Quail Island Explorer

Welcome to Lyttleton! Kia Ora! We love to bring guests on our ever popular Quail Island explorer!

Slap on your sunscreen and unleash your pioneering spirit with an intrepid sea kayaking safari to Quail Island -launching location just minutes from the main wharf in Lyttleton Harbour. This sea kayaking safari has a little bit of everything and will be a highlight during your time in Lyttleton!

Lyttleton cruise ship excursions to Quail Island
Nature guides finding our guests treasure!

Your knowledgeable guide loves sharing the area with visitors and depending on tide and wind conditions of the day you will have the opportunity to check out fascinating sea caves, ancient shipwrecks, enchanting rock gardens, volcanic rock formations and pretty beaches from the comfort of your kayak.

Quail Island is a must do while visiting Lyttleton! Ōtamahua / Quail Island is an inner harbour island,lying in the flooded crater of Lyttelton’s extinct volcano, this 81 hectare island can be reached via a short kayak paddle from Lyttelton. From high in the sky, Lyttelton Harbour looks like a long jagged chunk taken out of the top of a knobbly avocado!

Quail Quail Island is also steeped in history.

So what are you waiting for! Come and join us for a sea kayaking safari and create lasting memories to carry in your heart long after your holiday has ended.

Voted New Zealand’s most mysterious Island…

If Quail islands beauty and mystery is not enough to draw you in, how about saying you have visited New Zealand’s weirdest Island! Steeped in history, this is not your average island…This 80-hectare island has worn many hats over the years, including being a bird-egg harvesting spot, a farm, a quarantine station, a leper colony, and an Antarctic expedition training site for sled dogs and ponies from Scott and Shackletons expeditions..Everywhere on the island are reminders, some quietly fading away, others lovingly restored, of the endeavour, enterprise and suffering of many who have sojourned on its shores.

Historical sites on the island include:

  • Leper Colony Foundations & solitary leper grave
  • Ship’s graveyard – eight vessels
  • Ward brother’s homestead foundations
  • Quarantine station
  • Antarctic Expedition training barracks

So what really happened here?

BOOM. Imagine it in 3D, full surround sound and 4K colour. Earth goes up, earth goes down and out. And there you have it, a 15km-long, 44-square-kilometre natural wonder for humans to discover, park boats in and forever marvel at. Quail Island’s sheltered waters have long been a drawcard for boaties and sailors from Maori waka experts to Captain James Cook.

Sled dogs were tethered outside the kennels to harden them up for Antarctica. But also tethered to the island in a way were the lepers near the southern bays  They and their disease were kept away from the rest of New Zealand. At night, from their lonely cold huts, they would have seen a few house lights across the water – other humans to whom they were never allowed closer than two metres. One leper died and was buried on the island and his grave is marked. Another graveyard of sorts for ships can be seen at low tide on the western side, where the ribs of scuttled ships protrude from the silty seabed.

On the hills above are old gun emplacements. If you think about it, Lyttelton Harbour once had a real gun-slinging, make-my-day military swagger about it.

The Ghosts Of Quail Island

Follow this link. https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/the-ghosts-of-quail-island/ to read about the ghosts of Quail island featured in National Geographic ! Yes that’s right. This island is also haunted! But today the water is greeny-blue and it is all about sun, sailing and seagulls.

So what are you waiting for, come and play Robinson Crusoe with us, soak in the amazing views, or take a moment to have a deeper experience and reflect on the amazing history and the people who sailed to the island before us. Make the most of your time in Lyttleton in the safety and good company of our knowledgable guides leading the way.

Into the wild

Is This Safari Suitable For Me?

We welcome guests age 14 and up to join us on our Quail Island Explorer. You need a moderate level of fitness as we will be paddling an open ocean ‘Crossing’ which leads us over to the island. We take this at a moderate pace but it is important that you continue to paddle until we reach the other side which takes around 20 mins. After this we will continue to explore and will have the opportunity for some photo stops before finally crossing back over to our starting point.

If you are arriving via cruise ship into Lyttleton and would like to have the opportunity to visit Akaroa for a kayaking safari please contact us for options.  Alternatively the cruise ships can assist booking shuttle buses to Akaroa which would arrive in time for our Crater Cruiser safari.