polartours header c
Aurora Expeditions in East Antarctica on the Douglas Mawson

Subantarctic Discovery

Venture to New Zealand's UNESCO World Heritage Southern most islands aboard the Douglas Mawson

Length

15 Days

Ship category

Premium

Ship type

Mid-Sized Ship

Capacity

154 Passengers

Subantarctic Discovery

Trip highlights

Sail through Fiordland's profound Sounds

Zodiac rides along breeding habitats of enchanting species

Land at historic, storied Cape Denison

The Rata Forests of Auckland Islands

The Polartours experience

Best price guaranteed

Explore 6 totally different islands

Lectures by naturalists and biologists

Visit Macquarie Island's wildlife sanctuary

On this in-depth tour of a very untamed area of the antipodes, discover the pristine beauty of the Australian and New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, which are classified as part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Observe the abundant native avian fauna thriving on Stewart and Ulva Islands, encompassing the recognizable brown kiwi (southern tokoeka) and amiable flightless weka. Festivize beneath the deep red blooms of the flowering rātā, also referred to as the “southern Christmas tree” with affection. Discover the awe-inspiring grandeur of Fiordland's profound Sounds, and take a Zodiac trip along the rugged Snares shoreline, which serves as a breeding habitat for the endangered Buller's albatross and the Snares crested penguin. As we go back north, we might stop at the ethereal Campbell Island, whose winding boardwalks take you past moors covered in flowers and to the nesting sites of southern royal albatrosses. Discover the enchanted rātā forests on the Auckland Islands, where you may also find endemic mollymawks and learn about the explorers, settlers, and sealers who came before us.

Your ship: Douglas Mawson

Douglas Mawson
Douglas Mawson
Douglas Mawson Ship Interior

Adventure has a new name. Setting sail in 2025, our new state-of-the-art ship, the Douglas Mawson, is the last in a line of purpose-built vessels that have redefined small ship expedition cruising.

Named after the legendary Australian geologist and explorer, our new small ship embodies Mawson’s pioneering spirit and is designed for global discovery. Featuring the revolutionary Ulstein X-BOW® and purpose-built with enhanced sustainability features, it takes on average 154 adventurers to the world’s wildest places in smooth, quiet comfort. It boasts our most extensive range of cabins yet, inclu … Read more about Douglas Mawson

Cabins

Junior Suite Douglas Mawson
Junior Suite

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

2

More about this cabin

Balcony Stateroom B Douglas Mawson
Balcony Stateroom B

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

2

More about this cabin

Balcony Stateroom C Douglas Mawson
Balcony Stateroom C

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

2

More about this cabin

Aurora Stateroom Triple Douglas Mawson
Aurora Stateroom Triple

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

3

More about this cabin

Aurora Stateroom Twin Douglas Mawson
Aurora Stateroom Twin

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

2

More about this cabin

Aurora Stateroom Superior Douglas Mawson
Aurora Stateroom Superior

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

2

More about this cabin

Aurora Stateroom Superior Single Douglas Mawson
Aurora Stateroom Superior Single

Type:

Single

Max. occupancy:

1

More about this cabin

Balcony Stateroom A Douglas Mawson
Balcony Stateroom A

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

2

More about this cabin

Aurora Stateroom Single Douglas Mawson
Aurora Stateroom Single

Type:

Single

Max. occupancy:

1

More about this cabin

Balcony Stateroom Superior Douglas Mawson
Balcony Stateroom Superior

Type:

Double/Matrimionial (convertible)

Max. occupancy:

2

More about this cabin

Map

Itinerary

Keep in mind this is an expedition cruise, so your itinerary will depend greatly on the weather, amount of ice and wildlife breeding behavior.

Dunedin
Dunedin New Zealand
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin Railway Station

Otago Peninsula

University of Otago

Larnach Castle

Baldwin Street

Arrive in Dunedin, where you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and transferred with your fellow expeditioners to your assigned pre-voyage hotel. If you are already in Dunedin, we ask you to make your way to your hotel. This afternoon, visit the Aurora Expeditions hospitality desk in the lobby to collect your luggage tags. Please clearly label the tags with your name and ship cabin number. Our team will confirm details regarding your embarkation day, answer any questions and provide you with information on where to dine or purchase last minute items.

