Cruising Doubtful Sound

Our day began just after dawn in the tiny town of Manapouri, twenty minutes south of Te Anau. The town was quiet, a peaceful reflection of it's tranquil namesake lake. We didn't have to wait long to begin boarding our boat. We were about to take a Wilderness day cruise with the tour company Real Journeys* through Doubtful Sound, deep in Fiordland National Park. Since Doubtful Sound is so remote, to get there we had to first take a boat across Lake Manapouri and then board a bus that would take us through the mountains to Doubtful Sound on the other side.


Our boat made it's way across the still, dark waters of Manapouri and the nearby peaks were shrouded in mist. As we neared the Manapouri power station, the sun started to show itself and burn the mist off of the mountaintops. After a quick visit to an information center describing the history of the Sound, we boarded the bus. Over the next half an hour we drove through wet beech forest, stopping only twice - once at the top for a clouded view of Doubtful Sound below and again to look at a waterfall just before we stopped at the docks.


Our boat for the day, the Fiordland Navigator, was a beautiful big sailboat. If you visit Doubtful in the warmer months, you have the option to stay on the Navigator overnight because it's outfitted with guest rooms. We enjoyed staying for just an afternoon aboard the boat. In fact, it was quite swanky. See for yourself:


We drank complimentary tea and dug into our own packed lunches as lush green mountains passed by outside the Navigator. We alternated between enjoying our picture-perfect window views from the booths inside and running around the boat's top deck to take in a full 360-degree panorama. We saw waterfalls and even the only-slightly discernible shapes of two little blue penguins swimming in the tranquil dark water.

Little blue penguins are so  little ... These ripples are the most we could see of them as they swam along.

Little blue penguins are so little... These ripples are the most we could see of them as they swam along.

Before we knew it, we were approaching the fjord's end where Doubtful Sound met the Tasman Sea. Ahead of our boat, we caught sight of a few rocky outcroppings that were home to some (very) sleepy seals. We learned about the fur seals (did you know some female seals can dive up to 300 meters?) as white-capped albatross flew overhead, landing nearby. The feathers around their eyes gave them a heavily made-up appearance. Just as the Navigator turned around to cruise back into the fjord, the sun finally broke completely through the clouds.

Emmett lovin' that winter sunshine (and the beautiful views behind him, of course).

Emmett lovin' that winter sunshine (and the beautiful views behind him, of course).

With the sun out, the mountains above the fjord looked even more stunning. Especially when they reflected off the mirror-like black water below. Soon the captain took our boat just beside a twin waterfall and turned the boat off completely. The peaceful quiet that followed surrounded us, letting us realize just how truly serene Doubtful is. 

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Later, back at the docks of Manapouri, I felt as relaxed as though I had spent the whole day at a spa or quiet yoga class. Perhaps if I'm feeling stressed at some future point, I'll merely re-visit our cruise through the sound via the videos we took that day.

* I am not affiliated with nor sponsored by Real Journeys. The opinions expressed in this post are my own; I thoroughly enjoyed my cruise through Doubtful.