With the wind in your sails

With nearly 16,000 km (or 10,000 miles) of coastline, it’s almost impossible to escape the sea in New Zealand. But with stunning bays and islands, sheltered harbours, mountain fiords and lakes, who would want to avoid it?

Auckland Anniversary Weekend Regatta, Hauraki Gulf New Zealand caters for experienced sailors, as well as beginners, and experiences can range from guided day trips and short sailing courses, to yacht charters several weeks long, with or without a crew.

Many of the country’s idyllic, out-of-the-way places are best accessed by boat – and Concierge NZ can advise you on where to go and, if you don’t have your own yacht, organise a charter for you. We can also provision your boat, arrange onshore activities, and source anything else you might need while you sail your way around our stunning coastline.

If you are considering a sailing holiday in New Zealand, here are the country’s top sailing spots…

Bay of Islands

An idyllic group of 144 islands in the ‘winterless’ north of the North Island, the Bay of Islands is rated as one of the world’s best cruising destinations. It’s usually the first port of call for hundreds of yachts dropping down from the tropics in the cyclone season.

Secluded white sand beaches are everywhere, and seafood – including snapper, John Dory, mussels and kina (sea urchin) - is plentiful. The region is also famed for its big game fishing - American novelist Zane Grey dubbed its waters "the angler’s El Dorado".

Every year, competitive yachties sail from Auckland to the Bay of Islands in the country’s most popular inshore race, the 120-mile Coastal Classic. This also makes a fantastic route for those on a sailing holiday.

The Bay of Islands is home to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in 1840, marking the birthplace of the New Zealand nation. The grounds house one of the world’s largest Maori ceremonial war canoes - on the water it requires 76-plus paddlers for safe voyage.

The Bay of Islands is also famed for tailor-made luxury experiences. Luxury resorts Eagle’s Nest and The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs offer world-class locations and award-winning service for those who would like a night on dry land. And for leisure, Kauri Cliffs’ internationally acclaimed golf course offers a tournament-standard, 18-hole course with panoramic ocean views.

Auckland & the Hauraki Gulf

Visitors to Auckland are often awestruck to find a maritime paradise so close to a major city. There are 47 islands dotted around the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park - some like Waiheke and the volcanic peak of Rangitoto are less than an hour away under sail.

Some of the islands, like Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier, are refuges for rare and endangered wildlife. Dolphins and blue penguins, and sometimes orca, can be seen in the sparkling waters of the Gulf.

Auckland itself is known the world over as the City of Sails - its harbours glitter with triangles of white sailcloth and visitors can even sail on two former America’s Cup boats.

But it is the cosmopolitan attractions of New Zealand’s largest city – museums, art galleries, boutique shopping, and some of the best dining in the country – that yachties really love. Sailing in the Hauraki Gulf means you can get away from it all, but not too far away from it all.

Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds, at the top of the South Island, is a labyrinth of islands, bays, coves and waterways fringed by native forest. It’s probably one of the world’s best-kept maritime secrets.

A collection of drowned river valleys, the Sounds are a sanctuary for some of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife - South Island robins, fur seals and the Hector’s, dusky, and bottlenose dolphins. Many seabirds, including a rare king shag found nowhere else in the world, nest on Marlborough’s offshore islands.

Marlborough is also famed for its food and wine, with the region’s 100-plus vineyards producing more than half of New Zealand’s wine. While Marlborough sauvignon blanc with its distinctive herbaceous notes is internationally recognised, other varieties such as chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, pinot gris and gewurztraminer are gaining ground.

Many Marlborough winery restaurants offer locally-sourced food to go with their wines. Visitors can explore the vineyards on self-drive, bicycle or guided tours, enjoy cellar door wine tastings from over 40 cellar doors, and alfresco dining.

The deep, clean waters of the Marlborough Sounds provide ideal conditions for farming New Zealand green shell mussels. Marlborough produces 80 percent of New Zealand’s aquaculture exports - king salmon, pacific oysters, paua (abalone), kingfish, and crayfish.

The Southern Fiords

Fiordland, in the south-west corner of the South Island, is like nowhere else in New Zealand, a World Heritage park with inlets from the Tasman Sea running into unspoilt, primeval forest and lakes gouged out by huge glaciers.

Marine life thrives in the fiords, which are home to bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, Fiordland crested and little blue penguins, and visiting whales.
In Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the "eighth wonder of the world", mountains rise out of the water, and boats can sail under huge rock overhangs and cascading waterfalls.

Milford’s high annual rainfall and distinctive narrow shape creates a fresh water layer on top of the seawater, allowing deep-water dwelling species to exist at a much shallower depth. Milford Sound Underwater Observatory and guided dive tours give visitors a glimpse of rare species such as the red and black corals.

Doubtful Sound is the deepest of the fiords (421m) and is three times longer and 10 times larger than Milford Sound. Boating here offers a truly remote, wilderness experience with wildlife encounters guaranteed.