That evening, enjoy light refreshments as you meet your fellow expeditioners at a Welcome Reception and Pre-Embarkation Briefing. Afterwards, enjoy your evening in New Zealand’s southernmost city. You may like to indulge in a meal at one of Dunedin’s fine restaurants, or perhaps enjoy a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Otago harbour.

Dunedin
Dunedin New Zealand
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin Railway Station

Otago Peninsula

University of Otago

Larnach Castle

Baldwin Street

This morning, enjoy breakfast and check-out. Please ensure your cabin luggage is fitted with cabin tags clearly labelled with your name and cabin number. By 11.00 am, take your cabin luggage to hotel reception, prior to, or at check-out. Your luggage will be stored and transferred directly to the port for clearance, to be placed in your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. Please keep any valuables or personal items with you throughout the day.

Your morning is at leisure to explore Dunedin.

Settle into your cabin, where each detail was designed with your comfort in mind. This luxurious vessel is yours to explore! As we throw the lines and set sail, join your expedition team on deck before tucking into a delicious dinner, and toast to the voyage ahead.

Steward Island Rakiura
Stewart Island NZ
Stewart Island NZ

Stewart Island (Rakiura) is the northernmost of the New Zealand subantarctic islands and a sanctuary for many rare and endemic species. We plan to visit the quaint fishing village of Oban, the southernmost settlement in New Zealand, where humans are outnumbered by brown kiwis (southern tokoeka). As you wander along the beach, keep an eye out for blue penguins (korora) and yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) waddling along the rocky coast, and New Zealand white-capped albatross soaring overhead.

In the afternoon land on Ulva Island to experience New Zealand as it may have been centuries ago, before humans arrived. A series of successful pest eradication programs have made the island a sanctuary for endangered and endemic birds, including some 18 natives. Meander through cool forests of ferns, mosses and ancient conifers, where birdsong abounds. Scan the understorey for the elusive endemic South Island Rifleman (Tītipounamu), Yellowhead (Mohoua) and South Island Saddleback (Tieke).

Fiordland New Zealand
Fiordland New Zealand
Fiordland New Zealand

Delight in the company of inquisitive cetaceans as you cruise the deep glacial sounds of Fiordland. Rug up and find a spot on deck as we wend our way through the many uninhabited islands scattered across the area. Bottlenose dolphins, playful fur seals and humpback whales are frequent visitors, and keen observers may be rewarded with a rare sighting of the Fiordland crested penguin (tawaki).

The Snares Islands (New Zealand)
The Snares Islands Seal
The Snares Islands (New Zealand)

The cluster of craggy islands and islets that make up the Snares is the most untouched of the antipodean subantarctic groups. Despite their relative proximity to New Zealand’s South Island, the Snares have remained free from introduced land predators, making them an invaluable sanctuary for millions of shearwaters, petrels and other seabirds.

Rug up, hop into a Zodiac and experience the bustling coastline of the Snares from sea level. Keep watch for endemic Snares crested penguins and Buller’s albatross (toroa) with their distinctive black and yellow beaks. You may spot sea lions dozing in grassy glades, or perhaps catch a glimpse of the tiny Snares Island tomtit flitting amongst tree daisies.

Embrace the spirit of exploration as your expedition team designs your voyage from day to day, bringing decades of experience to selecting the ideal sites based on the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.

Albatros Douglas Mawson
Humpback whale
At sea

After several busy days of subantarctic exploration, relax and unwind your way, perhaps meeting newfound friends at the bar, treating yourself to a sauna, or editing some images in the comfort of your cabin.

Join your expedition team in the lecture room to hear about the fascinating human history of Macquarie Island and learn how to identify the unique and charismatic creatures that call it home. Of course, the best place on board is out on deck, in the company of petrels and albatross soaring effortlessly with the wind.

Aurora Expeditions in East Antarctica on the Douglas Mawson
Aurora Expeditions in East Antarctica on the Douglas Mawson
Aurora Expeditions in East Antarctica on the Douglas Mawson

Lusitania Bay

The Isthmus

Macquarie Island Station

North Head

As they sailed towards Antarctica, Mawson and his men encountered ‘an exquisite scene’. Macquarie Island (known affectionately as Macca) rises steeply from the Southern Ocean in a series of emerald summits: a beautifully fierce, elemental landscape teeming with life.

