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New Cruise Venture Gives Everyone Chance To Experience Hauraki Gulf

Focus on meeting local tourism demand overrides Covid challenges

Leading tourism operator Explore Group is launching new expedition-style cruises on the Hauraki Gulf to meet demand for Kiwis holidaying closer to home this summer.

Despite the uncertainty created by Delta and alert level changes, William Goodfellow, Explore Managing Director, said the company sees an opportunity to grow and invest in exciting and unique tourism experiences in Auckland and on the Gulf.

“Unless you have your own boat the Hauraki Gulf is not easily accessible for local tourists and travellers, so the cruises are all about creating a way for Kiwis to explore their own backyard.”

Explore Expedition Cruises will launch on December 31 with passengers able to take a two, three, or five-night cruise to visit islands in the Gulf, including Kawau, Rangitoto, Motutapu, Motuihe, Rotoroa, Ponui, Tiritiri Matangi, Waiheke, Coromandel, and Great Barrier / Aotea.

“There’s currently nothing like this expedition-style cruise available and with increased domestic demand it offers locals the chance to experience the beauty and history of the islands, but also to see a huge range of sea and bird life, and to do a range of water activities right on Auckland’s doorstep.”

The launch of Explore Expedition Cruises is the second stage of Explore Group’s recent expansion following the company’s purchase of Fullers Great Sights operation in the Bay of Islands in July.

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Explore Expedition Cruises is part of a wider plan to launch additional on-the-water experiences in Auckland and the Bay of Islands that will not only meet local demand but ensure the industry is prepared when international visitors return in the future.

The 45m boat, named Te Haerenga, being used for the venture has capacity for 60 passengers on overnight cruises. The boat was named in consultation with Auckland iwi Ngai Tai ki Tamaki.

“Te Haerenga means the journey,” said Ngai Tai Deputy Chair, Billy Brown, “with our waka taking people on a cultural, physical and spiritual journey into the waters of Ngāi Tai tūpuna [ancestors] and modern-day explorers.”

Te Haerenga is purpose-built for overnight cruising with full amenities across four levels.

The cruises enable tourists and sightseers to explore the Hauraki Gulf islands and experience the history of the region during the day and relax on board Te Haerenga overnight. Activities during island stopovers include everything from guided walks, visiting historic sites and wineries, through to wildlife encounters, sea kayaking, and snorkelling.

Goodfellow said it continues to be a challenging time for all operators however Explore is focused on helping to grow and enhance Auckland as a tourism destination for locals, visitors from around New Zealand, and overseas tourists once border restrictions ease.

“An on-the water experience like Explore Expedition Cruises showcases the beauty and history of Auckland and ultimately entices more visitors to the region,” he said.

Explore has been key to the tourism sector in Auckland and Bay of Islands for almost 20 years, including operating America’s Cup boat experiences on the Waitemata Harbour and a range of tours in Northland including the Discover the Bay Hole in the Rock Cruise and ferry services to Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island.

Explore Expeditions Cruises Hauraki Gulf Weekend on the Water sails on Friday and returns on Sunday; the three-night Hauraki Gulf Discovery runs from Sunday to Wednesday; and the five-night Hauraki Gulf Expedition cruise operates from Friday to Wednesday. The cruises are priced from $750.00 per person, per night, twin share and includes all meals, daily excursions, and water activities.

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