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New Zealand’s Sights & Sounds: South Island

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.


New Zealand’s Sights & Sounds: North Island

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.



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).



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.”



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


New Zealand Packs Calendar Around 36th America’s Cup

New Zealand Packs Calendar Around 36th America’s Cup


Yacht Style looks at the array of regattas, competitions, meetings, parties and other events scheduled around the 36th America’s Cup, at the same time as the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland celebrates its 150th anniversary. 

By Marieke Derks

After the 2017 win in Bermuda, Emirates Team New Zealand parades the America’s Cup by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (also below), the trophy’s new home

Good news arrives from New Zealand as I am interviewing Linda Berry, Managing Director of The Superyacht Gathering. The New Zealand government has not only decided to welcome the America’s Cup Teams and their boats into the country but also to open country’s borders again for superyachts intending to do maintenance or refit in New Zealand.

Contrary to Australia, where sea borders remained open for visiting superyachts and their captains and crew throughout Covid-19, New Zealand opted for a stricter approach to fight the virus. 

The announcement came as a big relief to New Zealanders, America’s Cup teams and their global fanbase. It was also encouraging for yacht owners, guests, crew and sailing enthusiasts planning to follow or attend the plethora of sailing events in New Zealand from this December through next March.

Aaron Young, Chair AC36 and Vice Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the America’s Cup holder, comments: “The RNZYS was certainly very happy to hear of the border restrictions allowing AC36 teams and is working on the superyacht visiting process.

“These visitors to New Zealand will bring a welcome boost to our economy. Aside from adding to all the maritime events in 2021, the greater marine industry will welcome yachts for refits and maintenance given the expertise New Zealand has in this field.”

Peter Busfield, Executive Director of NZ Marine, New Zealand’s marine industry association, was also delighted with the decision. 

“Normally between 30-40 superyachts cruise in New Zealand for the high season, but this time we had a total of 160 wanting to join us for the events and further cruising. And although it is hard to predict how Covid-19 will evolve over the next months, the decision to allow AC36 teams is a great step towards making this all happen.” 

The Kiwis have lined-up an impressive array of 20-plus waterbased events and a large number of on-land events from December to March – before, during and after the 36th America’s Cup when Emirates Team New Zealand will be defending the trophy they won back in 2017 in Bermuda by beating defender Oracle Team USA. 

“Sailing in New Zealand is an inclusive sport and leisure time activity,” says Michelle Khan, Major Event Organiser at the RNZYS and a keen sailor herself.

“Together with sponsors, people in the yachting industry and many volunteers, we are creating a series of events to everyone’s liking. We are celebrating our ocean, the freedom of boating and excitement of being on the water. Don’t forget, it’s also the club’s 150th anniversary.” 

This country of great natural beauty has sailing in its veins. Many famous Kiwi sailors learned to sail on Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, the setting for the America’s Cup and many of the other events. Almost every populated area in New Zealand is close to water. The country has 15,000km of coastline (the ninth-longest of any country), 600 islands and 3,820 freshwater lakes. 

Khan explains there are boating events planned for everyone: for sailors with and without boats, owners of everything from small sailing dinghies to megayachts, and captains, crew, spectators, and any other sailing and water enthusiasts. 

“By removing barriers and sharing our love for the sea and for boating, we would like to involve as many people and hearts as we can,” Khan says. “It does not get better than this!”


With so much happening in so many places, here’s a round-up of the main events. 

After building, testing and refining their boats in their home waters, the challenger AC36 teams can now ship the yachts and teams over to New Zealand for further preparations. The 23m carbon-fibre AC75 boats are handled by a crew of 11 sailors with a maximum weight of 960-990kg. Twin canting T-foils sticking out like spider legs raise the hull out of the water and a mast of 26.5m above deck carries the max 400sqm sail surface that can take the boats flying over water up to 50 knots (almost 100kmh). Due to Covid-19, the World Series in Auckland in December will be the first time they race their spectacular, elegant foiling monohulls. The Prada Challenger Series in January and February will produce the final challenger to take on defender Emirates Team New Zealand during the Finals from March 6-21. Best of all, Young says, “the racing will be able to be viewed from the shore and the city itself, as it’s happening in Auckland Harbour”.

 The America’s Cup features the 75ft AC75 foiling monohulls

A festive day for all, the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta is held each year to celebrate the birthday of the City of Sails, with watercraft of all shapes and sizes putting to the water across the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf under paddle, sail and steam power. This will be the 181st edition of this much-loved event.

