Cruises are synonymous with the Caribbean, but there’s a lot more to cruising than simply visiting sunny islands and relaxing on the beach. Cruises can be enjoyed all over the world, visiting dozens of different countries and offering a huge myriad of experiences for travelers of all ages, styles, and dispositions. One cruise destination that has seen a big surge in popularity recently is New Zealand.
Famously featured as a filming location for mega movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes and rich scenery have really been put under the spotlight in recent years, helping more people to see and understand what a truly awe-inspiring place this is. And one of the best ways to visit New Zealand is to take a cruise, with leading lines like Celebrity and Norwegian offering several routes this island country. Read on to learn about a few of the best New Zealand cruises. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Celebrity Cruises - 12 Night New Zealand - Celebrity Solstice
2.Norwegian Cruise Line - 12 Night Australia & New Zealand from Sydney - Norwegian Jewel
3.Celebrity Cruises - 17 Night Australia & New Zealand - Celebrity Solstice
Best New Zealand Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises - 12 Night New Zealand - Celebrity Solstice, Photo: Haico/stock.adobe.com
- Norwegian Cruise Line - 12 Night Australia & New Zealand from Sydney - Norwegian Jewel, Photo: Steve Scott/stock.adobe.com
- Celebrity Cruises - 17 Night Australia & New Zealand - Celebrity Solstice, Photo: Ihatove_inc/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: corners74/stock.adobe.com
More Ideas: Central Otago
The stunning Central Otago area in New Zealand is home to many outdoor activities and award-winning wineries, and historical experiences that can be done on both a guided and a self-guided basis. Guests who visit this beautiful area will find a new experience each day they spend there.
Central Otago is the “informal” name for the region of the South Island area of New Zealand that is more inland. With the official motto “A world of difference,” Central Otago has mountain ranges, cold winters, hot, dry summers, and a fairly small permanent population of residents who mostly make their money through vineyards and other produce-based farming. In fact, this region is the southernmost commercial wine producing area in the entire world. The area is affectionately called “Central” and it was founded in the early to mid-1800s after gold was discovered by the visiting Europeans.
Central Otago is home to a diverse collection of attractions. From indoor sporting experiences like curling to outdoor tours and cruises, guests will be able to choose their own adventures and craft the vacation of their dreams. The best way to see the region is to rent a motorhome, which will allow guests to traverse the region on their own time and pace. More active guests will elect to see the area on the back of their bikes, as there are hundreds of kilometers of bike trails to enjoy.
One of the most unique activities to take part in while visiting Central Otago is curling. Curling was introduced to the area by gold miners from Scotland over 130 years ago and has become one of the most popular sports in the country. Visit Naseby, a city with its own indoor curling rink, to try out this Olympic sport. Experiences are designed so that even people who haven’t trying curling before can pick up a broom and give it a shot.
A fun and interesting outdoor activity for guests to take part in (that is one of a kind) is visiting the Real Dog Adventures. This unique attraction allows visitors to take a ride on a sled pulled by trained malamute dogs. The tour starts with an introduction to the actual dogs that will be pulling guests on the ride, as well as the opportunity to actually try harnessing one of them (with guidance from a seasoned professional). The ride will then commence, which allows for the perfect photo opportunity with Central Otago as a background.
For visitors who prefer a higher thrill and speed should visit the Highlands Motorsport Park, which allows guests the opportunity to sit next to a professional driver and take a Supercar Fast Dash in one of their high-speed cars, the McLaren 650. The McLaren can reach up to 100 kilometers an hour in only three seconds, providing a significant adrenaline rush.
One of the more laid-back things to do while visiting Central Otago is to go around to the picturesque historical heritage towns around the area. The majority of these towns were established during the time of the gold rush and visiting them allows guests to see the evidence of their history. A few of the visitor favorites are Naseby (where the curling rink is located), Bannockburn (which features a Sluicing Reserve historical site that showcases the history of tunnels, shafts, water races, and dams), Clyde, and Ophir.