Keep your binoculars handy because this subantarctic refuge is home to 3.5 million breeding seabirds, including no less than four species of penguin! Alongside boisterous colonies of tuxedoed kings, charming gentoos, robust rockhoppers and endemic royal penguins, you’ll find three types of fur seals and a large proportion of the world’s elephant seals. Layer up and head out on deck to experience the sound, sight (and smell!) as you approach one of the largest concentrations of life in the Southern Ocean.

Remember to keep an eye out for Macca’s kelp forests—these remarkable underwater ecosystems are quite mesmerising as their fronds sway back and forth on the water’s surface.

In addition to being a globally recognised and protected wildlife refuge, Macquarie Island played an important role in Antarctic history. It was here, in 1911, that five men disembarked Mawson’s Aurora and established a radio relay station which would transmit the first communication from Antarctica to the outside world.

Albatros Douglas Mawson
Humpback whale
At sea

We leave the grandeur of Macquarie Island - and our southernmost destination - behind, but our voyage is far from over. There’s still plenty of time to enjoy the magic of the Southern Ocean and the seabirds that call it home. Grab a cuppa and duck into the lecture room to learn about the unique wildlife and historic sites ahead and meet your new travel mates in the bar to reminisce on your experiences so far.

As you approach Campbell Island it’s worth heading out on deck to watch for the rare Campbell, Salvins and white-capped albatross, which may accompany us as we sail their home waters.

Campbell Island - Aurora Expeditions
Campbell Island - Aurora Expeditions
Campbell Island - Aurora Expeditions

Carnley Harbour

Disappointment Island

Tagua Bay

Perseverance Harbour

Hardy Peninsula

Northwest Bay

Enderby Island

Cape Lannes

First visited by Māori navigators centuries ago, these islands are of great significance to Ngāi Tahu, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand’s South Island. Their natural beauty and astonishing biodiversity have now been recognised globally, but few have had the privilege to visit these far-flung shores, which are now yours to explore.

Albatros Douglas Mawson
Humpback whale
At sea

As your journey draws to a close, take some time to reflect on the experiences of the past two weeks. You may like to review your photos, jot some notes in your journal or simply relax and soak up the ambiance on board as you farewell your travel mates . . . until next time!

We hope you become ambassadors for the great Southern Ocean, advocating for its conservation and preservation, and share your experiences with your loved ones, so they might visit and become ambassadors themselves.

Campbell Island - Aurora Expeditions
Campbell Island - Aurora Expeditions
Campbell Island - Aurora Expeditions

Carnley Harbour

Disappointment Island

Tagua Bay

Perseverance Harbour

Hardy Peninsula

Northwest Bay

Enderby Island

Cape Lannes

Scattered across the Southern Ocean 465 kilometers (300 miles) south of New Zealand, these islands have been visited by Polynesian and Māori navigators for centuries, and are of great cultural and spiritual significance to Ngāi Tahu, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand’s South Island. Here you have the opportunity to witness a finely tuned subantarctic ecosystem populated by unique endemic species such as the yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho) and Campbell mollymawk.

Dunedin
Dunedin New Zealand
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin Railway Station

Otago Peninsula

University of Otago

Larnach Castle

Baldwin Street

After breakfast, farewell your expedition team and fellow passengers as we all continue our onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature.

Note: At the conclusion of the voyage, we do not recommend booking flights departing prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation in case there are delays.

*Cruise itinerary is subject to change depending on weather conditions, ice conditions and other factors.

Dates & Prices

From

Until

Info

Availability

Price

2

Jan

2026

16

Jan

2026

Available

From

USD 12,236

USD 14,683

2

Jan

2026

16

Jan

2026

Available

From

USD 12,236

USD 14,683

Preferred date unavailable? Contact us

Info

Single Cabin Supplement

When booking online, you can choose the option to "Upgrade to single occupancy". This will guarantee you the whole cabin to yourself, for an additional fee. If you don't select this option, then another traveler of the same sex might be placed into the same cabin with you.