Organised by the Royal Prince Albert Yacht Club together with RNZYS, the 1,250nm category 1 ocean regatta starts in Sydney Harbour on January 30 and finishes in Auckland Harbour in time to help the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron celebrate its 150th anniversary. It’s open to offshore cruising and racing yachts, superyachts and ocean racing multihulls, and also incorporates a rally for cruisers. 

Billed as the ‘world’s first superyacht fishing competition’, the event takes place 120nm (220 km) north of the AC36 venue in scenic Bay of Islands, one of New Zealand’s most popular cruising grounds. A sporty and fun event for yacht owners and guests who will go out on fishing tenders for the winning catch.

The 23rd edition of the famous Millennium Cup regatta is run from the historic village of Russell, gateway to the Bay of Islands. Organised by the Russell Boating Club and NZ Marine, the Millennium Cup is the world’s southernmost regatta and among a series of global superyacht regattas for yachts over 25m. The iconic Duke of Marlborough Hotel is the beating heart of the on-land part of this prestigious regatta. Some fun competitions are not to be missed, like the Tawera Rum Barrel Challenge skiff race.

February’s New Zealand Millennium Cup in the Bay of Islands is among several exciting superyacht events held around the 36th America’s Cup in early 2021; the Tawera Rum Barrel Challenge skiff race is part of the Millennium Cup

Held just days ahead of the AC36 Finals, the RNZYS-organised superyacht regatta will take place in the heart of the Hauraki Gulf, offering more brilliant sailing, amazing scenery and Kiwi hospitality as part of the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations. After a welcome function on February 23, there are four days of racing and a final prizegiving party.

Auckland’s most fun regatta has 300 dinghies and foiling boats on the water and is open to anyone, including hangers-on, yacht crew, superyacht owners and guests, and who knows … maybe some of the foiling boats that did not make it to the finals?

A festive day for all, the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta is held each year to celebrate the birthday of the City of Sails, with watercraft of all shapes and sizes putting to the water across the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf under paddle, sail and steam power. This will be the 181st edition of this much-loved event.


For lovers of sailing history, there are two classics regattas on the menu. The RNZYS International Classics Regatta includes local and international classic vessels, while the 100th Lipton Cup could see Mullet Boats (traditional fishing boats) of all sizes coming out of the woodwork. The trophy was donated by Sir Thomas Lipton and was crafted by the same silversmith as the America’s Cup.

Good things happen when people truly connect, care and share. That is the adage of The Superyacht Gathering. Linda Berry, Commercial Director and co-founder of the event, says: “We offer an intimate, small-scale event for people who want to make a difference and do good for our oceans and coastal communities.” The three-day event starts with a meet-and-greet evening, features a symposium in Auckland, and concludes with a joint breakfast with RNZYS giving an AC36 presentation, then a leisurely lunch at Waiheke Island. “It’s so different to other superyacht events,” Berry says. “It almost feels like a group hug.”

Designed by sailors for sailors, the Auckland Regatta is a joint initiative between the RNZYS and Bucklands Beach Yacht Club. The regatta includes multiple divisions and features windwardleeward racing and longer harbour courses. For sailors who don’t have their own boats, the Pacific Keel Boat Challenge also returns and is an invitational fleet racing event for 10 leading yacht clubs, classes or crews.


Here are some key contacts for enquiries:

  • If you wish to visit with your yacht and attend any events, Duthie Lidgard, Director of Superyacht Support and RNZYS-endorsed agent for AC36 events, advises to contact him as early as possible to discuss berthing, itineraries and cruising
  • To learn more about chartering in New Zealand, Fleur Tomlinson, Charter Director of 37 South, has itineraries and yachts available for charter before, during and after AC36 and related
  • One of the more exciting New Zealand-based charter options isThe Beast, a 39m camouflage-hulled catamaran explorer with over 370sqm of living space and diverse itineraries. Contact:


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. Some Captains say the SSG is ‘by far the most used publication on board’.

The original article first appeared in Yacht Style Issue 54 (Charter Issue 2020) – see below: 

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Yacht Style Issue 54 Out Now: The Charter Issue 2020 - LUXUO

Yacht Style has released Issue 54 (July-August), its Charter Issue for 2020. Flying Fox, the world's largest charter yacht, stars on the front cover of the 208-page magazine, as the 136m megayacht prepares to return to Asia later this year.