The Top of the South

The Top of the South

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Explore the hidden coves, beaches, tranquil waterways, wildlife and rich history of the top of New Zealand’s South Island on this unforgettable 9-day adventure. This unique expedition cruise of Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds, French Pass and d’Urville Island, and Abel Tasman National Park offers an unparalleled exploration of the breath-taking beauty of their winding cobalt waterways, iconic landscapes, lush native forests, wildlife, gold sand beaches and remote coastlines. These regions are also rich in early New Zealand history and the location of some of the country’s most important conservation efforts.

Formed by a system of submerged valleys carved out following the last ice age around 10,000 years ago, the scenic playground of Marlborough Sounds encompasses some 1,500-kilometres of forested coastline, sheltered inlets and bays awaiting exploration, many only accessible by sea. The union of three main bodies of water – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds – Marlborough Sounds has more than 50 Department of Conservation managed reserves and several predatorfree wildlife sanctuaries.

Just 500 treacherous metres from the mainland, d’Urville Island was named after French admiral Jules Sebastian Cesar Dumont d’Urville and his ill fated passage of the infamous French Pass in January 1827.
After several near misses while seeking passage inside the island, he came close to losing his ship Astrolabe after hitting the reef. Now a conservation reserve, it is one of the last strongholds of the critically endangered Long-tailed Bat and provides a respite for the world’s rarest shag – the King Shag – and several species of rare birds and geckos.

This expedition also includes an exploration of the beautiful maritime landscape of Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s smallest national park, its waters home to New Zealand Fur Seals and Little Blue Penguins.

Trip Name
The Top of the South
Vessel Type: Expedition Yacht Length: 30 metres Passenger Capacity: 18 Built: 2004 New Zealand-built expedition yacht Heritage Explorer joins Heritage Expedition's small ship fleet creating new opportunities of discovery around the shores of New Zealand. Setting a new standard for discovery travel in New Zealand, Heritage Explorer combines the ultimate in comfort with unique itineraries and a personalised experience with a maximum of just 18 guests on board.Heritage Explorer is a 30-metre, 4-deck New Zealand flagged vessel built in 2004 by the renowned wooden boat building family Carey's Boatyard in Picton. It features a contemporary wood-finished interior, 10 well-appointed cabins across three decks, dining room boasting spectacular 180-degree panoramas and theatre capabilities; lounge and bar featuring a flight of inclusive regional New Zealand wines, beers and spirits; and a well-stocked local library. Outside, guests can enjoy plenty of covered space on the Bridge Deck, or ajourn to the Sun Deck perfect for wildlife spotting, sunrises and sunsets, or simply enjoying watch your voyage unfold. Kayaks and fishing equipment are available for use during the voyage, while two tenders allow for deeper exploration and the unforgettable wildlife encounters synonymous with all Heritage Expeditions adventures. As with as with our other vessels, Heritage Explorer will have an open bridge policy and a full commercial kitchen helmed by a talented chef focused on highlighting local produce and any guest catches of the day, as well as an enthusiastic and passionate expedition team, and will be shipped by a New Zealand captain and crew. The expedition yacht features state-of-the-art technology to provide a comfortable expedition with high performance dual Scania 653 horsepower engines, bow thrusters, fin stabilisers, full air-conditioning, sound attenuated twin generators and a hydraulic aft ramp, while a comprehensive navigation package ensures the ultimate Kiwi adventure awaits all guests. Accommodation Details Royal: Located on the Bridge Deck, our Master Suite features a spacious bedroom with a queen-sized bed, ample storage with wardrobe and drawers, mirror and washbasin, private en suite, personal climate control, TV, PABX satellite telephone, window and French doors opening out on to the covered Bridge Deck.Salvin's: Located on the Lower Deck, Salvin's cabins have the option of either a double bed or two lower berths. Both feature ample storage with wardrobe and drawers, TV, PABX satellite telephone, private en suite and a picture porthole. Wandering: Located on the Lower Deck, Wandering cabins feature one lower single berth, ample storage with wardrobe and drawers, TV, PABX satellite telephone, private en suite and a porthole. Buller's: Located on the Lower Deck, the Buller's cabin features one bunk (one upper and one lower berth), ample storage with wardrobe and drawers, TV, PABX satellite telephone, private en suite and a porthole.


