How to Get to Antarctica from New Zealand

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams  |  27 February 2018

Have dreams of visiting the white continent but unsure how to get to Antarctica from New Zealand? There are a few different ways NZ travellers can visit Antarctica, each with their own pros and cons which will influence your choice. Read on and I will tell you all of the ways to travel to Antarctica from New Zealand. 

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  1. From Ushuaia, Argentina
  2. From Punta Arenas, Chile
  3. From New Zealand
  4. Fly to Antarctica for the Day


Antarctica Icebergs

Antarctic Ice


1. Cruise to Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina

The majority of Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia at the southern rip of South America.  You can fly direct from Auckland to Buenos Aires in Argentina and then take a connecting flight south to Ushuaia. Once you board your cruise it is a 2-day journey to reach the Antarctic continent, where you will find protected bays teeming with wildlife as well as scientific research bases, remote military outposts and remnants of the polar pioneers.  If you dream of kayaking, SCUBA diving, hiking, camping on ice and endless wildlife watching expeditions in Antarctica, then this is the option for you.

Cruises out of Ushuaia generally fall into two categories:

(A) Antarctic Peninsula Cruises -  The standard “Classic” cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula will generally take 10-12 days.
(B) Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands – longer trips taking up to 22 days.  Visiting these sub-Antarctic Islands offers unique wildlife such as King Penguins and Royal Albatross, as well as fascinating historical sites.

  • The greatest choice of vessels, itineraries & activities
  • The least amount of sailing time to reach Antarctica
  • Most affordable cruise options
  • Unless you absolutely hate boats and do not want to cross the Drake Passage (the bit of ocean between Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula), then there are not really any cons on a cruise to Antarctica from Ushuaia, it is an excellent option!


Antarctica Activities Kayaking

Kayaking in Antarctica


2. Cruise to Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile

You can fly directly from Punta Arenas (Chile) to several Antarctic destinations, including the South Shetland Islands and South Georgia, and cruise Antarctica from there.

South Georgia is one of Antarctica’s greatest highlights. The sheer concentration of wildlife and awe-inspiring landscapes are truly breathtaking.  There are also options to fly to King George Island and then take an Antarctica cruise from there – this tends to be a more expensive option than an Antarctica cruise departing from Ushuaia, but it does have the benefit of avoiding the Drake Passage, known for its rough seas.

  • If you’re short on time, flight + cruise tours from Punta Arenas are a great option.
  • Avoid the choppy Drake Passage and sail only in the more sheltered waters of the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • This is a more expensive option with less variety of vessels and itineraries to choose from.
  • Bad weather can cause flight delays which can disrupt the planned itinerary.


Penguins in South Georgia

Penguins in South Georgia


3. Cruise to Antarctica from New Zealand

There is a selection of cruises departing each season from Bluff, Invercargill (or Hobart, Tasmania). These voyages tend to be around 3-4 weeks long.

The trip down to the Antarctic continent from New Zealand takes around 7 days, which can be broken up with visits to sub-Antarctic islands such as Macquarie Island, Campbells Island, Auckland Islands and the Snare Islands, which offer the opportunity to see King Penguins, Royal Penguins and other unique wildlife. Once arrived at Antarctica, visitors will spend their time around Commonwealth Bay or the Ross Sea region. 

A trip down to this part of Antarctica is pretty extreme, it’s as remote as it possibly can get and not for the light-hearted. It’s colder, windier and with higher chances of rough seas and there is no one else nearby besides the other people on your ship.  But for those intrepid travellers who brave it, a trip to this side of Antarctica does allow you to visit some fantastic places. There are preserved huts and historic sites from the heroic age of Antarctic Exploration (1897-1922) which can be visited, left behind by famous explorers Mawson, Scott and Shackleton. There are emperor penguins to see, and of course the wildlife-rich Sub-Antarctic Islands. You'll also have the opportunity to see the massive Ross Ice Shelf, and Mount Erebus, the world's southernmost active volcano.

  • Depart on your cruise directly from New Zealand
  • Visit one of the least visited places on Earth
  • See preserved history of early Antarctic exploration
  • Includes New Zealand sub-Antarctic Islands
  • You'll spend much more time crossing the ocean, with the chance of rough seas and extreme conditions
  • These trips are more expensive than Antarctic cruises from South America
  • There is less wildlife to see compared to the Antarctic Peninsula on the South American side of Antarctica


Read more: Travelling to Antarctica from New Zealand



A cruise in Antarctica

A cruise in Antarctica


4. Day trip? Fly to Antarctica for the day. 

Experience the magic of Antarctica from above as you glide over the dazzling great white continent, the world’s last pristine wilderness and its final frontier. Aboard a privately chartered 747 plane, these one-day sightseeing flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth give you a spectacular bird’s-eye view of this vast untamed polar desert with its desolate beauty.

  • There is no danger of getting cold or wet and no rough seas to endure - just relax on board, enjoy the in-flight service, absorb your unique view of Antarctica and marvel at the awe-inspiring scenery of the uncharted frozen south that lies beneath you.
  • You won’t see any of Antarctica’s magical wildlife.
  • There will be no landings, no opportunity to actually set foot in Antarctica or enjoy any of the activities you can do in Antarctica


Landscapes in Antarctica

Landscapes in Antarctica


Dreaming of seeing the world’s last untouched continent with your own eyes? We offer a wide range of Antarctica cruises and flights to suit all budgets and travel styles and can match you up with the most suitable expedition option for you.

For more information contact us today to speak to one of our Antarctica Destination Specialists. 

Check out all our Antarctica holidays

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