Lush green rolling hills, crystal clear lakes, breathtaking mountain ranges, wild beaches, secret waterfalls, hidden caves, spectacular fiords, cascading glaciers and volcanic plateau’s are just some of the dramatic, natural landscapes that you’ll encounter when exploring the many islands and islets of New Zealand...
Sitting on the 'South Pacific Highway', the nautical route that many superyachts take when cruising the South Pacific, New Zealand is a beautiful country offering its own indigenous cultures, award-winning dining, adrenaline-filled adventures and more secluded bays and secret coastline coves than you care to mention.
SYOG spoke to agents at Asia Pacific Superyachts New Zealand, a leading yacht agent in Auckland about the wonders that make New Zealand a leading year-round superyacht destination.
With a strong nautical history in sailing, boat building and refit, and 15,000km of exquisite coastline which spans from sub-tropical in the north to sub-Antarctic in the south within a 1,000 miles cruise, it’s no surprise that New Zealand is fast becoming the superyacht hub of the Pacific.
Consisting of two main islands, North Island and South Island, the surrounding cruising grounds can be divided into three main areas; to the north and east of Auckland; the Marlborough Sounds northeast of South Island; and the Fiordland on the west coast of South Island.
Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf
Auckland has fast become one of the most vibrant and multi-cultural cities around the Pacific: Yacht guests and crew alike love the buzz and activities that take place around the city, especially during the summer months. Arrive at Auckland Airport and travel to meet the superyacht at its berth. Enjoy a day or two exploring. Jump from the Sky Tower and eat in some of the amazing restaurants of the area before departing for your next destination.
Spend a day cruising the Hauraki Gulf and head over to Waiheke Island - the jewel in the crown of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. Filled with world-renowned vineyards, the island oozes a unique charm that makes it tranquil and charming. Artists thrive on the island, and cafés offer fresh and unfussy food. There are plenty of bays to kayak or kite board here, take to the waters to snorkel or dive, or lie out on the beach with a picnic.
From Waiheke Island, head east across the Firth of Thames to the Coromandel Peninsula and anchor in Te Kouma Harbour, a sheltered bay where many dolphins frolic. Tender to the mainland, and find the Coromandel Township around the corner. As a historic gold mining town, here you can head off for some serious exploring. We recommend a trip to the far side to the Hot Water Beach. Here you can dig a hole in the sand and find hot spring water for your own beach Jacuzzi. Grab some local produce and wines from the stores nearby and relax on the sand while nature does its thing.
The Mercury Islands are then just a short trip away. The largest, Great Mercury Island, is owned by New Zealand businessmen Michael Fay and David Richwhite. Ashore there are two residences that can be hired for complete privacy. The six smaller islands form part of a nature reserve with ample bird life.
Great Barrier Island and Poor Knights Island
When you’re ready, move the yacht north to Great Barrier Island. With a permanent population of just 400, and 70% owned by the Department of Conservation, it’s another tranquil and stress-free New Zealand gem.
Here, there are many great anchorages. Spend the day walking the tracks, discovering the beautiful waterfalls and hot mineral pools of the bush. The island also offers great opportunities for fishing. With the country renowned for amazing angling, you may find Snapper, Kingfish, John Dory and Cod in these waters. Take your catch to the old smoke houses to collect native Manuka wood to smoke the fish you caught today and enjoy on the sand.
If you’re a diver, the next stop on your trip should be the Poor Knights Islands, just north. Voted as one of the best dive sights in the world by Jacques Cousteau it’s unspoilt with huge underwater pinnacles and caves. While you’re here, dive for some Crayfish – a New Zealand favourite.
The Bay of Islands
Heading north overnight, the Bay of Islands awaits. Home to New Zealand’s Waitangi Treaty and the Maori culture, you’ll be welcomed by the local tribe arriving aboard your yacht in waka (Maori canoes). Receive a warm Powhiri welcome before taking part in the Haka. The Wahine (ladies of the tribe) will surely serenade you.
You may want to spend a few days exploring the area, as The Bay of Islands gives options for all activities. You can enjoy quad biking on stunning white sandy beaches and sand dunes, search for fresh seafood along the shores, golf or spa at Kauri Cliffs Lodge, dive the wreck of the sunken Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship, or day trip to the northlands West Coast to visit the giant Tane Mahuta Kauri Tree - and all while enjoying listening to the legends told by your Maori guide.
Charter a boat and head out to catch the Marlin that the region is well known for, or surf the West Coast at 90mile Beach or Ahipara. Otherwise enjoy sailing the area and relaxing among some of the world’s finest scenery.
If you want to extend your trip in ‘Gods Own’, head south by air to Lake Taupo and Hauka Lodge where you can hunt for deer or fish for trout whilst enjoying one of the most romantic settings in the world on the edge of the Huka Falls. The Tongariro crossing is just a short helicopter flight away with scenery to die for. Visit Wellington before taking the short flight across to picturesque Picton on South Island. Helicopters can land close to the marina and Blenheim Airport can accommodate private jets.
