We spent about 18 months in New Zealand, cruising and land-traveling. It is a paradise on earth. Here is some information that was current as of 2001.
**IMPORTANT NOTE: The information below is NOT intended to be complete, but rather is selective, opinionated, and reflects our own particular experience at the time.**
NZ Cruising Guides
We used the following cruising guides for New Zealand:
- Northland Coast Boaties Atlas, by David Thatcher, 1st ed. 2000. Published by Captain Teach Press, Auckland. Excellent cruising guide, with accurate chartlets, weather info, and radio info. Covers all anchorages, but has no foreign entry info.
- The Hauraki Gulf Boaties Atlas, by David Thatcher, 1st ed. 2000. Published by Captain Teach Press, Auckland. Excellent cruising guide of the many beautiful anchorages in the Hauraki Gulf (Whangaparaoa to Coromandel). No foreign entry info.
- The Boaties Book, yearly editions. Published by the Auckland Yacht and Boating Association, PO Box 2415, Auckland, New Zealand; 649-302-2030. This useful little pamphlet covers the Auckland area, including full details on tides, yachting events, clubs, and marinas.
- Destination New Zealand, edited by Graham Brice, 2d ed. 1995. Published by Destination NZ, PO Box 236, Whangarei, New Zealand; 649-438-9250. Covers foreign entry procedures and has much useful information on the ports of entry.
- Coastal Cruising Handbook, 8th (Millennium) ed. 1998. Published by Royal Akarana Yacht Club, PO Box 42-004, Orakei, Auckland 5, New Zealand; 649-524-9945. Covers all anchorages in the best cruising grounds of the North Island — from Three Kings Island at northern tip, down the eastern coast and islands, past Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, to Cape Kidnappers. Exhaustive text listings, but no illustrations. Does not cover foreign entry.
- The New Zealand Marine Radio Handbook is an essential guide to marine radio stations in this area, and especially useful for cruisers: http://www.marine-radio.co.nz.
- NZ Charts: Charts of NZ published in New Zealand (and available at Bluewater Books and Charts) are complete and significantly less expensive than DMA or British Admiralty charts of the area.
- Mail Order: For the very best price, order NZ charts and cruising guides directly from Boat Books (011-649-358-5691) or Trans-Pacific (011-649-303-1459), both in Auckland.
Weather & Radio Information
- Local Weather Forecasts: Weather conditions and forecast are broadcast round the clock on VHF 20 and 21 for Auckland area. Specialized broadcasts elsewhere are announced on Channel 16.
- Bob McDavitt and Met-Service: Weather guru for the South Pacific is Bob McDavitt, of New Zealand’s national weather service, Met-Service. Bob issues a free weekly “weathergram” via email to those who sign up. For US$50, Bob will email you a detailed, personalized 5-day weather forecast for your passage. Once your credit card details are on file, you can also get a quick answer to a weather question en route with his “5 minute $10” service. Contact him at 649-377-4831; fax 649-307-5993; email email@example.com.
- Mariner’s Met-Pack: An invaluable guide to understanding weather in the South Pacific region is Bob McDavitt’s spiral-bound book, Mariners Met Pack, from New Zealand’s national weather service. Published by Captain Teach Press, Auckland, and available from Boat Books (011-649-358-5691) or Trans-Pacific (011-649-303-1459), both in Auckland.
- Russell Radio: Des Renner at Russell Radio (phone and fax 649-402-7574) runs a great check-in system and regular weather reporting for yachts on passage to and from New Zealand. Des requests completion of a pre-passage registration form and a membership fee of NZ$30 (US$12.60).
- 4445 @ 0730-0900; 1900-2030
- 12353 @ 0915-0930; 1600-1630
- 12359 @ 0830-0915; 1630-1645
- SSB Nets: As of April 2001, cruiser-controlled nets are running daily for the NZ area on frequencies 12365 at 1900 UTC; 8131 at 0800 UTC; and 8131 at 2100 UTC. The Coconut Milk Run net from Tonga/Fiji to New Zealand is usually on 12365 at 1900 UTC. For Hams, the Pacific Seafarer’s Net has roll call on 14.313 USB at 1525 UTC. If you check in there on passage, they will post your position daily on their website for friends and relatives to follow.
- Website Weather: New Zealand; Fiji; Australia.
