The most popular sailing area in New Zealand is the 170 miles of the East coast north from the main city of Auckland, with the Bay of Islands being approximately in the centre of this region. While this section of coast is exposed to weather from the North and East, safe all weather harbours are seldom more than a few hours sail apart. This area includes Whangaroa Harbour, Poor Knights Islands, the Hauraki Gulf, and the western side of Great Barrier Island. This is New Zealand’s premier cruising ground, dotted with safe harbours and sheltered coves and our yachts are licensed to sail throughout this area.
The coast of New Zealand south of Auckland offers few opportunities for shelter.
The Bay of Islands is a compact body of water. It's just seven miles from our base in Opua to the nearest island anchorage and 9 miles more to Cape Brett at the southern extremity of the Bay. In this area are four main islands and numerous smaller ones. It is the most popular holiday sailing destination in New Zealand. Safe waters and variety make the Bay of Islands a sailing destination known world wide.
There will always be choice of sheltered anchorages: the four main islands offer many small coves with clean sandy beaches and the opportunity for a forest or grassland hike ashore. The area is rich in both European and Maori history: the earliest Polynesian settlers made it their home, Cook anchored here and named the bay, the first European missionaries chose the Bay of Islands as their base. It is much more than a place to sail.
The quaint village of Russell (picture) and the resort town of Paihia have world class restaurants and cafes aplenty if your catch of the day doesn’t quite make it aboard.
And if you want to leave society behind you can have an island to yourself. A bareboat sailing charter gives you the opportunity to choose your own destination.
The Bay is famed for its dolphins and you will likely be visited by a friendly pod. The fishing is good; snapper being the favoured catch. Shellfish for the taking include scallops, mussels, and the native pipi.
Divers would want to sail to the world renowned marine reserve of the Poor Knights’ Islands south of the Bay, or dive on the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior – sunk by sabotage in 1985 - near the Cavalli Islands.
The waters outside the bay are known for game fish. Game fishing or dive charters can be arranged with local boat operators.
For those who wish to head further afield, the spectacular Whangaroa Harbour is a days sail north of the Bay and is a ‘must’ visit. Heading South there are numerous harbours and bays scattered along the 100 miles of coast between the Bay and Auckland. Those who wish to stretch the boat’s legs can experience the 50 mile open water sail to the rugged mountains of Great Barrier Island. One way voyages between the Bay of Islands and Auckland can be arranged.
Visitors from the Northern Hemisphere are often surprised at the unexploited nature of the cruising area. There are just two marinas between the Bay of Islands and Auckland and cruisers should provision accordingly.
It's possible to sail in New Zealand at any time of the year. Summer is the most popular time,and stretches from late November to the end of March, with day time temperatures around 23 degrees Celsius, and water temperatures between 19 and 23 degrees. However, fair weather prevails from October to the end of May. The shoulder seasons can be charming with fine weather and few other boats about. Winter nights are cold, but days often bring a stunning clarity of air and water.