How to take your own boat to Doubtful Sound

Sailing in the Sound: Can you take your own boat to Doubtful Sound?

When I’m not on the hunt for the best bargain deals, I always find myself in nature’s waters. One of my favourite places is definitely Doubtful Sound, especially when I can bring my friends along.

When a close friend of mine scored a second-hand boat for an amazing price, going to Doubtful Sound was the first thing that came to mind. Want to know if we actually managed to bring our own boat to the area? Find out here!

Can you take your own boat to Doubtful Sound? 

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You can take your own boat to Doubtful Sound if you have a DOC permit. In fact, taking your own boat to Doubtful Sound is a great way to explore this amazing place at your own pace and on your own terms. 

To make this experience smooth and enjoyable, it’s essential to understand the process. 

How can you take your own boat to Doubtful Sound?

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To take your own boat to Doubtful Sound, you’ll need a permit from the Department of Conservation (DOC) office. You need to secure it at least 2 weeks prior to your scheduled visit to Doubtful Sound.

Further steps follow below: 

  1. Ensure that your boat is suitable for Doubtful Sound: Doubtful Sound is a large and remote fiord, with deep water and unpredictable weather conditions. Your boat should be seaworthy and equipped with all necessary safety gear.
  1. Book a barge to transport your boat across Lake Manapouri: There is no direct road access to Doubtful Sound. The only way to get your boat there is to barge it across Lake Manapouri. Real NZ operates a barge service from Manapouri to West Arm.
  1. Drive your boat over Wilmot Pass: Once your boat has been barged to West Arm, you will need to drive it over Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove – there is a public boat ramp at Deep Cove. Once you have arrived at Deep Cove, you can launch your boat and explore Doubtful Sound at your own pace.

Activities to Try

Doubtful Sound offers a plethora of activities for boat owners to enjoy. Here’s how you can make the most of your trip:

Go fishing

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Doubtful Sound is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. With your own boat, you can cast your line right from the deck or find a perfect spot along the shore. 

The Sound is home to various fish species, such as blue cod, groper, and snapper. Enjoy the thrill of the catch in the midst of stunning natural surroundings.

Go diving or snorkeling

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Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Doubtful Sound and explore its underwater wonders. Your boat allows you to access prime diving spots easily. 

Discover vibrant marine life, navigate through kelp forests, and uncover the mysteries of shipwrecks and underwater caves. Snorkelling here offers a close encounter with the diverse aquatic life.

Go kayaking or canoeing 

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With your own boat, you can carry your kayaks or canoes and set out on the serene waters of Doubtful Sound. Paddle at your own pace, exploring the coastline, discovering hidden waterfalls, and observing the local wildlife. 

This intimate experience with nature is heightened when you have the freedom to explore secluded corners of the Sound.

Anchor in a secluded cove

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One of the unique advantages of having your own boat is the ability to find a secluded cove and drop anchor. Embrace the tranquillity of Doubtful Sound in these hidden gems. 

Take a refreshing swim in the clear waters, indulge in more fishing, read a book, or simply relax as you soak in the unparalleled natural beauty. These moments of peace and quiet are yours to enjoy, away from the hustle and bustle of crowded tourist areas.

Safety Tips for Exploring Doubtful Sound with Your Own Boat

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We know the excitement of exploring this untouched paradise with your own boat is incomparable. But, hold on, safety first! We’ve got some practical tips that’ll keep your adventure smooth and worry-free. 

  • Check Your Boat Thoroughly: Before setting sail, give your boat a careful once-over. Look at the engine, electrical system, and fuel setup. Ensure you’ve got all the safety gear onboard: life jackets, a first-aid kit, and a flare gun. These basics can make a big difference in emergencies.
  • Mind the Tides and Currents: Doubtful Sound’s tides and currents can be strong and tricky. Plan your route smartly, especially in areas where the currents are robust. When anchoring, be cautious – currents can shift and move your anchor. Stay aware to avoid unexpected surprises.
  • Navigate Narrow Channels with Caution: The Sound has narrow channels that demand careful navigation. Have a reliable area chart handy and know the water’s depth. Being mindful while navigating these tight spots ensures a smooth and safe journey.
  • Respect the Marine Life: Doubtful Sound is teeming with marine life like dolphins, seals, and penguins. Keep a respectful distance; don’t disturb these incredible creatures. Observing from afar ensures their safety and lets you enjoy the natural wonder without causing any harm.

By following these safety tips, you can help ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip to Doubtful Sound with your own boat.