Stewart Island, New Zealand at sunrise with rocky peaks, green & gold flora & blue sea surrounding a long arm extension.
Gull-like bird with long yellow beak & white feathers spreads its wings while flying over New Zealand's subantarctic islands.
Fiordland, NZ, with small sailing ship sitting in glassy water that reflects the bright green gumdrop mountains all around.
Snares penguins with yellow eyebrows, orange beaks, white chests & black backs stand atop dark rock on the Subantarctic Islands.
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Asia / Pacific New Zealand Cruise

Subantarctic Discovery Cruise

Discover the primordial beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Australian and New Zealand Subantarctic Islands on this in-depth exploration of a rugged region of the antipodes.  

Witness richly endemic birdlife flourishing on Stewart and Ulva Islands, including the iconic brown kiwi (southern tokoeka) and friendly flightless weka. Celebrate under the crimson blossoms of the flowering rātā, affectionately known as the ‘southern Christmas tree’. Experience the humbling majesty of Fiordland’s deep Sounds, and Zodiac cruise the craggy coast of the Snares, breeding grounds for the rare Snares crested penguin and Buller’s albatross. 

Heading back north, possibly visit mystical Campbell Island, where meandering boardwalks lead you past flowering megaherb moors to nesting grounds of southern royal albatross. On the Auckland Islands, wander through enchanting rātā forests, spot endemic mollymawks and hear stories of the sealers, settlers and explorers that preceded us. 

Tick off a number of highlights on this voyage. Explore the seldom-visited islands of the antipodean subantarctic, a sanctuary for millions of breeding albatross, penguins and seals. Discover the delicate subantarctic ecosystem of Campbell Island (Motu Ihupuku), where royal albatross nest amidst fields of flowering megaherb. And skirt rowdy beaches crowded with harems of New Zealand (Hooker’s) sea lions to reach rātā forests where rare yellow-eyed penguins can be found. 

Cruise aboard adventure-ready expedition ship Douglas Mawson for its state-of-the-art design and technology, plus excursion-minded preparation rooms and multiple boarding platforms for efficient embarkation and disembarkation. This small ship averages 154 guests, with a selection of dedicated single cabins, and an educational and engaged team of expedition guides providing programming aimed at immersion into the surrounding subantarctic wilds.

Read on for details about this subantarctic islands cruise, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s New Zealand small ship cruises and New Zealand travel.



Itinerary

Subantarctic Discovery Itinerary

This subantarctic islands cruise operates round-trip from Dunedin, New Zealand and includes a visit to beautiful Fiordland.

Route map of Subantarctic Odyssey Cruise round-trip from Dunedin, New Zealand, including a visit to Fiordland.
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Day 1
Arrive Dunedin, New Zealand

Arrive in Dunedin, where you will be met by a ship representative and transferred with your fellow expeditioners to your assigned pre-voyage hotel. If you are already in Dunedin, please make your way to your hotel. This afternoon, visit the hospitality desk in the lobby to collect your luggage tags. Please clearly label the tags with your name and ship cabin number. The team will confirm details regarding your embarkation day, answer any questions and provide you with information on where to dine or purchase last minute items.

This evening, enjoy light refreshments as you meet your fellow expeditioners at a welcome reception and pre-embarkation briefing. Afterwards, enjoy your evening in New Zealand’s southernmost city. You may like to indulge in a meal at one of Dunedin’s fine restaurants, or perhaps enjoy a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Otago harbor.

Accommodations

Hotel TBA

Meals

n/a

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Day 2
Embark Dunedin

This morning, enjoy breakfast and check-out. Please ensure your cabin luggage is fitted with cabin tags clearly labelled with your name and cabin number. By 11:00am, take your cabin luggage to hotel reception, prior to, or at check-out. Your luggage will be stored and transferred directly to the port for clearance, to be placed in your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. Please keep any valuables or personal items with you throughout the day. Your morning is at leisure to explore Dunedin.

Settle into your cabin, where each detail was designed with your comfort in mind. This luxurious vessel is yours to explore! As the ship’s crew members throw the lines and set sail, join your expedition team on deck before tucking into a delicious dinner, and toast to the voyage ahead.

