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IslandThyme

Milford Sound cruising or overland tour?

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I will be on a HAL Maasdam cruise of NZ in the beginning of October. I have signed up for this overland tour, but am now wondering whether I will regret missing cruising the Fjordlands. Which would you do? Here's the overland itinerary:

 

Board a chartered motor coach and drive south from Milford Sound, passing through the magnificent Fiordland National Park.

Weather permitting, you'll stop for photos at the Chasm.

Pass through the legendary Homer Tunnel and south along the forest-clad Eglington Valley to Te Anau where lunch is served at a local hotel.

Depart for Queenstown, crossing the North Southland Plains to Kingston; then continuing along the eastern shoreline of Lake Wakatipu to Frankton.

Check into your hotel for the night.

In the early evening, transfer to the steamer wharf and board the 1913 historic steamship TSS Earnslaw for a cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Sheep Station. Dine carvery-style in the Colonel's House, which is splendidly sited overlooking the lake. A glass of New Zealand wine or beer will accompany the meal. After dinner, there will be a short farm tour.

Watch a sheepdog demonstration and a sheep being shorn before you return on the TSS Earnslaw to Queenstown and transfer back to the hotel.

Day 2 (B, L)

After breakfast, depart Queenstown for Dunedin. En route, you will visit Arrowtown -- a beautifully preserved gold mining village retaining much of its 19th-century character. There's time here for some shopping and to walk along the quaint, tree-lined streets.

In the picturesque Kawarau Gorge, you will a stop at the Old Kawarau Bridge, where you may see a bungy-jumper leaping from the bridge. Opened in 1987, this was the first commercial bungy-jumping operation in the world.

Continue to Clyde and cross the Clutha River. Lunch will be served in a former fruit-packing shed.

The drive to Dunedin passes through the sheep farming districts of Lawrence and Milton.

In Dunedin, a brief sightseeing tour will introduce you to the city known as the Edinburgh of the South. Dunedin boasts a large number of fine Edwardian stone buildings, including the stunning Railway Station and the Law Courts.

At the quaint town of Port Chalmers, just a short distance from Dunedin, where you will re-join the ship.

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If it makes any difference Milford Sound is the best of the fjords. You will sail into there anyway. The others are nice but not unmissable.

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My opinion is you have paid for a cruise that the highlight is fiordland world Heritage and you are going to miss a large parentage of it.

Have a stopover on the South Island.

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22 minutes ago, SinbadThePorter said:

If it makes any difference Milford Sound is the best of the fjords. You will sail into there anyway. The others are nice but not unmissable.

I agree that Milford is by far the most spectacular of the Sounds. I have heard very good reports of the land tour. From the itinerary I can see you will see quite a bit. I don't feel that you will miss much on the ship by taking the land tour.

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I agree that it would be better to do both. Probably by disembarking at Auckland and flying back to Queenstown to do a land tour from there.

 

However if that is not an option and cost is not a concern, then you might as well do the overland tour.

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OP, if this is your one and only time to NZ and cannot visit Queenstown and surrounding areas separately, then definitely do the Overland excursion. Yes you will miss some of the sounds, and yes they are spectacular but you will be seeing MiIlford  Sound (which IMO, has the best waterfalls) and the opportunity to see more of the inland of South Island is too great to miss.

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6 minutes ago, MicCanberra said:

OP, if this is your one and only time to NZ and cannot visit Queenstown and surrounding areas separately, then definitely do the Overland excursion. Yes you will miss some of the sounds, and yes they are spectacular but you will be seeing MiIlford  Sound (which IMO, has the best waterfalls) and the opportunity to see more of the inland of South Island is too great to miss.

I agree. Next time I'm down that way I would like to do that tour. Last two times to NZ we've missed Milford (once due to weather and once due to a medivac after leaving Melbourne)

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One issue is that if you miss Milford Sound (going to NZ from Australia), you would also likely miss the overland tour as well, as they debark you in Milford Sound itself for the tour. Coming back the other way, If Milford is missed, I imagine they fly you from Queenstown back to Australia wherever the next port is Hobart, Melbourne or Sydney.