Entry Information: Current as of March 2001
Ports of Entry — North Island
Official North Island ports of entry are Auckland, Whangarei, Tauranga Bridge, and Opua (Bay of Islands). Most enter in Opua. We entered at Whangarei quickly and easily (see details below under “Whangarei”).
New Zealand Customs will issue a “Temporary Yacht Importation” upon arrival, good for one year. Renew by applying in writing to Mr. Jeff Bird, New Zealand Customs Service, P.O. Box 29, Auckland. Renewal will usually be granted in the case of ongoing repairs or boat re-fit. It is helpful to attach basic documentation of the ongoing work. Telephone: 649-359-6633.
New Zealand Immigration will issue USA & Canadian citizens automatic visa and permit on arrival, good for 1 year. It is possible to renew for an extra year (or more), but difficult to do in the very busy and cruiser-inundated Auckland office of NZ Immigration. Instead, during any travel south, stop in at the friendly office in Hamilton. Renewal was granted to us for a combination of factors (weather conditions, imminent cyclone season, safety issues, ongoing boat repairs, etc.) that argued against our leaving until the next proper weather cycle, 9 months from our original expiration Take passport, boat papers (incl NZ documents), a note from your marina about your ongoing boat work, proof of financial condition (bank statement, credit cards), and 2 visa photos for each crew member. It took us about 10 minutes to get our extension in Hamilton.
MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry)
On arrival, MAF will confiscate all of your fresh fruit & veg, popcorn, growing plants, honey, eggs and egg cartons, thawed meat, straw products, shells, genetically engineered products. Straw and shells will be treated and returned. Canned meat is generally OK to keep. Frozen, vacuum-packed meat from Venezuela was not confiscated from us, but we have been told that cruisers who cleared in at Opua were required to surrender all fresh and frozen meat, raw and cooked.
Cruisers must surrender firearms to local police upon entry for safekeeping until departure. EXCEPTION FOR RIFLES & SHOTGUNS: Apply for a Tourist Firearm License at most major regional police stations (Auckland Central is 649-379-4240) or at the Auckland airport. Show passport & descriptions of gun and ammunition; then show the license to retrieve your firearms and keep them on boat for the duration of your stay. With the license you may also buy firearms and ammunition in NZ. The license does not apply to handguns, which must be surrendered until departure.
GST (Goods & Services Tax)
Make many copies of your Temporary Yacht Importation document, because by giving one to a marine vendor from whom you buy equipment to be installed on the boat, you save the 12.5% Goods and Services Tax (GST). Failure to check out of NZ and leave its waters before the Temporary Yacht Importation expires results in being charged GST on the boat’s hull value, as reported to customs upon entry. As of this writing, it is not possible to apply for reimbursement of paid GST upon departure, as one would do in the EC.
- Telephone from USA to NZ: 011 + 64 (country code) + (area digit) + number. For example, Auckland’s area code is 9, so Auckland numbers are 011-649-xxx-xxxx.
- Telephone inside NZ: 0 + area code + number. For example, Auckland’s area code is 9, so Auckland numbers are 09-xxx-xxxx.
- Cell phones: Cheap and easy to buy “pre-pay” mobile with no contract. Time is renewable by credit card over the phone, or by buying “pre-pay” cards at post shops & elsewhere. The pre-pay phones are good only in New Zealand. Although you may hear otherwise, it is far more expensive to alter the chip to make the phone work in Australia than just to buy another one there.
- Long Distance Phone: Phone cards, available at post shops, come with a number that you can punch in from any phone. A particularly good bargain long-distance phone card is Ztalk (Zed-talk), 0500-6968-6968. For an ATT direct line to the USA, dial 000-911.
Internet & Email
- NZ Internet Service Providers: From least expensive to most, here are some local ISPs: Kiwinet (021-1874913 or firstname.lastname@example.org); Ihug (0800-438-448, 09-358-5067); and Xtra (0800-783-782). Cost is about $US10/month for unlimited access. The advantage to using a local provider is, of course, full Internet access with your laptop via a local phone call. Most marinas offer telephone lines at the dock.
- Whangarei: Internet cafe & post shop on second floor of white shopping “mall” on the quay in Town Basin.
