FIND TRANQUIL ARCHIPELAGOS, colonial villages and world-beating dive sites in the subtropical north, while to the south of Auckland, discover ethereal glow worm caves and volcanic hot springs. And that’s just to start. The North Island of New Zealand really does have it all.
For most visiting yachts, Auckland is likely to be the point of arrival. Other clearance ports north of Auckland are Opua or Whangarei, while south of Auckland you can clear in at Tauranga, Gisborne, Napier and Wellington on the east coast, or at New Plymouth on the west coast.
Formalities are straightforward if documentation is completed prior to arrival.
NZ Customs requires a minimum of 48 hours advance notice of arrival. Customs officers will also complete immigration processes on board.
Crew or passengers who are from a visa waiver country can receive a visa on entry, while those who are not on the list should apply for the Super Yachts Visitor Visa prior to arriving. See immigration.govt.nz for more information.
Biosecurity is important to New Zealand and stringent rules are in place. Any vessel clearing into NZ will be inspected by an official immediately after customs and immigration clearance. Food items such as meat, fruit, vegetables, freshwater fish, eggs, dairy products, and honey will all be taken for safe disposal, so it’s advisable to arrive with minimal quantities on board. Items that have been cooked are usually fine, so the chef can be quite busy on a voyage to New Zealand.
All rubbish will be taken, along with the dust bag from the vacuum cleaner. Plants aren’t allowed either, or pets, though exemptions are possible. Apply well ahead of arrival.
Biosecurity officers will also inspect the vessel looking for evidence of insects and vermin, and for biofouling on the hull and appendages. New rules (at the time of writing in mid-2018), are that vessels should have cleaned or treated the hull within the 30 days prior to arrival, or have booked to have the hull cleaned or treated within 24 hours of arrival. Evidence for either will need to be proven. For more information, visit the Ministry for Primary Industries at biosecurity.govt.nz.
The summer months from December to April are most suitable for cruising. Northern New Zealand is sub-tropical, and will very occasionally be affected by the remnants of cyclones dropping down from the Pacific, bringing heavy rain and wind for a few days. More common though are large, high-pressure systems that cover the entire country, delivering long periods of settled weather, particularly from mid-January to mid-March. A great source for weather in New Zealand is the recreational marine forecast issued by MetService.
Auckland has everything you’ll need. The Viaduct Harbour Marina has berths up to 50 metres, while Silo Marina has berths up to 116 metres. There are multiple refit facilities for all size vessels and a strong network of capable contractors to complete any work. All major Class Societies have offices in Auckland if you’re due for a survey. Fuelling and provisioning are easy.
The airport is 30 minutes from downtown Auckland and within an hour’s travel from the CBD, you can be surfing or hiking on rugged west coast beaches, visiting wineries and sculpture parks on Waiheke Island, or watching motorsport at Hampton Downs.
To the south, the Waitomo glow worm caves and the geothermal area of Rotorua with its geysers and boiling mud pools are well worth visiting, while north of Auckland you’ll find the golden beaches of the Tutukaka Coast.
The Hauraki Gulf offers some sensational cruising options from Auckland, including Waikehe Island, the Coromandel Peninsula, and Kawau Island. Each of these locations offers beautiful walks ashore, great fishing, or a protected bay for water sports.
It’s then an easy trip to Great Barrier Island. With many bays and anchorages to choose from, Great Barrier Island offers protection from all wind directions, as well as excellent fishing and diving, plenty of walking paths, and natural hot springs at Kaitoki. Note that vessels over 40 metres/ 500GT need permission to visit Kawau Island and Great Barrier Island.
South of Great Barrier Island are the Mercury Islands, which include the privately owned Great Mercury Island with its stunning Peachgrove Bay. From the Mercury Islands, it’s not too far to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula, with land transport from Whitianga the most convenient option. South of Coromandel is the Port of Tauranga where a refit facility is under construction. Further south, lies the active volcano, White Island.
To the north of the Hauraki Gulf lies the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, a world-renowned diving and snorkelling area with spectacular sea life, archways and tunnels. A dive guide is recommended. The marine reserve is situated within a restricted area where vessels over 45 metres are not able to enter, although larger yachts can seek an exemption. In the vicinity of the Poor Knights Islands, you’ll find several protected anchorages between Tutukaka and Cape Brett as well as wreck diving and great fishing.
Note that recent changes in rules have seen the introduction of requirements to have a clean hull before visiting the Northland region to stop the transfer of invasive marine organisms.
Prior to arrival in the Northland area, you should have had the anti-fouling done within the past six months, or have had a bottom clean within the past month. There are commercial diving companies in Auckland authorised to do the clean.
The Bay of Islands is outside of the restricted area for large yachts and this gorgeous cruising ground offers plenty to do. Learn about New Zealand’s recent history by visiting the museum and treaty grounds at Waitangi, sample food cooked in a hangi (earth oven) and enjoy other cultural experiences.
Many of the islands in the Bay of Islands have excellent walking tracks and beaches to enjoy, while the area is also known for big game fishing.
Whangaroa Harbour offers great shelter and is close to the exclusive Kauri Cliffs golf course. The nearby Cavalli Islands are the location of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, scuttled as a dive site after being sabotaged in 1985.
Past the very top of the North Island lies the Three Kings Islands. Restricted to vessels under 500GT (exemptions can be applied for larger vessels), the Three Kings Islands offer amazing fishing, including big game.
Voyaging down the east coast toward Wellington or the South Island are the ports of Tauranga, Gisborne and Napier. East Cape and the Wairarapa Coast can be unpleasant, so it’s advisable to wait for a reasonable weather window. Depending on the weather, it may be better to transit via the west coast of the North Island, particularly if you’re departing from the Bay of Islands.
Wellington, the nation’s capital, has commercial berths available right in the city and is a good place to visit before or after a South Island cruise.