesque. The trip is quite smooth on the sound, but once you reach the ocean it can get a little 'rolly'. So if you are prone to feeling queasy on the water make sure you bring some sea sickness pills or a patch.


Cruising the ocean in front of the sound. A beautiful windswept coastline.


Coming back from the ocean in the early evening. The smooth sailing within the protection of Doubtful Sound. A very relaxing and quiet experience.


The food served on these cruises is fine, but don't expect a high-style dining experience. It's buffet style (!) but perfectly acceptable, with a full bar and a comfortable interior space for eating, relaxing and viewing. The cabins are very clean, and well kept, but don't expect a lot of space! Keep in mind that you're really only in the cabin for your sleeping hours - you want to make the most of the on-deck and outdoor experiences.


The main interior eating and viewing area. Although there are many decks and places to get awesome photos and special views of the surroundings.


The wildlife is abundant in Doubtful Sound with penguins, fur seals, whales and dolphins, along with loads of birds. On this trip we were fortunate to observe a pod of Bottlenose dolphins who swam with the ship and gave us many chances to take some good videos and photos.


We were followed by this pod of dolphins, who stayed with us for several minutes.


This dolphin swam right next to the ship and kept a brisk pace as we navigated our way back, in the morning.


On the morning of the second day we explored some inlets and dropped anchor in a couple where we stopped the engines to experience the incredible quietness of these special spots.


The sun coming up over the peaks was very pretty and as the sun's rays hit the water's surface, the colours really came out.

On the morning of the second day we explored some inlets and dropped anchor in a couple where we stopped the engines to experience the incredible quietness of these special spots.

In one of the inlets they steered the boat very close to the wall of a peak with native vegetation growing up the side. The depth of the water, close to these vertical mountains, enables the ship to navigate in this way. We were able to study the scene with great clarity only a few metres away!


A nice close-up view of a peak wall and its vegetation from the main cabin.


The schedule for the overnight cruise begins at 12noon and you arrive back at the Lake Manapouri dock at 12noon the following day - refreshed and excited about a truly memorable experience!


The very comfortable boat shuttle the takes you to and from Doubtful Sound, across Lake Manapouri.



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