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Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary and Ship Cove Cruise from Picton

Picton, New Zealand
Book online or call: (888) 651-9785(888) 651-9785

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icon4 hours 30 minutes  (Approx.)
Mobile ticket
iconOffered in: English


Cruise Queen Charlotte Sound to Motuara Island and Ship Cove on a 4.5-hour boat tour from Picton. Search for birdlife and marine mammals, such as Hector’s dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, as your captain details the region’s natural and cultural history. Spend time exploring Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary, home to endangered native birds including the South Island saddleback, king shag, little blue penguin and kiwi. Enjoy complimentary tea and coffee on board, with free time ashore in Ship Cove.
  • Have time at your leisure on Motuara Island to look for wildlife
  • Visit Ship Cove, once Captain Cook’s favorite spot to anchor in New Zealand
  • Learn about the sights, flora and fauna from your knowledgeable captain
  • See rare native birds that draw bird-lovers from around the world
  • Take in the scenery of Resolution Bay, Endeavor Inlet and the inter-island ferry route
  • Cruise through the winding waterways of Marlborough Sounds, which make up a fifth of New Zealand’s coastline
Board your boat at the Picton waterfront and settle in for the 1-hour cruise through Queen Charlotte Sound to Motuara Island, with an additional stop in Ship Cove. Throughout the 4.5-hour excursion, your captain shares area highlights including the wildlife and human history of the Marlborough Sounds. Sip complimentary tea and coffee as you search the waters for little blue penguins and Hector’s dolphins — considered the rarest marine dolphin in the world.

Disembark to explore the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary on your own via an interpretive trail leading to a lookout point at the island’s summit. The regenerated forest has been cleared of all predators, making way for rare native birds to flourish here. 

During your 60–90 minutes on Motuara, be on the lookout for the saddleback, New Zealand robin, kiwi, bellbird, tui, grey warbler, New Zealand pigeon, silver eye and fantail. You may also view waterbirds like shearwaters, shags and gannets, and glimpse the Maud Island frog and Marlborough green gecko.

At the designated time, re-board the vessel for the 10-minute ride to Ship Cove, where Captain James Cook anchored the Endeavor in 1770. Explore the monuments, displays and sheltered beach for 30 minutes before returning to Picton.

Please note: It is recommended that you bring your own food, as there are no shops or cafes to purchase snacks during the tour.


17 Reviews
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Reviews by Viator travelers
Bird Sanctuary
, Oct 2019
The information about the activities wasn't completely accurate. The crew was good and provided a lot of information. The trip back from our stop at Ship Cove was uneventful.
Quick walk
Keith P
, Jan 2019
One has the chance of a quick walk to the top of the mount to observe the view & birds, but I think one could do with a bit more time on Motuara Island. Ship Cove stop over was about the right time
We had a perfect day - on our walk...
Stuart Y
, Mar 2018
We had a perfect day - on our walk up Motuara we saw cute south island robyns which hopped around our feet, one saddleback, several piwakawaka fantails played hide and seek and swooped close. The one hour was about right. Ship Cove we had time to explore the waterfall track for a short way and to view the monument. We called into Resolution, Endeavour Furneaux and Punga and had an interesting commentary en route. A nice roomy ship with great viewing from the upper deck. It helped that the day was calm, warm and sunny which I understand cannot always be guaranteed!
We arranged the trip on line and...
David C
, May 2016
We arranged the trip on line and told you what time we was docking in Picton? When we got the cruise ships transport to the centre and went to the fishing port a lady at the desk said our cruise had already left at 8am? If we had known this at the time of the booking we would have booked something else? We was however given an alternative and was booked on the mail cruise? We was asked to pay an extra 30 for this, the girl had problems with the credit card system so we didn't pay this additional cost? In my opinion I would say all the relevant information should have been provided prior to our trip? We booked this in February and the trip was in April. We didn't have Wi-fi on the ship because of its expense. Although the mail boat was good we feel arrangements should have been finalised prior to our visit?
Very nice. Would have been nice to...
Donald W
, Apr 2016
Very nice. Would have been nice to have more time on the Motuara Bird Sanctuary. We had only one hour, could have used at least an hour and a half.
Unfortunately I booked this trip for...
, Mar 2016
Unfortunately I booked this trip for our group of 6 thinking it was available as a cruise ship shore excursion. It was not, so we were an hour late. We went into the business running the tour and were told that was fine and we could simply take the next boat going out. That was it. We were never told or asked what tour we had ordered, and were not made aware the Island Bird Sanctuary wasn't included. We would have DEFINITELY opted out had we known this. When we returned we asked if perhaps a discount could be offered and were told no. There were 2 other parties off the ship that had also booked the same thing by mistake. We were all quite unhappy and felt the tour givers could have been more forthright in their communications - how difficult would it have been to simply ask did you book the bird sanctuary? Lesson learned.
Great trip beautiful scenery sunny...
Bede W
, Jan 2016
Great trip beautiful scenery sunny day Recommend it to all . Boat clean, crew please rand helpful
Trip was great! It was one of the...
Michael B
, Jun 2015
Trip was great! It was one of the highlights of your New Zealand holidays. Felt pity we spent just a day in Picton. There is so much more to see.
Fantastic trip. Although I saw very...
Christine F
, Feb 2015
Fantastic trip. Although I saw very few birds on Motuara Island, the trip was very worthwhile, especially as we saw a pod of Hectors Dolphins, a male, female and baby Orka and then to top it of a pod of bottle nosed dolphins.

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Product code: 6607MOUTARA

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