For a more cultural experience, check out the Arts Trail. The trail will help visitors to the Central Otago area meet and experience the wide range of local artists and galleries that the region has to offer. The trail features many different styles of arts done in a variety of mediums, including woodcarving, photography, bespoke furniture, painting, ceramics, dance, music, sculpting, film, and more.
Foodies will enjoy traveling through wine country, which produces many award-winning wines. One of the top wines made in Central Otago is their famous Pinot Noir. Wine country in the region consists of more than 80 wineries, which are located next to farms that produce complementary products like juice, honey, olives, meats, cheeses, and herbs. There are also roadside produce stands selling fruits and vegetables. The fruit from this region in New Zealand is often regarded as some of the best in the world.
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Clutha River is another perfect tourist attraction. Heritage cruises are available piloted and lead by a cruise skipper, who will take visitors down the river and explain the history of gold mining in the area. The skipper will point out where gold had been discovered, old miner huts, and even a preserved gold mine along the riverbanks.
Possibly the top attraction in Central Otago are the three iconic trails that guests enjoy biking, hiking, jogging, or just walking on. Between Clyde and Middlemarch is the former railroad route called the Otago Central Rail Trail, leading guests through tunnels, river gorges, and viaducts through the historical towns. Passing dramatic bluffs and remnants of previous gold mining from Lake Roxburgh Dam, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail will take visitors down the scenic Clutha Mata-au River. At the end of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, is the Clutha Gold Trail, which leads from the Lake Roxburgh Dam through the Beaumont Gorge and finishes in Lawrence, along the railway line, which was the first gold mining town in Central Otago.
One last adventure unique to the Central Otago area is called “Helibiking.” Offered as both guided as well as self-guided, guests will fly out of Cromwell Aerodrome, taking in the incredible sights from the Southern Alps and majestic vistas. Visitors can either bring their own bikes or rent one from the company, and the helicopter will drop them off at the top of either the Pisa, Old Woman, or Nevis Range. Guests can then bike back down the hill without all the effort of having to get up there in the first place.
Due to its beautiful outdoor setting, Central Otago is host to many different special events throughout the entirety of the year.
In January, the region hosts a food and wine festival in Cromwell, a cherry seed spitting championship, a speed festival, and a variety of bicycling, triathlon, and duathlon. The food and wine festival features stalls from local “foodies” that are paired with one of the 30 different wineries around Cromwell. Try a pinot noir with a rabbit sausage, or a pinot gris with whitebait. The fest also offers a variety of live musical choices and an admission fee is required.
In Alexandra in February, the region hosts a craft beer festival.
April hosts the Big Sky Walking Festival, which is actually a combination of a selection of five different guided walks that take guests through the history of the area. Each walk is graded, with a one (an easy stroll) to a five (rough, non-trail walks). Choose from a grade two-night walk, a grade four woodland discovery walk, or a grade one architectural heritage walk. Guests will be shuttled between destinations and meeting places. The funds received for the event are invested back into the area, mostly in attempts to increase the natural biodiversity of the Central Otago region.
June, at the Brass Monkey, features a motorcycle rally.
September in Central Otago brings the Alexandra Blossom Festival. This spring festival lasts for three weeks and features all different types of events and activities, from an adrenaline pumping race, to the grand procession which leads to the crowning of the Festival Princess and ultimately The Queen, the Blossom Festival takes place all across the historic town of Alexandra.
In November, the affectionately named “Gutbuster” is held in Bannockburn. The mountain cycling race received its nickname due to the extremely challenging 75-meter trail that leads through mountains, valleys, summits, and a steep descent into the finish line. The race ends at a local pub where BBQ is also provided thanks to many local residents.
Dining and Shopping
Central Otago is perhaps best well known for being award winning wine country. Many of the wineries also offer local food options, allowing guests to try the wine and also sample some of the local produce that has been called some of the best in the world. Many of the restaurants in Central Otago allow for al fresco dining, letting guest truly take in the scenery. The shopping in the region is also top notch, due to the diverse selection of local artisans who sell their wares. Many of the shops in the area focus on the history of gold mining with a collection of gold jewelry. There are also other unique offerings like Lorimer Knives, Perriam Fashions, and The Practice.
