Breathtaking. Stunning. Beautiful. Easy words to use when describing this remote area of New Zealand Fiordland.
Having visited the famous Milford Sound on a holiday a few years before I was very keen on returning to the area again and my first decision was to book a Real Journeys overnight cruise. Now, before you get all “But what about my budget?” well, shucks, you don’t HAVE to go on the cruise to appreciate Fiordland’s beauty, (more on that soon) but this trip is worth spending the next week living off cheese sandwiches.
About Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound is considerably larger than it’s famous sister Milford Sound. It’s twisting and sprawling layout with steep sides and deep rainforest makes for some stunning picture opportunities. It’s untouched wilderness transports you back in time and gives your brain a much deserved rest from the busy day to day life in New Zealand.
Getting to Doubtful sound is considerably harder than the straight drive to Milford Sound and therefore puts a lot of tourists off. Before you can even get to the Sound you must get to the town of Manapouri and cross Lake Manapouri which, unless you pay a local fisherman to get you to the other side, you will need to pay for one of the regular cruise vessels or one that is included in your Doubtful Sound ticket with Real Journeys.
At the other end of Lake Manapouri you will be driven by coach through intense rainforest with the driver/guides giving you information along the way. Finally, you’ll reach the cruise vessel and the relaxing journey begins.
Damp. Definitely damp. Fiordland get’s a lot of rain and it is listed as one of the wettest places on Earth with an average rainfall of almost 7 meters per year! As you will hopefully have packed ultralight you will have one handy all purpose jacket stuffed away in there with a few merino tops which should be all you need for this trip. Also, don’t be fooled by the 30C weather you experienced in Queenstown yesterday, out here the highs in summer are around 20C and 10C in winter. Seriously, MERINO IT UP!
As Fiordland is so remote, a lot of wildlife has been left untouched. It is devastating that the excellent suggestion of bringing stoats and weasels over decades ago means they are slowly making their way over here and will affect the local bird population. The sounds of insects and birds here is almost deafening in the most wonderful way. The wind rustling through the rainforest makes you wish you could climb up and over the nearest ledge and let nature engulf you. Sadly the swim to get to the edge is a bit nippy.
* Take insect repellent – the Fiordland is famous for sandflies
* Take a rain jacket
* Go sit in the bridge and watch the captain steer with a joystick in one hand a pot of tea in the other!
So what of the cruise itself? You have to hand it to these guys, they know how to treat you well. Despite the mix of locals and seasonaire workers all aboard were professional and courteous. I’m not sure how you could possibly hate your job when you work in such a stunning location.
As soon as you board you are given the full briefing and given keys to your cabins. On return trays of hot muffins and tea await you which taste absolutely delicious when sat admiring the moving scenery. After heading out to the edge of the sound ancor is dropped in a calm cove and you are given the option for a gentle informative boat tour or your own kayak adventure. We took the kayaks! I am not sure how deep the water was below me but I did know it was cold!
When we had finished splashing about a selection of soups and rolls were laid out for us. After enjoying the soup we took more photos, showered, had a beer and waited for dinner to be served. The dinner is a buffet style and has a great selection with well cooked food. Mixture of pasta to meat and veg there is something for everyone. Oh, and the cake. Oh the cakes.
After dinner we watched the sunset and enjoyed chatting to the other guests on board. We then headed out onto the blackened deck to admire the stunning milkyway surrounding us.
The next morning breakfast was served early with gusto and the vessel took a gentle silent cruise around more of the Sound. At one point all engines were turned off and you could experience the pure silence of the fiord.
We returned the same way, via bus and then the boat across Lake Manapouri.
No, it isn’t cheap. A Doubtful Sound overnight cruise with Real Journeys will set you back around $420 per person during the off season of September to Mid May. Granted, the Milford Sound cruise is a lot cheaper but it is also a lot busier. Book your Real Journeys Cruise HERE
This entire cruise was worth every penny in my opinion but if you want to experience the beauty of the fiordland on a more modest budget I recommend driving the beautiful winding road to Milford Sound and walking the waterfront hike. All the beauty with only the cost of fuel.
However you experience the Fiordland, just make sure you do experience it. Visiting this area is a must for any trip to New Zealand.