What's included

All airport transfers mentioned in itinerary

One night’s hotel accommodation with breakfast in Hobart on day 1

Onboard accommodation during voyage, including daily cabin service

All meals, snacks, tea and coffee during voyage

Beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner

Captain’s Farewell reception including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages

All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises

Educational lectures and guiding services provided by Expedition Team

Complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consultation)

One 3-in-1 waterproof, polar expedition jacket

Complimentary use of Muck Boots during the voyage

Comprehensive pre-departure information

Port surcharges, permits and landing fees

Wi-Fi*

What's not included

International or domestic flights – unless specified in the itinerary

Transfers – unless specified in the itinerary

Airport arrival or departure taxes

Passport, visa, reciprocity and vaccination fees and charges

Travel insurance or emergency evacuation charges

Hotel accommodation and meals – unless specified in the itinerary

Optional excursions and optional activity surcharges

All items of a personal nature, including but not limited to alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), gratuities, laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses or phone charges

Note: A $15 USD per person per day gratuity for the crew is automatically added to your onboard account. It is at your discretion if you would like to remove the tip (or adjust the amount) when you settle your bill. It is not necessary to tip the expedition team members. This gratuity amount is included for suites as part of their ‘Suite Benefits’.

FAQ

When it comes to traveling to Antarctica, one of the first questions that often arises is, "Can I fly to Antarctica?". The answer is: Yes, you can. Most trips start in Patagonia (Ushuaia and Punta Arenas) and cross the Drake Passage by ship, but there are also trips that use planes to cross that infamous sea passage. Here are the Pros and Cons for each method:

Flying to Antarctica:

  • Pros: Flying to Antarctica is the quickest way to reach the continent. It offers convenience and is often the choice for those with very limited time.

  • Cons: There are limited commercial flights to Antarctica, and these are primarily reserved for research and expedition purposes. Tourist accessibility is limited, and it can be costly. Also, as not many trips include flights, you'll be limiting your choice a lot if you decide to only look for such trips.

Crossing the Drake Passage by ship:

  • Pros: If you choose to cross the Drake Passage by ship, you embark on an incredible adventure. This journey is not just a means of transportation; it's an expedition in itself. The crossing takes 1.5 - 2 days, which are filled with scientific lectures that prepare you for the experience. You'll witness diverse wildlife, including penguins and whales, as your anticipation starts building up. To us, the crossing is a quintessential experience of a true Antarctic explorer.

  • Cons: Crossing the Drake Passage takes some time, and the seas can be rough. It's not the quickest way to reach the continent, and you need to allocate more time for your expedition.

In conclusion, when it comes to traveling to Antarctica, you have these two choices. Flying offers efficiency and direct access, perfect for specific purposes. Crossing the Drake Passage by ship provides an unmatched adventure and connection with Antarctica's unique environment. Consider what truly matters to you, and you'll find the Antarctic transportation choice that suits your goals and spirit of exploration.

All cruises in the polar regions operate to itineraries that are more-or-less fixed. We say "more or less", because wildlife (breeding, seasonality) and weather always play an important role in routing. Most cruises will offer a range of land-based and water-based activities that you will enjoy at various points in your cruise, including:

  • Land excursions (including hiking trails, visitor centers, time relaxing on beaches, observing animals, etc.)
  • Bird Watching
  • Snorkeling (from ship or beaches)
  • Dinghy rides
  • Kayaking
  • Diving (on ships with diving itineraries)
  • Naturalist presentations. These usually take place every evening - on board the bigger ships also with help of projectors, microscopes etc.

All boats carry English speaking, scientifically trained guides. They will lead you on your excursions, allowing you to learn as much as possible about the unique wildlife and habitats of the Polar Regions.

Choosing the right ship for a cruise to Antarctica or the Arctic seems difficult, but it doesn't have to be. Our fleet is over 30 vessels, we are sure that there is the perfect one for you. Please, follow these simple steps, and you will be able to find your ideal ship:

  • Determine your budget and desired level of comfort: Are you looking for luxury or more budget-friendly options? On our website you can set the price range.
  • Consider ship size: Large ships offer more amenities and facilities, but they can also feel crowded and impersonal. Smaller ships offer a more personal experience, but may not have as many amenities.
  • Look at the cabins: Although you probably won’t spend much time in your cabin, look at the photos and read the descriptions to make sure you're happy with the one you choose.
  • Consider the activities on board: Are you interested in kayaking, camping, diving or a photography workshop? Or maybe you want to take part in a Citizen Science Program? These activities can enhance your overall experience. See what our ships have to offer.
  • Read customer reviews: Learn about other travelers' experiences by reading reviews.
  • Ask your Polar Specialist: Feel free to contact your Polar Specialist. They are happy to share their knowledge and are always ready to help.

