Cruising New Zealand — Not your average Pacific island

5 January 2012 By Jeanette Tobin

You don’t have to look very hard to find pristine cruising, fun fishing and divine diving as well as vineyards, ski resorts, glaciers, thermal spas, stunning alpine scenery and a diverse range of activities to fill your guests’ days in and around New Zealand.  

Start your northern charters with the plethora of sheltered bays and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. One of the larger islands, Waiheke is just 14 kilometres from the heart of Auckland city, a perfect for incoming guests from out of town. Home to many of New Zealand's successful artists, Waiheke has a long-standing art focus. And with more than a dozen high-quality vineyards, Waiheke is a wine lover's delight. Just a short distance from Waiheke lay many fishing and diving areas of the Noisey’s, Rakino, Rangitoto and Kawau islands.  

Northeast of Waiheke Island lays Great Barrier Island. This sparsely populated 285sqkm island is one of the few untouched, unspoiled locales remaining in the world. Over 60 percent of the island is national park, so be sure guests bring their walking boots. The island’s forests are laced with over 100km of tracks catering for every level of fitness, from a 30-minute gentle walk to the geothermal waters of the Kaitoke Hot Springs to a day tramp to the island's highest point, Mount Hobson (621m) and the historic Kauri dams.

South of Great Barrier are the Mercury Islands, the Alderman Islands and Tauranga Harbour. The Mercury Islands offer spectacular rock pinnacles, caves and drop-offs in eight- to 30-meter visibility. The underwater terrain is exceptionally varied throughout the Islands.

The Aldermans host similar underwater geographic features and exceptional sealife. Big game fish are often seen along the drop-offs, which make this area great for guests with a taste for fishing. Tairua Reef sits offshore approximately 22km and boasts stands of black coral and enchanting schools of fish.

Heading south, Tauranga provides access to New Zealand’s active marine volcano, White Island. Charter a helicopter inland and send guests to the Waitomo Caves to go caving.

The towns of Rotorua — the cultural capital of New Zealand — and Taupo — New Zealand’s largest lake and trout fishing mecca — are a stone’s throw away. Book guests in for a lunch at Huka Lodge, New Zealand’s premier luxury retreat.  

While traveling north from Great Barrier Island up the eastern coast of the North Island, stop off at the Poor Knights Marine Reserve. The Poor Knights Islands were named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. They are influenced by a warm current that originates in the Coral Sea, north of Australia. Water temperature is higher and visibility significantly greater than nearby coastal waters. Underground caves, tunnels and archways are home to an extraordinary variety seaweeds and dense populations of friendly, colorful fish.  The mixture of tropical and subtropical sea life, and the clarity of the water, result in an underwater environment truly unique on this planet.

A half-day north is the Bay of Islands, which has one of the best maritime parks in New Zealand with 144 islands and bays. Russell, Opua, Paihia, Waitangi and Kerikeri islands make up this world-renowned tourist destination.

The final harbor north is Whangaroa Harbour and has, without doubt, one of the most productive marlin fishing grounds in New Zealand. Whangaroa is world renown for its spectacular scenery, safe anchorage and the largest striped marlin population in the world.  Whangaroa is used as a launching point to the Three Kings and Middlesex Bank fishing areas.

Once your guests have finished their exploration up north, the South Island of New Zealand provides opportunities for cruising amidst spectacular scenery in remote areas.

The most popular and easily accessible is an area of sea-drowned valleys that form the Marlborough Sounds stretching from Tasman Bay to Cloudy Bay. The Sounds is an extensive region of inlets and bays amongst forest and national parks, much of which is inaccessible by road. It would be possible to lose a couple of weeks cruising the Sounds without anchoring in the same bay twice.

To the west of the sounds are Tasman Bay and Golden Bay, which stretch up to the northwestern tip of the south island. The shores of Golden Bay are in places long sandy beaches. Tasman Bay incorporates the Abel Tasman National Park, which have sheltered anchorages allowing further exploration of the park by tender or kayak.

For those looking to relax, tour through the vineyards and wineries of the Marlborough region. The Marlborough area is the country’s most famous wine region and produces a range of sauvignon blanc that is considered by many European wine critics to be the best in the world.  

A passage around the Cape Farewell at north western tip of the island and then on down the west coast for around 350nm will bring the more adventurous yachtsman to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound in the Fiordland region. Fiordland, carved up by the action of glaciers in the ice age, was listed as a United Nations World Heritage site in 1990 and has some of the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand.  

Those seeking a more adrenalin-stimulating experience should head to Queenstown, a mecca for extreme sports aficionados. Queenstown and nearby Wanaka have world-class ski fields. Resorts offer activities such as mountain biking and hiking, popular in the summer months, and paragliding, hang gliding and fishing popular year round. For thrill seekers Queenstown is home to a couple of bungee jumping sites in spectacular surroundings, tandem free-fall parachute jumps and jet boat rides over rapids. The stunning alpine scenery enhances all of the activities adding another dimension to the enjoyment.

North of Queenstown is another amazing natural feature, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Guests can explore glaciers from one of the many walking tracks in the region or by helicopter.

Now with Pilot Exemption Certification for Masters in the main ports of Auckland, Bay of Islands, Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland easier to obtain, cruising issues have just been streamlined. Charter Permits also now can be obtained from Maritime New Zealand for chartering in New Zealand. Permits are valid for two years.

Wherever you travel in New Zealand, you will see spectacular scenery, from the glaciers to the alpine regions and rolling plains to rugged fiords and long, white sandy beaches.  Your guests will be blown away by what New Zealand has to offer.

For more information on cruising in New Zealand, contact Jeanette Tobin of Superyacht Support Ltd at; +64 (0) 21 2430233.

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