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New Zealand’s Sights & Sounds: South Island


Yacht Style concludes a two-part feature on New Zealand with the South Island, as local experts explain the amazing array of cruising options for visitors to the America’s Cup host nation. By Marieke Derks.

Situated at the top of the South Island, the Marlborough Sounds are a network of drowned valleys, islands, coves, bays and beaches © Rob Suisted



Marlborough Sounds is at the northern tip of the South Island, west of Wellington across the Cook Strait. Captain Andy Grocott, master on the 39m expedition catamaran The Beast, says relocating the yacht here is often done without guests on board. The distance from Auckland down the east coast is about 500nm and smaller superyachts may need a reasonable weather window to cross seas that larger yachts can plough through.


“There are a few stops along the way, but for guests there’s not so much to see or do from the water,” says Grocott, who also says yachts visiting the Bay of Islands and the very north could consider cruising down the North Island’s west coast depending on the weather.

New Zealand's Sights & Sounds: North Island | Yacht Style

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.

Click above to read the first article, including cruising suggestions for the North Island.


Marlborough Sounds’ myriad bays offer an estimated 1,500km of coastline and encompass pristine native forest with 800-year old towering rimu trees, lush ponga tree ferns – or silver ferns – native orchids, farmland and forestry.


Kayaks are a great way of exploring this intricate maze of waterways, while on land there’s the historical Queen Charlotte Track, a 70km trail connecting Queen Charlotte Sound to the Kenepuru Sound that’s renowned for its stunning views and contrasting landscapes.


Biking is another great activity in the Marlborough region, also renowned for producing three-quarters of New Zealand’s wine © Marlborough NZ


Day hikes and bike rides can be organised with drop offs and pickups by water, while a visit to picturesque Picton can be planned along with a short drive to the wine region of Marlborough for an afternoon of sampling wines and local produce.



It’s another 600nm to reach the Fiordland National Park on the South Island’s southwest corner, a region with deep majestic fjords, towering cliffs and mountains, numerous waterfalls and breathtaking scenery.


An alternative for visitors is to sail along the South Island’s east coast, where potential stops along the way include cities like Christchurch and Dunedin, before considering the chance to explore southerly Stewart Island before heading back up to Fiordland.


Over The Top offers helicopter tours around Fiordland and the Queenstown area in the South Island’s spectacular southwest


If time’s short, crew can take the yacht down the west coast, which is spectacular but offers few places to stop. Charter guests, for example, can fly to Queenstown and take a breathtaking helicopter ride across the Southern Alps right into Milford Sound or Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound.


Alternatively, those who have sailed around the coast can helicopter into Queenstown to explore this spectacular lakeside resort town featuring luxury lodges, wineries, excellent restaurants, world-class golf courses, and numerous adrenalin-based activities and adventures.


For scuba divers, diving in Fiordland is a treat and should there be time to visit Stewart Island, diving is also a must. “Stewart
Island offers pristine sandy beaches and great hiking, fishing and scuba diving,” he says. “Most of the island is national park and it’s the place to see kiwi birds in their natural habitat.”


A highlight of Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) is arguably New Zealand’s most spectacular natural attraction © Will Patino


The four main cruising grounds all offer lots of sheltered anchorages, Grocott says. Prevailing winds in the summer (December-February) are easterlies, although some passing weather systems can last for a few days, which means smaller superyachts may need to plan for longer passages.


Grocott warns: “Sometimes a swell from the east makes the east-facing beaches less accessible by tender and being in the Southern Ocean means you need to be prepared for the weather to change quickly.”



Fleur Tomlinson, Charter Director at 37South, manages New Zealand-based yachts like The Beast, Sea Breeze III, Yonder Star and the new Rua Moana.


“We can easily build an itinerary for one, two or three weeks or longer depending on the client’s wishes,” Tomlinson says. “When clients want to experience both the North Island and South Island, we can make suggestions for on-land stays and excursions while the yacht is relocating. Normally the relocation from the North Island to South Island takes about a week.”


Paragliding is one of New Zealand’s many adrenalin-fuelled activities © Colin Watts/Unsplash


On land, guests can choose from a great network of luxury accommodation, wineries, culinary experiences and breathtaking golf courses such as Tara Iti and Kauri Cliffs in Northland, Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay, and The Hills and Millbrook Resort near Queenstown, to name a few.


Tomlinson adds: “While on the North Island, consider a visit to the geothermal area of Rotorua with its boiling mud pools and geysers, Maori villages or a heli-tour over one of the world’s most active volcanic regions. Then there are the glow worm caves of Waitomo, the quirky cafés of Wellington, and if you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, a visit to Hobbiton will be on your list.”


If you have time before joining or re-joining your boat on the South Island, you can consider a ride on the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch, crossing the Southern Alps including Arthur’s Pass National Park before finishing in Greymouth on the west coast.



Whether you visit New Zealand with your own yacht, wish to book a charter or plan to charter out your yacht, “planning ahead of time is highly recommended,” says Duthie Lidgard, Director of Catalano Shipping Services New Zealand, which is managing berth allocation for visiting yachts during the America’s Cup as the endorsed superyacht agent for Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.


The golden colours around Arrowtown near Queenstown © David Wall


“We encourage captains to contact us early in order to detail their requirements for itineraries and line up the paperwork and
procedures for visas, quarantine and permits,” Lidgard says.


“There are different requirements for yachts of different lengths and tonnage regarding pilotage and access to protected areas, while hull cleaning is required for certain areas because of biosecurity. A lot can be arranged, but we need to start in good time. We also provide fast-track visa processing for owners, guests and crew not from a visa-exempt country.”


NZ Marine, which represents the country’s yachting industry, has created a good overview of regulations that can be downloaded from their website, although Lidgard encourages captains to contact him in person. “We can even advise captains who have cruised New Zealand and know the area well, as regulations have changed.”


A beach in Moeraki, a fishing town on the South Island’s east coast © Miles Holden


Tomlinson also stresses early contact – from six weeks to three months, to be safe – for those wishing to operate charters in New Zealand waters as a foreign-flagged vessel as there’s “paperwork and survey work to schedule with NZ Marine ahead of time”.


As a final reassurance, Lidgard emphasises that the country offers great facilities and expertise for maintenance and refit,
highlighting the New Zealand chapter in the 2020/21 Superyacht Services Guide for Pacific, Australia and Asia as a comprehensive guide to local yacht services.


Resources and contacts:

37South – Fleur Tomlinson, Charter Director, Catalano Shipping Services NZ – Duthie Lidgard, Managing Director,

NZ Marine –,



Marieke Derks, Zara Tremlett and Bert van Muylwijk form the Superyacht Services Guide’s author team for Asia, the Indian Ocean and Australia. The SSG features personal recommendations from professional yacht captains and crew for
the best services used around the world, not only to run a superyacht but to receive owners and guests, and to live and work on board as crew. The quick-search online directory is regularly updated, fast-tracking users to the most reliable, efficient and effective services available globally.