The country has more boats per capita than any other nation; this is not surprising if one considers the spectacular chartering opportunities that New Zealand has to offer. On the east side of the North Island is the sailing paradise known as the Bay of Islands, a 50-mile stretch of coastline sheltered by more than 80 islands with plentiful anchorages, quaint towns, and beautiful beaches. From the South Island, explore the sheltered waterways and incredible scenery of Marlborough and Milford Sounds, and discover the natural beauty of the Able Tasman National Park.
Unlike in other parts of the Pacific Ocean, the weather in New Zealand is variable in any season, as are the wind directions and velocities. A land and sea breeze each day is typical. Navigation is straightforward. The tidal range is about six feet. Strong currents can run in narrow channels in certain locations, depending on the state of the tide, but generally are not an issue. In the Southern Hemisphere summer, November to April, the temperatures range between 75°F and 86°F (24°C to 30°C).
A number of major operators fly directly to Auckland. The Hauraki Gulf is then a short transfer from the airport, and the Bay of Islands is a longer drive north of Auckland.
For Milford Sound either take a connecting, local, flight to wellington and then a ferry ride across the Straits to Picton on the South Island, or fly to Christchurch on the South Island and then drive North to the Sound.
Day 1: Russell (4nm)
Start of your New Zealand trip with Russell, the country’s first European settlement, originally a Maori village. In the 1880s, the port of Russell became a major whaling and trading centre, eventually becoming the capital of New Zealand. Consider taking a trek on one of three heritage paths, which range from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Day 2: Moturua Island (5nm)
This is where British explorer James Cook first landed in 1769. The island is less than a mile in length and features two lagoons where you can follow an underwater snorkelling trail.
Day 3 and 4: Whangaroa Harbour (35nm)
A short sail takes you to any number of interesting locations, including Rere Bay with its waterfalls and footpaths. There is also a scenic creek off Lane’s Cove to explore in the dinghy, the lush vegetation and high hills making you feel as though you have stepped back in time.
Day 5: Cavalli Islands (35nm)
A highlight of sailing in the Cavalli Islands is a visit to Big Cavalli. A walking path snakes into the island from Horseshoe Bay, offering stunning views of the surrounding waters and isles. The snorkelling is great off Nukutaunga Island, and offshore is the wreck of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, sunk in 1987 to create a rich habitat for marine life.
Day 6: Waewaetorea Island (20nm)
The sheltered beaches are perfect for a swim, and ashore are the ruins of a Maori village.
Day 7: Wangamumu Harbour (11nm)
Sail past the historic Cape Brett Lighthouse and rugged Percy Island famous for the Hole in the Rock and Cathedral Cave. Have your camera ready because you might see dolphins or blue penguins. The fishing off the cape is fabulous.
Day 8: Oke Bay (12nm)
Oke Bay is situated at the base of Cape Brett, with its famous Hole in the Rock, a true wonder of geology at the tip of the cape. Gather fresh mussels for dinner. Dolphins may join you as you sail along this cliff-lined stretch of coast.
Day 9: Otehie Bay (4nm)
Otehie Bay is famous for the Zane Grey Resort, where you can enjoy the restaurant, bar, the beaches, snorkelling, kayaking, numerous walking paths to archaeological sites, and a ride on the Nautilus, a submarine that takes you on an undersea sightseeing tour.
Day 10: Assassination Cove (5nm)
Day 1: Join your yacht at the Marina on Opua Wharf and anchor for the night at Matawhi Bay (3nm)
Matawhi Bay at the entry to Russell is shallow and deepens slowly out to the principal mooring area. There are some nice walking paths, one that leads into town and another that goes through a grove of large gum trees.
Day 2: Matawhi Bay to Army Bay (via Roberton Island) (7nm)
From Army Bay you can see great views of the Hauraki Gulf and its islands. The Bay gets its name from its proximity to one of New Zealand’s Army training grounds.
Day 3: Army Bay to Whangaroa (38nm)
Visit an Alpaca farm, go kayaking, and try the local fare. Whangarao’s harbour features spectacular rocky bluffs and a prominent ridge system of eroded volcanoes.
Day 4: Exploring Whangaroa
Pekapeka Bay offers good fishing. To the right of Lane Cove hut, you can see where tidal forces have carved the rock along the beach into the shape of a wave.
Day 5: Whangaroa to Marsden Cross (37nm)
Marsden Cross was made New Zealand’s first missionary settlement. There is a wonderful, sandy beach here and great views.
Day 6: Marsden Bay to Paradise Bay (7nm)
Paradise Bay is a beautiful, secluded bay known for its surfing.
Day 7: Paradise Bay to Te Hue (via Cape Brett) (17nm)
Day 8: Return to the Marina on Opua Wharf for disembarkation