Picton is a sheltered seaside town among the South Island forest. It’s a great base for museums and galleries, walking, fishing and water activities. Next, visit Queenstown inland; the adventure capital of New Zealand where you can jet boat or bungee jump over Lake Wakatipu while enjoying the amazing scenery famed by the Lord of the Rings.
Unlike North Island, it’s best to stick to cruising the east coast of South Island to avoid some of the unfavourable sailing conditions along the east coast. Whale watch in Nelson or Kaikoura, D’Urville has two beautiful natural harbours to explore, and Tasman Bay has famous golden beaches, warm waters and fascinating National Park walkways.
Central Otago is New Zealand’s most prolific Pinot Noir growing region, so the food and wines are out of this world. You could stay ashore in the leading lodges at Eichardts Private Hotel in the midst of the Queenstown scene, or at the out-of-town at Matakauri Lodge. There’s also the option for five-star ‘glamping’ at a high country farm in the McKenzie Country, where you can relax and enjoy the tranquility, or roll up your sleeves and help out herding sheep.
Christchurch is the only French settlement in NZ with an eclectic mix of history and contemporary. It has a creative vibe, great for eating, drinking, shopping and culture.
If you have more time to spend, rejoin the South Pacific Highway. You could head to Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji and on to the Panama Canal, or move off in the other direction to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Gold Coast, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea before heading towards Asia. Boats can spend up to two years cruising the Pacific region following the sun and unique cultures.
Superyacht berthing and anchorages
There are ample marinas and marine facilities in NZ, especially around the North Island where most superyacht agencies are based. Many marinas are often booked up well in advance, so it’s often best to use a yacht agent for reservations. Similarly, provisioning to certain remote areas of New Zealand can be tricky, but with the help of regional flights and a dedicated yacht agent, food and spares will always make their way on board.
Silo Marina, Auckland City: Silo Marina is found centrally in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. It advertises ten berths for superyachts up to 116m LOA, but it has recently hosted superyachts like M/Y A (120m LOA) and M/Y Serene (134m LOA). Berths are equipped with marine security, servicing and fueling facilities, and the development is nearby to Auckland’s shops, bars, restaurants and refit facilities, making it a great stop for guests and crew alike.
Viaduct Harbour Marina, Auckland City: Also set at the heart of Auckland, the Viaduct Harbour Marina offers 150 berths for vessels up to 60m LOA, set among the restaurants, bars and hotels of the capital. New Zealand’s largest marina service precinct, Westhaven is just 500m west.
The Bay of Islands Marina, Port Opua: If, among the unspoilt anchorages of The Bay of Islands, you require a stop in a superyacht-ready marina, The Bay of Islands Marina is a full service 250-berth marina catering to yachts up to 50m LOA. It’s in easy walking distance of Paihia, and near to Kerikeri and Russell. The Bay of Islands airport is just a 20-minute drive away; meet your jet on the tarmac for internal transfers or easy onward travel.
Tauranga Bridge Marina: Further south of Auckland, Tauranga Bridge Marina has 500 berths for vessels up to 37m LOA.
Picton Marina, Picton: On the north side of South Island within the cruising grounds of the Queen Charlotte Sound, Picton Marina hosts visiting superyachts up to and beyond 35m LOA. Remodeled in 2013, the marina offers great marine facilities and guest amenities within a picturesque seaside setting.
Climate and cruising conditions
Sitting comfortably in the southern hemisphere, the seasons in New Zealand are the opposite of those experienced in Europe and the USA. As the summer season closes in Europe with the end of the Monaco Yacht Show, the climate begins heating up in the Southern Pacific. Superyachts often begin their journeys around the globe at this time, heading to the Southern Pacific. The NZ high cruising season therefore peaks between December and April.
The climate is largely temperate with no major highs or lows in the weather whenever you travel; however, Northland (North Island) typically turns subtropical during the summer, and South Island and certain inland areas can turn bitterly cold with temperatures well below zero in the winter months making it great for winter tourism, especially around the Queenstown region.
Typical summer temperatures range 20 to 30°C, while winter temperatures span -10 to +15°C. It tends to be drier during the summer months with little rainfall across both islands, but, being an inland country, weather can change quickly, especially down around the Fioreland in South Island. Most superyachts arrive for the summer season between January and March, but, in recent years, few are also venturing to the South Island to taste the adventurous snow season.
Cruising regulations and clearances
Superyacht owners, charter guests and crew must check their visa status prior to arrival in New Zealand. Any yacht agent should be able to help with visas and clearances. If visitors are arriving aboard a private yacht or aircraft, they must first check in with immigration by completing an arrival card. Evidence of ownership and insurance must be provided for the yacht, while passengers and crew will require written confirmation from the owner or captain to confirm that they will be departing the country on the vessel.
Many countries are on the New Zealand Visitor Visa Waiver List, ensuring a three-month automatic visa is granted upon arrival, while for others it’s easy to apply for visitor visa with New Zealand Visa Application Centre’s (VAC) around the world. Those who visit aboard a private yacht or aircraft during the South Pacific hurricane season (October to April) may be granted a visa to stay beyond the maximum period normally allowed avoiding the bad weather. Full information can be found, via the Immigration New Zealand website.