The best way to explore the Beagle Channel is by boat. Numerous companies offer a variety of trips, usually in modern catamarans with excellent guides. Many of them run kiosks near the pier; you'll see a cluster of them by the water. The most popular excursion is a half-day cruise of the Beagle Channel to view sea lions, penguins, and more. Catamaranes Canoero (tel. 2901/433893; www.catamaranescanoero.com.ar) has a variety of options ranging from 2 1/2 hours to 8 hours, on four different boats. Motonave Barracuda (tel. 2901/437066) leaves twice daily for its 3-hour trip around the channel for $45 (£30) per person, stopping at Isla de Lobos, Isla de Pájaros, and a lighthouse. Motovelero Tres Marías (tel. 2901/421897) also leaves twice daily and sails to the same location; they accommodate a maximum of nine guests at a time, and they add an hour-long walk, crab fishing, cognac, and an underwater camera to the package, for $36 (£24) per person. From November through February, most companies visit the teeming penguin colony and pull the boats up to the shore where travelers can close in tight to watch these marvelous animals. It's $75 (£51). Pira Tur, B. Yaganes Casa 127 (tel. 2901/15-604646 [cell]), offers walking tours onto the colony with controlled groups. Motovelero Patagonia Explorer (tel. 2901/15-465842 [cell]) has an 18-passenger maximum and leaves daily; it visits the sea lion colony and includes a walk on the Isla Bridges for $50 (£34). This company also works with the Aventuras Isla Verde in the park for a full-day sail; inquire at their kiosk. Ushuaia Boating, Gob. Godoy 190 (tel. 2901/436193; www.ushuaiaboating.com.ar), operates a small, speedy zodiac ferry to Chilean Puerto Williams. It costs $240 (£162) round-trip.
For a fishing license and information, go to the Club de Pesca y Caza, Av. San Martín 818 (no phone). It costs about $15 (£10) for foreigners per day.
Monster Trout on the Río Grande -- The north of Tierra del Fuego is a brown plain of gentle, undulating hills and meandering rivers, punctuated by the occasional lonely estancia. It is a serene and desolate place without so much as a tree or a hedge for miles. Indeed, for many years, the only things you could find here were hardy ranchers, thousands of sheep, and wild herds of graceful guanacos.
One of those hardy ranchers decided to introduce trout to the local rivers, with the aim of creating a diversion for himself and his fly-fishing friends. Little did John Goodall know, when he first slipped some fingerlings into the gentle waters of the Río Grande back in the 1930s, that the area would become world famous for its trout. It's now a place of annual pilgrimage for thousands of fly-fishing fanatics. The trout thrived on the river, but they did even better when they discovered the rich Antarctic fishing grounds out to sea. The sea run brown trout had found its ideal habitat and grown accordingly; anglers are astounded to find fish as heavy as 30 pounds. Many say the Río Grande is the world's top location for fishing this type of trout.
Overfishing depleted stocks in the mid-1980s. In response, several estancias that controlled the upper Río Grande introduced strict conservation methods and catch-and-release restrictions. Their methods worked, and now those same estancias enjoy a steady stream of visitors seeking luxury accommodations on their fishing trips. The most famous is La Villa de Estancia María Behety, owned by the affable Alejandro Menéndez, who must be one of the few people in the world who can boast a river named after his family. The elegant family home, with a sparkling blue roof and commanding glass porch, has six opulent rooms. When guests are not fishing, they can partake of Alejandro's 10,000-bottle wine cellar and magnificent full-size snooker table -- a relic of the Anglo-Argentines who used to work here. The property has another more modern but just as welcoming Estancia María Behety Lodge closer to the river that accommodates 12.
Estancia La Despedida is another popular fishing lodge. This ample log cabin offers very comfortable rooms and an inviting lounge with bar. The charismatic owner Danny Lajous speaks perfect English and regales guests with stories about the area.
For bookings from overseas, all three lodges work exclusively through a Californian outfitter called the Fly Shop, 4140 Churn Creek Rd., Redding, CA 96002 (tel. 800/669-3474 or 530/222-3555; fax 530/222-3572; www.theflyshop.com). All-inclusive 1-week packages start at $4,895 (£3,308) per person. All the estancias are close to the town of Río Grande, 180km (112 miles) north of Ushuaia.
Ushuaia's ski resort, Cerro Castor (tel. 2901/499301; www.cerrocastor.com), is surprisingly good, with more than 400 skiable hectares (988 acres), 15 runs, three quad chairs and one double, a lodge/restaurant, and a slopeside bar. Day tickets cost $18 to $33 (£12-£22), depending on low or high season. The resort is open from June 15 to October 15. To get there, take the shuttle buses Pasarela (tel. 2901/433712) or Bella Vista (tel. 2901/443161); the fare is $12 (£8.20).