Aotearoa, the Maori name for New Zealand, translates to ‘land of the long white cloud’. Yes we did see some long white clouds along with plenty of sunshine too. Yeah!
We’ve spent 3 months cruising the waters around islands off the North Island and the tip of the South Island. Incredible scenery, heritage sites, lovely white and golden sand beaches, wildlife, beautiful coves and a raw natural coastline dotted with incredible foliage and small islands have given us plenty to see and do.
Auckland and North
From Christmas through to mid January NZ businesses shut down and everyone goes on holiday heading out to enjoy the water and natural scenery. Over this time period the weather was amazing so some of the outer islands in the North Island that we went to were busy with boaters. Great to see lots of boats out and about.
Pretty cool to be anchored off a vineyard estate at Waiheke Island where we enjoyed going ashore for tastings pre the New Years celebrations. Man of War bay was a busy place with people going ashore for a drink but boat traffic seemed to move daily. There’s lots of bays all around Waiheke to anchor, go ashore for walks or even to enjoy a meal at the main town; Oneroa on the island.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) maintain a number of walks and hikes throughout NZ, which typically takes you on an adventure through natural forests with giant Kauri trees in the far North and ferns or along cliff tops to see amazing views. While out at Great Barrier Island we decided we had to hike up to a lookout to see the views and from Maungapiko Lookout we could see as far as the top of the Coromandel Peninsular where we had anchored previously.
While on Great Barrier we were able to enjoy the Port Fitzroy Mussel festival with local music and a variety of mussels to taste. Yummo!
Bay of Islands (BOI)
Summer of 2018 we had spent a lot of time in the BOI’s so returned to a few of our favorite islands. Friends, from SV No Rehearsal; Daryl & Annie, who we’d met in the Bahamas had arrived into NZ and contacted us for a catch up in Kerikeri. We all anchored off Kerikeri marina and watched the evening sailing races then went into the restaurant for fresh fish n chips and to enjoy the views over the bay.
The Tall ships Regatta in Russell in the BOI’s saw lots of different boats out sailing during the day, a hangi (traditional meal cooked in the ground) for dinner and partying into the evening. A lot of fun.
While in Opua we cycled the old railway line to Kawakawa (11km) and back, which was an easy flat ride along a river estuary, over bridges and thru an underground tunnel. Why Kawakawa; well we were told you can’t miss the public washrooms made of colorful mosaic tiles by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser who lived in the town and gifted them to the town.
Anchored off the Kerikeri cruising club we took the dinghy up the river to The Stone Store, which has been trading since 1836 and still is. The town of Kerikeri was perfect for getting groceries as there were 2 supermarkets and a nice walk from the Stone Store.
Having been to the Cavallis and Whangaparaoa Harbour in 2018 we continued moving further north where we found a couple of deserted anchorages with nice beaches and sand dunes.
As a high ridge developed over the north island we saw this as a good weather window to go up around the Northern Capes. Rounding North Cape we were approx 1/2 mile off shore and found a reasonable anchorage at Tapotupotu Bay about 2 miles from Cape Reinga. It had a bit of swell rolling into the bay but a good nights sleep set us on our way for slack tide the next morning with the current changing and helping us out around Columbia and Pandora banks. Pretty uneventful thank goodness.
Down the West coast we had 1 to 1.5m seas with a East push and S to SW winds so were able to sail part of the trip and motor sail a portion with a rhumb line towards Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island. 3 days with great fishing where 5 Albacore Tuna joined the crew filling our freezer.
We sailed right to Abel Tasman in the end as the winds got up at the end of Farewell Spit and it would have been a hard motor into Golden Bay with 30 knots on the nose. We settled on the marine reserve of Tonga Island and were not disappointed. Onetahuti Bay was a perfect anchorage with plenty to do and see. A hike on a portion of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track to Awaroa Beach (11km return) gave us beautiful views and good exercise.
Lots of sea ferries dropped people off along the coast for hiking and kayaking so we decided we needed to get the kayaks out too. The kayak trip north to Shag Harbour was awesome as we spotted lots of different birds and 13 seals one way.
The huge boulders along the coast were impressive and Shag Harbour was fun to kayak through with a dropping tide. The landscape down here is dense bush great for shelter on the coastal walking tracks and the water is clear and a green colour.
Lots of beautiful horse shoe shaped bays to choose from and because of the Abel Tasman Coastal hiking track there are campgrounds on most beaches. Bark Bay was very picturesque and a great anchorage to get ashore and walk the track.
