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Trip Itinerary

Doubtful Sound 5-day Expedition

5 days paddling in Doubtful Sound is an awesome paddling experience no matter what the conditions. You can expect to experience calm, tranquil times, possibly some wild and challenging times, incredible scenery, hopefully some unforgettable marine mammal encounters along with Fiordland rain and sandflies! Average to good fitness is needed, with preferably some paddling experience along with plenty of motivation, determination, an open mind and a sense of humour.


The following tour description summarises one possible 5 day option. Weather conditions can place restrictions and cause programme modifications on all paddling tours in the fiords.

Day 1:

Arriving at Deep Cove at 9.30am approximately the Doubtful Sound experience begins with changing into paddling clothes, loading sea kayaks, safety briefing. From Deep Cove we paddle down Malaspina Reach, past Rolla and Elizabeth Islands and Olphert Cove. The main reach can become quite challenging from late morning in places as frequently a sea breeze will be blowing against us.

Small sheltered headlands give time for rests as we carry on down the fiord passing the tumbling Browne Falls on the western mountains, stopping at a small beach for a late lunch. Watch for seals and penguins as we paddle round the rocky edges. Our destination and campsite for the first night is a small sheltered cove opposite the entrance to Crooked Arm.

Day 2:

An early start on Day 2 sees us carrying on down Malaspina Reach, the fiord becoming steadily wider with glimpses of the open ocean. Secretary Island, yesterday a dim shape in the distance now looms before us as we leave the Reach and cross one of the most exposed areas of the fiord – Pendulo Reach at the bottom of Thompson Sound – a major junction of old glaciers. Large shingle beaches appear on our right and if conditions are good we stop for morning tea.

From here we paddle into Bradshaw Sound – characterised by steep inaccessible sides. Another favourite playground of the dolphins. Lunch is close to the junction with Gaer Arm, to McDonnell Island and Precipice Cove, one of the most beautiful areas of the fiord. After exploration we will camp here or continue into Gaer Arm and the mouth of the Camelot River for the night.

Day 3:

Hours can be spent in this graceful waterway, exploring one of a network of channels – images of the Amazon rainforest come to mind while paddling. Here or McDonnell Island will be our campsite for the night. Sometimes we continue on to the hut on Secretary Island.

Day 4:

A big day with an early start. The aim is to paddle out of Bradshaw Sound and around into Crooked Arm to the campsite near its entrance. All going well, after lunch there, we will spend the afternoon exploring the Arm, maybe seeing the dolphins. A comfortable campsite with a good fireplace, the evening is a time to reflect on the trip so far.

Day 5:

Stillness is normally the theme as we leave the campsite anticipating the challenge of the morning’s paddle down the southwest shoreline – a 3 hour paddle with no landing points. In marginal conditions we use the other shoreline with its shelter points. Lunch either in Olphert Cove or opposite Elizabeth Island and into Deep Cove to return to the civilisation that offers hot showers and comfortable beds!