Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary and Ship Cove Cruise from Picton

Picton, New Zealand

From $62.25 USD

Lowest Price Guarantee

Select Date and Travelers

Number of travelers
Loading available options...

4 hours 30 minutes (Approx.)
Mobile ticket
Offered 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.


Viator Traveler's Reviews

9 Reviews
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Keith P
, Jan 2019

One has the chance of a quick walk to the top of the mount to observe the view and birds, but I think one could do with a bit more time on Motuara Island. Ship Cove stop over was about the right time

Ken Q L
, Dec 2018

Excursion coordination between cruise line and Beachcomber Cruise supplier poorly communicated to us. Cruise Line docked as advertised at 0800 hours, but this Bird Sanctuary Excursion leaves promptly at 0800 from their dock. Therefore, we 'missed the boat.' Beachcomber only offers this one cruise to the sanctuary per day. Beachcomber offered us an alternative cruise which left at 0900 hours. It is the 'mail' run/vessel to various island stops to deliver and receive mail from local residents. Ship is clean and well maintained and there were approx. 20-30 passengers on this trip, with plenty of additional space to spare. Ship well outfitted and Beachcomber offers hot drinks and snacks. As it turned out, our captain of the 'mail' boat was an exceptionally knowledgeable guide and described all the bird life that we could see in great detail. We also witnessed a pod of dolphins during the trip out and the captain pointed out hard to see birds and seals on the various islands as well as described local history. Stop at Ship Cove was exceptional: place where Captain Cook made landfall for water and supplies during his great exploratory cruise. Great hiking trails into the interior, but no time to do that on this excursion. Weka birds at Ship Cove are to be watched carefully: they will steal anything shiny that you leave around e.g. cell phones!! loose ear-rings shiny buttons etc. Recommendation: a better map to show way from cruise docking area to Beachcomber Cruise office would have sped up getting to the excursion.

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!

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?

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.

, 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.

Bede W
, Jan 2016

Great trip beautiful scenery sunny day Recommend it to all . Boat clean, crew please rand helpful

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.

Christine F
, Mar 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.

Book online or call
(888) 651-9785
(888) 651-9785
Product code: 6607MOUTARA

Explore Similar Things to Do