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, dinner

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Day 3
Stewart Island (Rakiura)

“Have a care for this island. Sanctuaries such as these are imperative. There is no song of Bellbird or Tui on the moon.” Olga Sansom, 1970. Past Curator, Southland Museum and Stewart Islander

Stewart Island (Rakiura) is the northernmost of the New Zealand subantarctic islands and a sanctuary for many rare and endemic species. Plan to visit the quaint fishing village of Oban, the southernmost settlement in New Zealand, where humans are outnumbered by brown kiwis (southern tokoeka). As you wander along the beach, keep an eye out for blue penguins (korora) and yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) waddling along the rocky coast, and New Zealand white-capped albatross soaring overhead.

In the afternoon land on Ulva Island to experience New Zealand as it may have been centuries ago, before humans arrived. A series of successful pest eradication programs have made the island a sanctuary for endangered and endemic birds, including some 18 natives. Meander through cool forests of ferns, mosses and ancient conifers, where birdsong abounds. Scan the understory for the elusive endemic South Island Rifleman (Tītipounamu), Yellowhead (Mohoua) and South Island Saddleback (Tieke).

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 4
Fiordland (Te Rua-o-te-moko)

Delight in the company of inquisitive cetaceans as you cruise the deep glacial sounds of Fiordland. Dress warmly and find a spot on deck as the ship wends her way through the many uninhabited islands scattered across the area. Bottlenose dolphins, playful fur seals and humpback whales are frequent visitors, and keen observers may be rewarded with a rare sighting of the Fiordland crested penguin (tawaki).

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 5
Snares Islands (Tini Heke)

The cluster of craggy islands and islets that make up the Snares is the most untouched of the antipodean subantarctic groups. Despite their relative proximity to New Zealand’s South Island, the Snares have remained free from introduced land predators, making them an invaluable sanctuary for millions of shearwaters, petrels and other seabirds.

Dress warmly, hop into a Zodiac and experience the bustling coastline of the Snares from sea level. Keep watch for endemic Snares crested penguins and Buller’s albatross (toroa) with their distinctive black and yellow beaks. You may spot sea lions dozing in grassy glades, or perhaps catch a glimpse of the tiny Snares Island tomtit flitting amongst tree daisies. Embrace the spirit of exploration as your expedition team designs your voyage from day to day, bringing decades of experience to selecting the ideal sites based on the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 6 - 7
At Sea

After several busy days of subantarctic exploration, relax and unwind your way, perhaps meeting newfound friends at the bar, treating yourself to a sauna, or editing some images in the comfort of your cabin. Join your expedition team in the lecture room to hear about the fascinating human history of Macquarie Island and learn how to identify the unique and charismatic creatures that call it home. Of course, the best place on board is out on deck, in the company of petrels and albatross soaring effortlessly with the wind.

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 8 - 9
Macquarie Island

“Penguins were in thousands on the uprising cliffs, and from rookeries near and far came an incessant din…seabirds of many varieties gave warning of our near approach to their nests” Douglas Mawson, 1911.

As they sailed towards Antarctica, Mawson and his men encountered ‘an exquisite scene.’ Macquarie Island (known affectionately as Macca) rises steeply from the Southern Ocean in a series of emerald summits: a beautifully fierce, elemental landscape teeming with life.

Keep your binoculars handy because this subantarctic refuge is home to 3.5 million breeding seabirds, including no less than four species of penguin! Alongside boisterous colonies of tuxedoed kings, charming gentoos, robust rockhoppers and endemic royal penguins, you’ll find three types of fur seals and a large proportion of the world’s elephant seals. Layer up and head out on deck to experience the sound, sight (and smell!) as you approach one of the largest concentrations of life in the Southern Ocean. Remember to keep an eye out for Macca’s kelp forests—these remarkable underwater ecosystems are quite mesmerizing as their fronds sway back and forth on the water’s surface.

In addition to being a globally recognised and protected wildlife refuge, Macquarie Island played an important role in Antarctic history. It was here, in 1911, that five men disembarked Mawson’s Aurora and established a radio relay station which would transmit the first communication from Antarctica to the outside world.

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 10
At Sea

Leave the grandeur of Macquarie Islandand your southernmost destinationbehind, but your voyage is far from over. There’s still plenty of time to enjoy the magic of the Southern Ocean and the seabirds that call it home. Grab a cuppa and duck into the lecture room to learn about the unique wildlife and historic sites ahead and meet travel mates in the bar to reminisce on your experiences so far. As you approach Campbell Island it’s worth heading out on deck to watch for the rare Campbell, Salvins and whitecapped albatross, which may accompany the ship as it sails their home waters.

