New Zealand’s Sights & Sounds: North Island
Yacht Style kicks off a two-part feature on New Zealand with the North Island, as local experts talk about the amazing array of cruising options for visitors to the America’s Cup host nation. By Marieke Derks.
Situated in Hawke’s Bay on the North Island’s east coast, Cape Kidnappers is regularly named among the world’s top golf courses © Jacob Sjoman
New Zealand is a spectacular country to visit at any time of year. However, the 36th America’s Cup in March 2021 and its lead-up events starting with its World Series this December welcome you to explore the country during its stunning summer, when there’s typically plenty of sunshine and pleasant on-land temperatures of 20-25°C.
Aotearoa (‘long white cloud’) is a country proud of its indigenous culture, with English and Maori the official languages. It offers clean air and a colourful array of landscapes and seascapes to explore across and around its North and South Islands.
About a sixth of New Zealanders identify as Maori; visitors can enjoy cultural programmes and experiences © ATEED
Natural wonders range from giant shifting sand dunes and the iconic Bay of Islands at the top of the country, volcanic and geothermal areas around Rotorua, down to the South Island’s 500km-long Southern Alps, capped by the 3,724m Mount Cook (Aoraki), with glaciers flowing from its sides.
Cruising yachts are in their element in New Zealand, which has 15,000km of coastline and 600 islands to explore. Although most of the sailing is in the North Island, the most spectacular scenery is on the South Island, where you’ll also find the Marlborough Sounds and its many inlets and waterways in the north, while the majestic fjords of Fiordland National Park are down in the southwest.
New Zealand offers spectacular dining, in both the north and south © ATEED
New Zealand delights the taste buds, producing stunning local food and wine, as grapes seem to happily grow all over the country. You’ll find award-winning vineyards on both main islands, along with a vast river network and 3,820 freshwater lakes, led by the 616sqkm Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island.
Fittingly for a nation that’s home to Queenstown, ‘Adventure Capital of the World’, New Zealand offers a head-spinning range of action both coastal and inland. On land there’s spectacular golf, hiking and biking plus skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Parachuting and paragliding are among air-based thrills, while water-based activities include scuba diving, fishing, white-water rafting and kayaking.
Paddle boarding around Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city © ATEED
In fact, oceangoing canoes (waka) were used by Polynesians to travel across the Pacific to New Zealand from about 1320 onwards, with the first human arrivals establishing themselves as the Maori almost 450 years before British Captain James Cook and his crew landed in 1769.
We now welcome today’s yachting experts to be your cruising guides to this amazing country.
CRUISING IN NEW ZEALAND
Captain Andy Grocott is master on The Beast, a rugged New Zealand-built expedition catamaran measuring a solid 39m (129ft) by 12m (39ft) and notable for its camouflage-grey exterior.
Built for action, this charter yacht offers guests a whopping 4,000sqft of living space and lots of toys including a 48ft sports fishing boat, 30ft amphibious tender and full scuba diving gear. It also offers a journey into the distinct yachting experience to be found in New Zealand.
Captain Andy Grocott of The Beast details New Zealand’s four best cruising grounds
“As well as the country’s natural and cultural beauty, cruising here creates a completely different atmosphere on board compared to the Med or the Caribbean. It’s a genuine yacht cruise and not a restaurant run,” Grocott says.
“There are no shops, few towns, we are away from the crowds and stay in stunningly peaceful anchorages. All meals are enjoyed together on board or sometimes on the beach. That’s what I cherish most about being a charter captain in New Zealand. I haven’t found this experience anywhere else.”
Grocott has explored New Zealand’s waters on different yachts and recommends the following four main cruising grounds (see areas in three and four in Part Two).
NORTH ISLAND: AUCKLAND & HAURAKI GULF
New Zealanders love the water and Auckland has the highest ratio of boats per capita in the world, hence its nickname ‘City of Sails’. Many famous sailors learned to sail in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, the setting for the 36th America’s Cup and many of the supporting events.
“We most often pick up guests in Auckland as there is easy access from the airport, excellent logistics and we do all our provisioning there,” Grocott says.
Waiheke Island is one of many stunning anchorages and cruising grounds in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf © ATEED
Hauraki Gulf offers sensational cruising with lots of anchorages and sights including Waiheke Island, the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island.
“All places feature great walks ashore, excellent fishing and protected bays for watersports,” he says. “Distances are 20-30nm, offering relaxed day trips to great anchorages. Guests can easily spend several days here with a different experience around each corner.”
NORTH ISLAND: BAY OF ISLANDS & NORTHLAND
The Bay of Islands and its turquoise waters are a gorgeous 120nm voyage up the coast to Northland, the northernmost of the country’s 16 regions. There are many places to stop along the way. Halfway along the route, Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve is a world-famous destination for scuba divers, with a choice of over 50 different dive sites in clear waters, stunning underwater scenery and abundant underwater life.
New Zealand’s most popular cruising destination, Bay of Islands is home the Millennium Cup superyacht regatta © Jeff Brown
Bay of Islands is New Zealand’s most popular cruising ground with scenic bays, many islands, beautiful beaches and pleasant historical villages like Russell with its iconic Duke of Marlborough Hotel.
Guests who choose to start their journey in Bay of Islands can either fly 40 minutes from Auckland to Kerikeri Airport or take a helicopter ride to the beach and hop into the tender.
Bay of Islands is also home to many dolphins © Jeff Brown
About a sixth of New Zealand’s 4.9 million population identify as Maori and this area has plenty of Maori history and culture to explore, such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and museum. You can ask to visit a marae (Maori meeting ground), while Grocott often organises a hangi (Maori method of cooking in a pit) on the beach and sometimes even a cultural Maori experience on board.
Heading further north, sheltered Whangaroa Harbour is relatively close to the exclusive Kauri Cliffs Golf Course and not far from Cavalli Islands, which has nice beaches and anchorages, great fishing and superb scuba diving on the Rainbow Warrior wreck.
The Bay of Islands also features top-class vineyards and wineries, as does much of New Zealand © Alistair Guthrie
“And if you continue all the way over the top,” Grocott adds, “I suggest stopping at Three Kings Islands for some unreal big-game fishing or walk the shifting Giant Sand Dunes in Cape Reinga.”
Read Part Two for the South Island and details of local operators