Our Favourite New Zealand Ports of Call and the Cruises that Visit Them

Heart - Add to profile
Book Flights

BOOK NOW

May 31, 2016

by KARLA COURTNEY, Writer and Family Travel Specialist

If you’ve seen The Lord of the Rings films or looked at any of the other-worldly #newzealand images on Instagram you don’t need us to tell you why you need to go here (although, if you do need more convincing, check out our guide).

If, however, you’re looking for a cruise holiday to this island nation with abundant coastal attractions you may need some help planning your itinerary. We’ve picked seven of our favourite ports representing the perfect mix of culture, city, wine, natural beauty and, yes, Hobbits.

Akaroa

Why we love it
Get your cameras out: this quaint town just outside of Christchurch on the Banks Peninsula has the charm of a European village (it was once a French settlement) and postcard-perfect green hills rolling down to the sea.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Hop on a dolphin-sighting tour, or, if you need a break from being at sea, tour the nearby Canterbury wine region.

Cruises to try
Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises both offer a number of New Zealand itineraries calling at Akaroa. Princess Cruises’ first available itineraries are in October 2016. Learn more

Celebrity Cruises currently has cruises available starting November 2016. Learn more

Akaroa, New ZealandAkaroa, New Zealand
Akaroa harbour from above

Milford Sound

Why we love it
On the south-west coast of New Zealand’s South Island a region famed for its towering, picturesque fiords Milford Sound is the headline act.

If you only have time for one excursion...
Get on a smaller boat and explore Milford Sound by water – a kayak is ideal if you’re up for it, otherwise hop on a day charter. You’ll be dwarfed by the massive peaks towering from the sea but they aren’t the only visual treats. Keep an eye out for waterfalls, crested penguins, fur seals and dolphins.

Cruises to try
Holland America Line offers a number of itineraries that visit Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands calling at Milford Sound. Learn more

Bay of Islands

Why we love it
If islands are your thing, this region on the north-west coast of New Zealand’s North Island has 144 of them. There are beautiful beaches, walking trails and many opportunities to spot marine wildlife such as whales, marlins, penguins and dolphins. The town of Waitangi in the region is of great historical significance – it is where the Treaty of Waitangi, considered New Zealand’s founding document, was signed.

If you only have time for one excursion…
For a cultural experience do a tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. You’ll go on a guided walk, enjoying fantastic views of the Bay of Islands while you take in the history and experience an exciting traditional Maori performance.

Cruises to try
Princess Cruises offers a number of itineraries that list Bay of Islands among the ports of call. There are Trans-Pacific itineraries starting September 2016 and New Zealand and Pacific itineraries starting October 2016. Learn more

Celebrity has a Pacific Island itinerary calling at Bay of Islands in October 2016 and then a selection of New Zealand-only cruises calling here starting November 2016. Learn more

SEE ALSO: A Weekend in the Bay of Islands

Stewart Island/Rakiura

Why we love it
This is New Zealand’s South, South Island – it is home to the southernmost settlement, Oban and is pretty much the edge of the earth. If you’re looking for a new level of tranquility, you’ll find it here.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Visit Mason Bay Beach – relax on the secluded, 14-kilometre stretch of sand and then take a tour to spot some Kiwis (the birds, that is) and penguins.

Cruises to try
Seabourn has a selection of itineraries calling at Stewart Island in February 2017. Learn more

Silversea will be calling at Stewart Island in December 2017. Learn more 

P&O Cruises Australia is a good option for families and they will be calling here March 2017. Learn more

Penguin, Stewart Island, New Zealand
Stewart Island is home to wildlife such as Kiwi birds and Snares crested penguins (pictured)

Auckland

Why we love it
We love Auckland for its beautiful parks, expansive harbour dotted with sail masts and islands, as well as all those volcanoes… 48 to be exact.

If you only have time for one excursion...
Take the ferry to Waiheke Island, a gorgeous 35-minute journey. When you arrive have lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant and then walk it off on one of the beautiful trails (if you’re up for the full coastal loop walk it’s about 5.8 kilometres). If you’d prefer to stay in the city, explore the shipping-container-chic Wynyard Quarter precinct and stop for lunch or a drink at one of the many restaurants by the water.

Cruises to try
Auckland is a popular spot for many cruise lines and either the departure point or stopover for many Pacific Island itineraries. See a range of cruises calling at Auckland: cruises.qantas.com.au/newzealand

Tauranga

Why we love it
If you’re after the Middle-earth experience this is the closest port.

If you only have time for one excursion…
Get your Lord of the Rings fix and head to the Hobbiton Movie SetIf Hobbits aren’t your thing, take a trip to the geothermal region around Rotorua, filled with geysers and hot springs.

Cruises to try
Like Auckland, Tauranga is a popular spot for many cruise lines and either the departure point or stopover for many Pacific Island itineraries. See a range of cruises calling at Tauranga: cruises.qantas.com.au/newzealand

Champange Pool at Wai-o-tapu near Rotorua, New Zealand
Champange Pool at Wai-o-tapu near Rotorua, New Zealand
The famous Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu near Rotorua

Picton

Why we love it
It’s the gateway to the famed Marlborough wine region, where the sauvignon blanc is as perfect as the mountainous views. 

If you only have time for one excursion…
Visit as many cellar doors as you can. Notable spots include Cloudy Bay, Nautilus Estate and Giesen.

Cruises to try
Holland America Line and Princess Cruises both offer a number of itineraries calling at Picton from November 2016.

Royal Caribbean also has a selection of itineraries calling here with the first of the season departing October 2016. Learn more

Final tip

As a general planning rule, most New Zealand cruise itineraries operate between October and May. For more information on all cruises to New Zealand, visit cruises.qantas.com.au/newzealand

Pictured at top: Milford Sound