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2 hours ago, SinbadThePorter said:

 

 

 

I’m sure everyone would agree,the best way to see New Zealand is by land.

But if you have decided to take a cruise,you may as well do the 3 sounds.

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If coming back to explore more of NZ by land is not an option and you can afford the tour, then definitely do it.

IMO, the best of NZ can’t be seen from a ship and this will at least allow you to sample some inland highlights. 

I live in the Deep South of Otago and know the areas you are visiting well.  You are definitely touching on some highlights.

 

For a start, I would argue that the road into Milford (from Te Anau) is more spectacular than the fiord itself.  Arrowtown and Clyde are lovely little towns and Queenstown, while touristy, has beautiful scenery.

 

Just a heads up though: that first day of the tour is very full on. You will be tired by the end of it as it’s a lot of time on the road.  But if you’re okay with that, go for it.  

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Thank you all so much for sharing your various perspectives. This may well be my only trip to NZ, so I'm inclined to get as immersed in the flavor of it as much as possible. The cruise does continue all the way up the east coast of NZ, with many stops, before heading to New Caledonia.

 

One thing that puzzles me - what is it that can keep a ship from getting into Milford Sound? Fog? Rain?

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2 hours ago, IslandThyme said:

Thank you all so much for sharing your various perspectives. This may well be my only trip to NZ, so I'm inclined to get as immersed in the flavor of it as much as possible. The cruise does continue all the way up the east coast of NZ, with many stops, before heading to New Caledonia.

 

One thing that puzzles me - what is it that can keep a ship from getting into Milford Sound? Fog? Rain?

Yes bad weather,it gets pretty wild in that part of the world.

 I forgot the statistics but quite a few cancel.

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Generally it is bad seas across the Tasman , which means they have to go slower and that then makes the schedule harder. OR rough weather on the coast and/or they cannot get the pilot aboard.

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I get the rough seas on the Tasman bit. I was through there last December and it was the roughest water I've ever experienced. That would be terribly disappointing, if we couldn't get in.

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Some great advice on here as always. I make a few points which I trust assist:

1. have done the 'Sounds' passage twice, once southbound and once northbound. Great experiences, but agree that Milford is the MUST see.

2. on our last NZ trip we spent 3 nights in Queenstown pre-cruise. It was a great experience & really 3N was not really enough. We drove down to Te Anau, but did not go to Milford from there, as we were going there on the cruise, and you have to compromise when time is not unlimited.

3. Anecdotally 1 in 3 cruises doesn't make it into the sounds, but I don't have data on that. We are 2 for 2, so maybe next time.....??

4. I have only heard good reports about the overland tour. People say it's expensive, but worth it.

5. the area around Queenstown is spectacular, and the lake cruise & dinner is a must do.

 

I think it's clear that spending time on land is the best way to see that region, but we can only do what we can do, I guess in terms of time & money. We feel so fortunate we got to do both land touring & cruising on our last trip.

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7 hours ago, IslandThyme said:

One thing that puzzles me - what is it that can keep a ship from getting into Milford Sound? Fog? Rain?

 

Rough seas or high winds would be the most likely reason.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, IslandThyme said:

One thing that puzzles me - what is it that can keep a ship from getting into Milford Sound? Fog? Rain?

The entrance to Milford Sound is fairly narrow and it isn't a straight 'run' from the ocean. When Captain Cook circumnavigated NZ, he didn't see the entrance to Milford. If there are heavy seas off-shore or strong winds, it is too dangerous for a ship to attempt to attempt the narrow entrance.

 

I agree with the 'guesstimate' that maybe one in three cruises doesn't get into Milford. We have been lucky. Out of ten or more cruises to NZ, we have missed it only once when there were 12 metre seas south of the South Island. We were travelling clock-wise and turned back from Akaroa and went through Cook Strait, calling at Picton. We had a close view of Lord Howe Island on the way back to Australia.

 

I hope you get into Milford. I strongly urge you to be on deck (preferably up the front) before the ship enters the Sound. This would usually be by 6am. Rug up well - it will be cold. You mention that your cruise is in October. Several years ago, on one cruise when the Pacific Sun entered Milford, snow fell on the deck. This was in the first week of December. I have to admit that when I heard that story from a friend who was on the ship I was a but dubious, but we later heard about it from several crew members.