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Days 11 - 13
New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands

First visited by Māori navigators centuries ago, these islands are of great significance to Ngāi Tahu, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand’s South Island. Their natural beauty and astonishing biodiversity have now been recognized globally, but few have had the privilege to visit these far-flung shores, which are now yours to explore.

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 14
At Sea

As your journey draws to a close, take some time to reflect on the experiences of the past two weeks. You may like to review your photos, jot some notes in your journal or simply relax and soak up the ambiance on board as you farewell your travel mates…until next time!

Hopefully you become an ambassador for the great Southern Ocean, advocating for its conservation and preservation, and share your experiences with your loved ones, so they might visit and become ambassadors themselves.

Accommodations

Douglas Mawson

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 15
Disembark Dunedin, New Zealand

After breakfast, say farewell to your expedition team and fellow passengers as everyone continues their onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Arrival transfer from airport to hotel on Day 1 (for guests arriving on preferred flights, which includes any flight arriving on Day 1); one night’s hotel accommodation in Dunedin on Day 1 (with breakfast on Day 2); luggage transfer from your hotel in Dunedin to ship on Day 2; transfer from pier to downtown Dunedin or to airport on final day; onboard accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service; all meals, snacks, tea and coffee during voyage; beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner; captain’s welcome and farewell reception including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages; all shore excursions and Zodiac cruises; educational lectures and guiding services from expedition team; complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consult); a 3-in-1 waterproof polar expedition jacket; complimentary use of muck boots during the voyage; comprehensive pre-departure information; port surcharges, permits and landing fees; WiFi (where connection is possible).

Exclusions

International or domestic flights to or within New Zealand, unless specified; transfers not mentioned in the itinerary; airport arrival or departure taxes; passport, visa, reciprocity and vaccination charges; travel insurance, emergency evacuation charges or personal insurance (required); hotels and meals not included in itinerary; optional excursions not included in the itinerary; optional activity surcharges; all items of a personal nature including but not limited to: alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, gratuities, email or phone charges, gratuities of any kind; automatic crew gratuities of $15 per person, per day (non-suite guests) which may be removed or amended at the end of the cruise.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a nonrefundable deposit of $2,500 is required per person at time of booking (additional nonrefundable $250 deposit is required for optional activities). The balance of the trip price is due 90 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms may apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person penalties, based on number of days prior to departure:
91 days or more – 100% of deposit
90 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Arrival & Departure

The Subantarctic Discovery cruise begins and ends in Dunedin, New Zealand (DUD). We highly recommend arriving one day prior to your trip start date in case of any flight delay, cancellation or lost luggage issues. Plan flights to arrive to Dunedin at any time on Day 1. An arrival transfer from the Dunedin airport to the group hotel is included (for guests arriving on preferred flights, which includes any flight arriving on Day 1). Plan flights to depart Dunedin no earlier than 12:00pm noon on disembarkation day. A direct transfer from the pier to downtown Dunedin, or to the airport midday, is included following disembarkation. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Activities

There are no added-cost, optional activities available on your Subantarctic Discovery cruise. Plan to hike, take shore walks and Zodiac cruises, and enjoy photography tips—all are included on every departure.

Room Configuration

Single travelers wishing to book a double-occupancy cabin may do so at a 50% supplement of the per-person listed rate in select cabins upon availability. Solo travelers willing to share may be matched with a person of the same gender, and if the other cabin berth goes unsold, will only pay the standard double-occupancy rate.

Families & Children

Kids 8 years and older are welcomed aboard all departure dates. Children between 8-17 years of age must pay the adult price of the expedition.

Travel Insurance

A medical form for all travelers, signed by their doctor, is required for every departure. Comprehensive travel insurance is mandatory for this trip, with a minimum required coverage of $250,000 USD per person, covering medical, accident and repatriation/emergency evacuation, as well as baggage loss and cancellation or curtailment of holiday. In addition, we highly recommend our travelers protect their investment with travel insurance that includes trip cancellation and other benefits. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the captain’s discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of small ship cruising unique.

Rates & Dates

Cruise Rates & Dates

Jan 02 - Jan 16, 2026
Douglas Mawson • 15 days
From $15295USD
Per Person
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Accommodation

Learn About the Small Ship on Your Itinerary

Expedition Ship
Douglas Mawson

Book onto this brand new expedition ship—launching in 2025—to enjoy adventure-ready, sustainable, comfortable and cutting-edge design. Expect skilled and knowledgeable guides who share the same passion for exploration asthe ship's namesake.

Deal

Current Deals on This Trip

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