Day 1 - Day 1: Nelson
Make your way to the designated meeting pointin Nelson for your transfer to Heritage Explorer inPicton (times and meeting point will be confirmedwith your voyage documents). The captain andexpedition team will be waiting to welcome youaboard Heritage Explorer and show you to yourcabin. You will have the opportunity to familiariseyourself on board then join the captain on thebridge or fellow travellers on deck as we set sail this afternoon.
Day 2 - Days 2: Abel Tasman National park
New Zealand’s smallest national park, Abel TasmanNational Park is a wilderness reserve where hillscloaked in regenerating native forest flanked byimpressive granite formations meet sandy beaches and crystalline streams cascade through mossy valleysen route to the sea. There is much to experienceand enjoy here as we expedition cruise this sceniccoastline. Depending on the weather there will beopportunities to kayak secluded inlets and shores,walk among the forest, swim and explore beaches.Named after the Dutch explorer officially recognisedthe first European to discover New Zealand in 1642,Tasman anchored at Whariwharangi Bay, nearWainui Inlet to the north of what is now Abel TasmanNational Park, on 18 December. More recently in 2016,New Zealanders famously banded together to buystretch of sand now known as ‘New Zealand Beach’at Awaroa Bay through a crowdfunding campaign,gifting the 800-metre beach to Abel Tasman NationalPark for all to enjoy.Several sustainability initiatives are working together torestore and revive the native plants, birds and wildlifein the park including Project Janszoon, a privatelyfunded trust, set up to restore the park’s ecosystemswhich takes its name from Tasman’s middle name andis aiming to complete the restoration in time for the400th anniversary of Tasman’s visit and the park’s 100thanniversary in 2042.
Day 3 - Days 3 and 4: d'Urville Island
Depending on the weather and tides we will ventureto the seldom visited northern coast of d’UrvilleIsland, either through French Pass or via StephensIsland. The outermost island in the MarlboroughSounds, d’Urville Island is named after FrenchExplorer Dumont d’Urville and features imposingsea cliffs along its west coast, a high mountainousbackbone and the fastest moving tidal flows inNew Zealand between the French Pass temperedby some of the country’s finest peninsula scenery.Dolphins and New Zealand Fur Seals are frequentlyseen in the waters surrounding the island and it washere that Pelorus Jack, the endearing Risso’s Dolphinwho famously stole the nation’s heart, guided shipsthrough these waters between 1888 and 1912.
Day 4 - Days 5 and 6: Pelorous Sound
The largest in the Marlborough Sounds, PelorusSound’s main channel winds some picturesque 55kilometres south between steep verdant hills fromCook Strait to Havelock. Boasting 380 kilometres ofshoreline, the endless bays and sheltered coves ofPelorus Sound are perfect for exploration. Venturinginto Pelorus Sound we head to Ngawhakawhiti Baywhere nature surrounds us and it’s possible to geta glimpse of what the sounds would have beenlike before the native forest was cleared. The moreactive are able to enjoy the walking part of theNydia Track before we explore Nydia Bay.
Day 5 - Day 7 and 8: Queen Charlotte Sound
First sighted in 1642 by Abel Janszoon Tasmanwhile seeking shelter for his ships Heemskerck andZeehaen from a storm near d’Urville Island, it wasCaptain James Cook who would first set foot hereaboard the Endeavour during his five visits to ShipCove, his New Zealand base between 1770 and1777, in what he would call Queen Charlotte Sound.We spend two full days exploring the waterwaysand islands of scenic Queen Charlotte Sound withopportunities to head ashore and walk a section ofthe Queen Charlotte Walkway as well as search for birdlife on the predator free islands. A visit to ToryChannel brings the whaling history of the PeranoWhalers to life. We also plan to visit Ship Cove andlearn of its history, exploring the region and visitingCaptain Cook’s memorial inaugurated in 1913.
Day 6 - Day 9: Blenheim
After an early morning departure we arrive at the Port ofBlenheim. After a final breakfast and farewells, you aretransfered to a central Blenheim drop off point or theairport. In case of unexpected delays we ask younot to book any onward travel from Blenheim until aftermidday today.
Day 7 - Please Note:
Some voyages will operate the itinerary inreverse. During our voyage, circumstances maymake it necessary or desirable to deviate from theproposed itinerary. This can include poor weather andopportunities for making unplanned excursions. YourExpedition Leader will keep you fully informed.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type


    • Visit Blenheim & Nelson
    • Discover Queen Charlotte Sound
    • Explore Pelorus Sound
    • Visit d’Urville island