Edited by Aus Traveller

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Wow, one in three, those are pretty terrible odds! Snow I can handle, but not getting in at all, I'd be mega-disappointed.

 

You all are so friendly and helpful on this forum, may I ask another question? I'm really into wine, especially small wineries and artisanal production. I'm planning to forgo seeing Auckland proper in order to go wine touring on Waiheke Island. Am I making a good choice? Should this be a separate thread?

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The wineries there are great to sample, if you are doing it as an post cruise tour it would be excellent, but if doing it as day trip and need to be back at the ship by 5pm, time will be tight.

Do you call into Picton and or Napier as well?

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No, neither Picton nor Napier. The ports are Eden, (Milford Sound), Port Chalmers, Christchurch, Kaikoura, Wellington, Gisborne, Tauranga, and Auckland.

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You will not regret doing the overland trip as you see the most scenic part of NZ.

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2 hours ago, IslandThyme said:

Wow, one in three, those are pretty terrible odds! Snow I can handle, but not getting in at all, I'd be mega-disappointed.

 

You all are so friendly and helpful on this forum, may I ask another question? I'm really into wine, especially small wineries and artisanal production. I'm planning to forgo seeing Auckland proper in order to go wine touring on Waiheke Island. Am I making a good choice? Should this be a separate thread?

You will see wineries on your overnight tour. Central Otago is famous for Pinot Noir.Unfortunately you are not going to Marlborough  or Napier on this trip where wineries are generally offered as trips.

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There might be a winery tour offered in Gisborne, it's one of NZ's major wine regions.

 

Waiheke is a good choice too, there are some excellent wineries there these days from what I've heard from friends in Auckland.

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On 6/18/2019 at 2:39 PM, IslandThyme said:

I will be on a HAL Maasdam cruise of NZ in the beginning of October. I have signed up for this overland tour, but am now wondering whether I will regret missing cruising the Fjordlands. Which would you do? Here's the overland itinerary:

 

Board a chartered motor coach and drive south from Milford Sound, passing through the magnificent Fiordland National Park.

Weather permitting, you'll stop for photos at the Chasm.

Pass through the legendary Homer Tunnel and south along the forest-clad Eglington Valley to Te Anau where lunch is served at a local hotel.

Depart for Queenstown, crossing the North Southland Plains to Kingston; then continuing along the eastern shoreline of Lake Wakatipu to Frankton.

Check into your hotel for the night.

In the early evening, transfer to the steamer wharf and board the 1913 historic steamship TSS Earnslaw for a cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Sheep Station. Dine carvery-style in the Colonel's House, which is splendidly sited overlooking the lake. A glass of New Zealand wine or beer will accompany the meal. After dinner, there will be a short farm tour.

Watch a sheepdog demonstration and a sheep being shorn before you return on the TSS Earnslaw to Queenstown and transfer back to the hotel.

Day 2 (B, L)

After breakfast, depart Queenstown for Dunedin. En route, you will visit Arrowtown -- a beautifully preserved gold mining village retaining much of its 19th-century character. There's time here for some shopping and to walk along the quaint, tree-lined streets.

In the picturesque Kawarau Gorge, you will a stop at the Old Kawarau Bridge, where you may see a bungy-jumper leaping from the bridge. Opened in 1987, this was the first commercial bungy-jumping operation in the world.

Continue to Clyde and cross the Clutha River. Lunch will be served in a former fruit-packing shed.

The drive to Dunedin passes through the sheep farming districts of Lawrence and Milton.

In Dunedin, a brief sightseeing tour will introduce you to the city known as the Edinburgh of the South. Dunedin boasts a large number of fine Edwardian stone buildings, including the stunning Railway Station and the Law Courts.

At the quaint town of Port Chalmers, just a short distance from Dunedin, where you will re-join the ship.

Do the tour - it is great. Did this off Celebrity Solstice in 2015. You actually cruise the full length of Milford Sound before debarking onto the tour bus, so don’t really miss this Sound.

The other two Sounds look very much the same 😉

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