Captain Cook spent five weeks in Dusky Sound, 40km south of Doubtful Sound, on his second voyage in 1773, while his crew recovered from an arduous crossing of the Southern Ocean. Time was mostly spent at Pickersgill Harbour where, at Astronomer’s Point, it is still possible to see where Cook’s astronomer had trees felled so he could get an accurate fix on the stars. Not far from here is the site where 1790s castaways built the first European-style house and boat in New Zealand. Marooned by the fiord’s waters, nearby Pigeon Island shelters the ruins of a house built by Richard Henry, who battled from 1894 to 1908 to save endangered native birds from introduced stoats and rats.
Very few trips come down this way, making it all the more rewarding if you make the effort. The Milford Wanderer Discovery tour (t 0800 656 501, w realjourneys.co.nz; book well in advance) plies Dusky Sound in winter (and goes further south to Preservation Inlet and Stewart Island) on five- to seven-day cruises, some with helicopter transfer to the boat.