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More Ideas: Milford Sound
In New Zealand, on the western shore of the South Island, lies Milford Sound, a long inlet of the sea, carved millions of years ago from glaciers between the high cliffs. Popular for outdoor recreational activity, the area offers kayaking, boat cruises and airplane tours, hiking and camping within the Fiordland National Park. The area is also within the boundaries of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Milford Sound Marine Reserve.
Touted as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination, the fiord lies at the base of the Elephant Peak, the Lion Peak, and the 5,500-foot Mitre Peak. One of the most-photographed mountains in the country, the iconic Mitre Peak is named for its resemblance to the pointed hats of bishops. Rahotu is its Maori name. The peak is very difficult to climb, but visitors admire its beauty and the waterfalls, which pour down on all sides, including the Lady Bowen falls and Stirling falls, by way of boat or helicopter tour. The Lady Bowen Falls drop a spectacular 530 feet from the Bowen River, which originates near Mount Grave, into the head of Milford Sound. The falls are named after the wife of New Zealand’s fifth governor, Diamantina Bowen (1832-1893).
Wildlife in the area includes fur seals, penguins, whales and dolphins. BirdLife International, the world leader in bird conservation, has named the area as an Important Bird Area because it serves as a breeding area for Fiordland Penguins. The crested penguin is native to New Zealand and currently listed as a vulnerable species, meaning the birds are threatened with moving towards endangerment. Whales in the area include the southern right whale and the humpback. The area is also home to the southernmost population of bottlenose dolphins. At the mouth of the fiord, a phenomenon known as ‘deep water emergence’ that prevents light from passing through the freshwater to the salt water, means that deep sea creatures that normally exist at much greater depths can be seen in the shallows. At the north side of the fiord The Milford Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory allows visitors to view the underwater environment at a depth of over 30 feet from an enclosed, air-conditioned underwater viewing room.
History: Milford Sound was ‘undiscovered’ by Europeans until 1812 due to the river’s narrow entrance and the high rock walls on each side which prevented many captains from daring to sail into her interior waters. Known by the Maori for many years, the site was largely untouched by settlers until the 1900’s.
Ultimately, the natural beauty of the area led to more exploration. One of New Zealand’s earliest walking trails, the Milford Track, traversed the area in the late 1880’s. Road access was made possible in the mid 1960’s. Milford Sound is located within the Fiordland National Park, the largest of New Zealand’s fourteen national parks. The fiord itself is approximately 9 miles long and empties into the Tasman Sea. The National Park was formed in 1904, after the Milford Track had already opened, and the site had become a popular destination for backpackers. In 1990, the Fiordland National Park and the three adjacent parks were together named as the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. World Heritage Sites are selected by the United Nations for having scientific, cultural and educational significance.
Today, less than 200 permanent residents live in Milford Sound, most of them working within the conservation or tourism industry. Up to 1 million tourists visit annually to enjoy nature, wildlife and outdoor recreational activities.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Several tour operators run programs and tours in the area. Boat tours are one of the most popular ways to see the site. Visitors may also enjoy the landscape from a scenic airplane, helicopter or hot-air balloon ride. Most companies depart from the Discover Milford Sound Visitor Center. Bookings for several activities can be made at the visitor center, which also hosts a small café.
Popular recreational excursions include canoeing and kayaking, backpacking and hiking. The area links up with the Milford Track, New Zealand’s most popular hiking trail. The 32-mile hut-to-hut hike takes approximately 4 days, and finishes in Milford Sound, where many hikers catch a boat to return to their starting point.
What’s Nearby: Few accommodations are available in the small town, thus most tourists visit for one day only, and lodge nearby in Queenstown. Queenstown is a resort town known for its wineries and historic mines, and as the hub of the region’s outdoor adventure activities.
Milford Sound Visitor Centre, Freshwater Basin, Milford Sound 9679, New Zealand
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