It was then down to Torrent Bay (The Anchorage) where we hiked the Abel Track again to the suspension bridge Falls River Bridge with great views down the coast towards Nelson. Both Torrent Bay (The Anchorage) and Adel Island our next anchorage were popular with the local yachts.
The tides were big, 5 metres when we were in the Abel Tasman. In the morning we kayaked through a river estuary at Torrent Bay and in the afternoon we hiked the track walking through the river estuary which was now dry (below right). Very strange.Nelson
In Nelson we caught up with my friend Jeanette who I knew when I lived in London, England. Perfect timing for Jeanette & Glen with helpers ,as they’d just bought a boat, so they had us gear up and help get Wairoa Nui ready for painting and anti-fouling.
Alas there were 2 forest fires while we were in Nelson 1 of which got out of control very quickly from the dry landscape bringing in 21 helicopters and fire crews from around the area. People and animals were evacuated and the fire spread to over 2000ha.
The second fire was started in the hills opposite the marina so not a lot got done on J’s boat. Given the close proximity to the first fire, helicopter crews were diverted to sort it before it reached Nelson town. 5 helicopters and 2 crop planes. Just incredible watching how they all worked together to put this fire out. The helicopters used monsoon buckets and given Brett had been involved in the development of fire buckets in Canada he was very interested. We definitely had front row seats for watching.
It wasn’t all fires in Nelson we did get the opportunity to climb to the “Center of New Zealand” to see the views over Nelson and ride our bikes around town and the waterfront. Lots of history here and the place had a great vibe about it.
After passing thru French Pass at slack tide we hiked up the road to see the tide turn. This pass has a reputation for being nasty what with all the eddies being created and the water being pushed thru the deep skinny channel.
The Pelorus Sound is the longest sound of 4 within Marlborough Sounds with deep water coves and pretty secluded bays with huge mountains surrounding you wherever you go. Alas these mountains seem to have the wind funnel down them making sailing a little frustrating as the wind seemed to be on the nose a lot here. The mountains were stunning as a backdrop for our anchorages with mussel farms everywhere.
Havelock at the very end of Pelorus Sound is the mussel capital and what with seeing all the mussel farms in the bay’s we couldn’t miss a trip in for fresh mussels; yummo!
Would have been nice to go into the Queen Charlotte Sound and over to Wellington but with Cyclone Oma knocking on the door mid February and no access at the Wellington marinas due to a sailing regatta we scurried back thru French Pass to Nelson Marina, which was good as they could accommodate us.
Back in Nelson
Hanging out in Nelson was great as Jeanette & Glen were perfect hosts feeding us, taking us to quite a few local craft breweries (no complaints here), a tour of the opening of the PIC peanut butter factory (yum), sending us on our way to cycle part of the Great Taste Trail, and just hanging out enjoying the town. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Cyclone Oma decided to continue on towards Australia and then back to the North so the only impact to NZ was winds and swell in Northland and on the East Coast of NZ. Oh well we had fun in Nelson.
Returning to the Bay of Islands
We had wanted to circumnavigate the North Island but were starting to run out of time as our 3 months were coming up and we had to fly out for a visa run. While in Nelson the East Coast of the North Island had been windy with a decent swell what with the impact of Cyclone Oma and we couldn’t see a weather window in the next week. We really needed another month to enjoy the East Coast and Bay of Plenty and as we were in Nelson it was over 200nm shorter to return up the West Coast.
Fishing was good again so no complaints from us. Had a pod of about 20 dolphins play with us, which is always fun to watch. Rounding Cape Reinga at slack again meant a good fast trip across the top with tide in our favour and down through the Cavalli Islands with its crystal clear water, which was a treat. The Bay of Islands is definitely a pretty area with a good variety in anchorages and it was nice to be back.
For us sailing in New Zealand has been about:
– enjoying beautiful scenery in some very busy anchorages especially in the North Island
– managing wind against tide so we don’t have a chop or eddies to deal with which slow your speed
– managing between 1.5 and a 5 meter tide change; in the Abel Tasman with the King Tides
– managing weather forecasts, which are typically pretty good unless there is a complex low then everyone’s baffled and predictions are not confident
We had an excellent 3 months cruising and were very happy with the changes we made to our boat over NZs winter. We really needed more time as its a big cruising ground. Oh well next time!