Boat Cruise around Doubtful Sound


When I did the boat cruise around Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys I did a blog post, but at the time I promised to do another one that would be more detailed. This is that post. It was an unexpected day, but one of my favourites while in New Zealand.


Boat Cruise around Doubtful Sound

We had decided before we arrived that we wanted to do a boat cruise around Doubtful Sound and there never seemed to be any question that Real Journeys were the tour group we wanted to use. We had thought that we might want to do one of their overnight ones. However, my travelling companion doesn’t handle rough water too well. She was a little worried that if we did and it was rough she would be trapped on a boat. I could understand that.

They do day cruises and that is what we decided to do in the end. It is good that we did as the weather wasn’t great and the water was a bit rough. She did sit quietly trying to make sure she wasn’t sick. She did well.

Doubtful Sound

When you hear talk about New Zealand you do hear a lot of people talking about Milford Sound, but Doubtful Sound is a place you don’t hear about a lot. It is sad really because it is so beautiful and in a lot of ways so much more remote than the other Sound.

Doubtful Sound is part of the Fiordland National Park. You can’t drive there, so unless you go by sea to it, the only way to see it seems to be with a boat cruise. We were lucky in that the cruise wasn’t fully booked. There were only around 43 of us, and they can take over 100 people. It would have been lot more difficult trying to capture things if it was fully booked.


Checking in

We had to drive to Manapouri to check in for the cruise. The trip would take us over three different parts. The first boat would take us across Lake Manapouri.

When we arrived the sky was cloudy but there were glimpses of the sun. We had heard that the weather might be bad. It was hard not to be disappointed with this thought. I have been on other boats when that has happened and you can’t really take photos. My whole purpose really was to take photos. Let’s not kid ourselves here.

We had to pick up our lunches before we left. You could take your own lunch or get one from them, and we decided to do the latter. Though, having said that, we had to pick it up before we left and then carry it around with us. You would think that they could have held them until it was lunch time and then hand them out. One woman was a bit annoyed with this and suggested that for the money they were paying for the cruise they could have included lunch. I know the boat cruises I’ve done in Tasmania were like this. If they went for a while, then lunch was included.

We took some photos around the area before it was time to board the boat above.

Lake Manapouri

As we left to travel across the lake we were starting to think that we might be lucky with the weather.


It wasn’t the case unfortunately and not long after, the rain started.

The views around the lake were spectacular and it was hard to believe that we hadn’t arrived at our destination. Here is a gallery of some of those images.

Mountains are amazing. I could spend a lot of time photographing them in all sorts of different conditions and seasons.

Bus Ride

On the other side of Lake Manapouri we all disembarked from the boat to get ready for the bus that would take us to the second boat that would be on Doubtful Sound.

The bus took almost an hour and our bus driver talked to us quite a bit about the area we were in. He gave lots of great information and helped the ride go faster. He did stop at a couple of places so we could take photos, but to be honest, I only got out once. It was raining.

There was a river that was moving fast from all the rain. He stopped just over the river and we all walked over the bridge to take our photos.

Doubtful Sound

There is a little harbour that the bus took us to and there waiting was our boat. Did I mention that both boats had sections at the back that were covered but outdoors? They made it easier to take photos and not get wet. Thank goodness for them really.

Below is the boat we would have gone on had we done the overnight cruise.


Doubtful Sound really is the wilderness. You can feel it when you are there. It was like a magical place. Milford Sound is gorgeous, but I loved Doubtful more. Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps it was that there weren’t too many on the boat. Who knows, but it was an incredible journey.

The Weather and Waterfalls

It would be easy to say that due to the bad weather the trip wasn’t great. That would be so wrong.

In the end, I think many of us decided the rainy windy weather made the day. I can only imagine how different it would have been, and perhaps nowhere near as interesting. When it rains around the mountains, you are treated to hundreds of waterfalls. Water falls everywhere. It was incredible.


If you love waterfalls, then you would love Doubtful Sound on a bad day.

In my previous post I spoke about how the rain also went up. When one of the other passengers told us about it, I thought she was joking. She wasn’t.

Here are some of the photos I took of them.


It does do strange things from time to time. There were also water whirlygigs happening. There were fascinating.


Finishing the day

We were meant to go out to sea briefly, but because the water was too rough we stayed in the sound. I was disappointed about that, Suzzanna wasn’t. Still, we got to see so much.

The lunch was good. I had a vegetarian lunch and it was fine. It is good that you can have that option. Though, if you do the cruise and want their lunch make sure to get in early enough. We didn’t realise you needed to do it a couple of days before and our choices became limited.

Overall, it was fantastic, and I really enjoyed the whole day. We met more great people that made the day even better. Real Journeys did a fantastic job with every aspect of this and the Milford Sound cruise. I would highly recommend using them if you go there as well. We also did the Glow Worm experience with them as well, also wonderful.

Thank you Real Journeys for a great couple of days in the Fiordland National Park.

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  1. Great stuff. I did Doubtful Sound rather than Milford Sound, I felt it was better value for money having to pick one or the other. I think my weather was much better than yours though. Luck of the draw really though. You’ve definitely got some wonderfully moody shots there.

    1. I enjoyed both, I have to say, for different reasons. You are right though, you got a lot with the Doubtful Sound tour. Two cruises and a bus ride really. Though, I was not disappointed with the weather at all. I am so glad it was the way it was. I loved seeing all those waterfalls, seeing the water whirling over the water and not to mention the waterfalls flowing up. They were incredible. Thank you Craig.

  2. Love the photos, you certainly made the best of the weather conditions!

  3. Leanne, Using your softGrad on most of your sky images? 3 stopper? Look very nice


    1. Thank you Jack, but didn’t use any filters, the weather was too bad for them. It was really hard keeping the rain off the lens.

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