- Gulf Harbour: Ripples Cafe allows use of its computer at an hourly charge. Kiwinet is located at 39 Cascaden Road , Shangri-La Gardens. Whangaparaoa Library at the Plaza has one terminal for hire. For laptop hookup, GH marina office offers use of a phone line for about a quarter per call. Phone lines are available at the dock. Phone plug adapters are available at electrical stores such as Dick Smith.
- Auckland: Internet Cafes about every 4 blocks, including in the IMAX Theatre complex.
- Exchange Rate: From November 1999 to April 2001, the exchange rate has fluctuated from .46 to .40. In other words, US$1 = between NZ$2.17 and 2.50. Since most services and retail goods cost on their face about the same in NZ as in the USA, an American dollar buys about twice what it would at home.
- Banking: Opening a checking account is handy given the length of time most cruisers stay. Banks will not accept checks in American dollars, though, so you must either wire money in or deposit currency. Ask for an “EFTPOS” (Electronic FInancial Transaction at Point of Sale) card, which is a debit card good at virtually all stores and ATM machines. Banks that seem to have a lot of branches are Bank of New Zealand and WestPac.
Most US “110/220” boats require a step-down transformer to pass electrical inspection at NZ marinas. Electricity is 240v, 50hz.
New Zealand is an excellent place for re-fits, repairs, and modifications — far better than Florida or Trinidad, in our experience. The work is top class and relatively inexpensive in comparison. All equipment, parts and spares are readily available.
New Zealand uses the “PAL” television system, whereas the American system is called “NTSC.” Neither system is compatible with the other. In other words, an American TV will not receive network or cable NZ television, and an American VCR will not play NZ videos. “Multi-system” TVs and VCRs that play both systems are available in New Zealand and Canada, or by mail order in the USA. Radio Shack sells a converter that can turn an American TV and VCR into a multi-system.
Cruising & Travel Generally
The scattered islands off the coast of the North Island of NZ, and particularly the Bay of Islands, have many lovely anchorages for cruising. Near mainland Auckland, however, marinas are the norm for a variety of reasons, including deep water, major tidal surge, regulations prohibiting anchored liveaboards, and the desire of most cruisers to do significant boat work and land travel (see note on Auckland marinas below).
On the South Island, there are few well-protected anchorages or marinas, except in the big ports (Christchurch, Dunedin, Marlborough Sound), and the weather is often . . . well, rotten. It is said to be extremely rewarding to take the boat to the South Island, but generally — despite several glorious and unique anchorages — more of a challenge than a pleasure. Accordingly, many cruisers leave the boat in a North Island marina and see the South Island by land travel. Most of the best parts are inland anyway. The car ferry from Wellington to the South Island offers large discounts for advance booking; NZ Tranz-Rail offers special passes, as well. Campervans and motor homes are cheap and plentiful. We backpacked several of the spectacular, multi-day bush-walking tracks on the South Island (contact the Department of Conservation for info), and it made a nice change from water activities.
During school holidays, expect virtually every anchorage on the North Island to be completely full with no room left to anchor, short of rafting. Kiwi families understandably love to cruise their spectacular country. At non-holiday periods, the anchorages become available again, and many are beautifully deserted.
Food & Provisioning
Food: We particularly enjoy NZ dairy products (fabulous cheeses and ice cream), lamb, green mussels, South Island salmon, “Lisa’s Hummous,” Indian food, and Thai food. Mexican food lovers, though, are completely out of luck. We keep trying just one more Mexican restaurant, and it always breaks our hearts. Major Warning: they make margaritas here with lemon juice (instead of lime) and no sugar. Grocery stores stock most American items, or a tasty alternative, and the fruit and veg are superb. Paper and plastic products (trash bags, paper towels, etc.) are available at low cost. As of this writing, however, there is no Costco or similar store in the Auckland area. The closest substitutes are the Pak-n-Save in Albany for food, and the Warehouse in Whangaparaoa for non-food provisions. One More Warning: all hamburgers and sandwiches come with buttered bread and beets on them unless you specify otherwise.
New Zealand makes world-class and under-priced white wines. For award-winning chardonnays, expect to stock up at about US$8 per bottle. Our favorite chardonnays: Church Road reserve, Villa Maria reserve, Te Awa, Nautilus, Vidal, Mission. Our favorite sparkling wine: Pelorus. Our favorite bargain chardonnays: Delegats reserve, Nobilio. Even more award-winning and less expensive are the sauvignon blancs. Wine & food festivals abound, notably in the Hawkes Bay and Marlborough regions, in January and February. If you drink red, however, you’re much better off with a Shiraz from Australia.