In addition: We work with responsible partners who provide a great experience for their passengers. All of our providers are committed to sustainability and to preserving the beauty of the polar regions. You don’t need to worry about the impact of your cruise, because we’ve already taken care of it.

We love to help people find their dream vacation to the Arctic and Antarctic. Whether you give us a call, contact us via email, or use our website inquiry form, one of our Polar travel experts will be more than happy to answer any questions, recommend ships and itineraries, and walk you through the whole process!

Step 1: Find your perfect trip. If you have already started looking for Polar Cruises, you will have quickly noticed that the sheer amount of options can be quite overwhelming. To help you navigate the countless departures and itineraries that our fleet offers, we have put together a great filter page for Antarctic and Arctic Expedition Cruises. Use this page to filter all trips by price, date, ship category, and even destinations you wish to visit. We update all dates, prices, and availabilities daily, and are proud to host what is doubtlessly the world's most complete collection of information.

Step 2: Found something you love? We'll hold your spaces, free of charge! If you find a cruise you like, you can either inquire directly with us or make an unbinding booking online. We will then reach out to the shipowners to put a hold on your spaces for a limited time, free of charge. Once we have confirmed your block with the ship, we will send you a written confirmation of your reservation and include full payment details in an invoice. Typically, we are able to hold unpaid reservations for up to 1 week*. This gives us time to clarify all your remaining questions, and also ensures that no other passengers can book your spaces, while we continue our conversation.

Step 3: Confirm your booking. In order to confirm your booking, we ask for a deposit payment. You can pay via bank transfer or credit card. Keep in mind, that we can only hold your spaces for a limited amount of time. If we don't receive your payment after this time, we can no longer guarantee that the places will be available or that the price won't increase. To prevent disappointment, we will automatically cancel your reservation if we don't receive your deposit by the due date stated on your booking reservation.

Step 4: Booking confirmation & Payment. As soon as we have received your deposit and a completed passenger information form, we will be pleased to send your booking confirmation and updated invoice, along with your trip itinerary, important information, and other great tips for your cruise.

Step 5: Final payment. In your initial invoice, we will define a final payment date by when you need to pay us the remaining amount of your trip. Once we have received your final payment we'll send you your cruise documents and voucher. As your trip approaches, we make sure to pass along all necessary information, so you feel super prepared and stress-free.

*For last-minute bookings, we might not be able to hold your spaces for so long. We will also require the full payment of your cruise upon booking.

An expedition cruise to Antarctica or the Arctic is a big deal! Most people plan for this type of trip at least 8 months in advance. This means the earlier you book, the better chance you'll have to reserve your prefered cabins. Early bird discounts are also popular and a great way to get 10-30% off your cruise.

Most expedition cruises offer optional activities like camping and kayaking, but the spaces are limited. A cruise with 120 passengers can have only 10-15 spaces for kayaking. These are reserved on a first come first served basis. The earlier you book, the higher your chance of grabbing a spot.

Even though last minute deals do occur, keep in mind that the airline prices will be much higher if you purchase them last minute. You may save a few hundred on your cruise, but you may end up paying the most for airfare.

If you are prone to motion sickness then here are a few hints to help you.

Firstly, book a cabin in the middle of the ship. The middle of the ship will move less, both in roll and in pitch. Secondly, chose a larger ship. Bigger vessels typically are more stable, and some of them are even equipped with "stabilizers", fins under water that remove the rolling in the swells. Thirdly, take medical advice on anti-seasickness medication. Some traditional remedies are said to be very effective, such as taking ginger or using commercially-available acupressure wristbands.

Watch this informative video about life onboard an expedition ship and seasickness from our expert guide and Polartours Brand Ambassador, Kevin.

Life Onboard & Seasickness
Subantarctic Discovery
Premium
New

From

USD 12,236



2024 Polartours, a Ventura TRAVEL GmbH brand

All rights reserved

Polar Specialist

Your contact

Bruna

Book a video consultation

15min face to face consultation

Polar Specialist