Tipping is unusual at restaurants (except in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch) and downright discouraged at cafes. Waiters have chased after us to give us our money back. To reward fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime service, NZ$5 is appropriate. Tipping is unheard of for taxis, hair stylists, porters, etc., except in the 3 largest cities, and then only downtown. Many Kiwis are actually offended if you try to tip them so when in doubt, don’t.
Like most voyagers we know, we bought a used car on arrival in NZ and sold it upon departure. There are many auction houses (e.g., Hammer, 579-2344; Turners, 09-438-4765; Claphams, 09-438-1592) and car fairs. Also, check newspaper, marina bulletin boards, and local garages. Perfectly fine cars go for US$600 to $3500. It is possible at dealerships to get a nicer used car with guaranteed buyback at a negotiable percentage of the purchase price. Cheapest insurance is at the NZ Automobile Association(0800-117-888), which also offers roadside assistance, or Bank of New Zealand. It is OK to use one’s home or international driver’s license for 2 years; then one must apply for an NZ license. Drive on the left. Don’t speed (hidden cameras, big fines). Driving without a license (even if you have one but left it at home) is said to result in automatic impounding of the car for 90 days. One final note: Kiwi drivers are truly . . . brave.
Port Notes – Whangarei
Vessels with up to an 8-foot draft can safely navigate the Whangarei River, but only at half tide or above. (Be sure to go in and out on a rising tide.) The bottom is generally mud. There are nice anchorages at the mouth of the river and at intervals all the way up to Town Basin. The channel is well-marked, with one exception. At one particular spot, between the Customs dock and Town Basin, at the bend just past Kissing Point Marina, STAY TO PORT. Hug that port-side bank. The markers there erroneously appear as if one can cut the corner. Don’t — it’s a shallow mud flat to starboard, and many boats (not us, thank goodness, as we were warned) go aground every year. The channel is well dredged all the way up the river, but the depth immediately rises to nothing at the channel’s edges. Cut the corners anywhere at your peril.
Customs Dock (S 35°44.83′, E 174°20.93)
Customs asks that you call ahead on VHF Channel 64 or 16 to let them know you are coming. The customs dock is a small, decrepit wooden dock to port, just past the commercial docking area. There is a large sign, which has full instructions on it, but it faces sideways and is not visible until you are abeam. Prepare to shoo seabirds away. Customs, Immigration, and MAF will visit the boat; and they are quick, efficient, tolerant, and friendly. See above for Entry Notes. NOTE AS OF JUNE 2001: Opua and Whangarei now share just one customs official, who travels the two-hour’s drive back and forth. We do not know whether this arrangement is temporary or permanent. If you are checking in at Whangarei, you should probably telephone or fax ahead from the departure port to arrange for entry, unless you don’t mind waiting on arrival.
Town Basin Marina
Past the customs dock, about 20 minutes further up the river, is the very charming Town Basin Marina. Call ahead on VHF Channel 64 to make sure there is space and to get instructions where to tie up on arrival. There is room to do a full reconnoitering by passing up the office and restaurants down to the very end of the wharf and then making a U-turn to return. Don’t tie up at the low dock in front of the office without prior permission, as that is the water taxi area. Options are to “parallel park” between two pylons (and use the dinghy to come ashore); to raft alongside the main wharf; or to take a slip on the starboard side of the basin (and walk a few minutes back across to the main wharf). We rafted 3-deep at the main wharf very comfortably, except that with our 7.5′ draft we rested lightly on the soft mud bottom at low tide — no particular problem. Slips have water and electricity; the main wharf has water hook-ups only; pylons have neither. All normal facilities, including fuel, are available.
Town Basin itself is a darling, recently renovated wharf area, with sidewalk cafes, shops, galleries, strolling townsfolk, and a clock museum. It is a short walk across the street to downtown Whangarei and excellent shopping, provisioning, and services. Within easy walking distance on the other side of the basin is an indoor swimming pool with spa.
We really, really enjoyed Whangarei and Town Basin. Clearing in was dead easy here, as opposed to accounts we have had from some of those who entered in Opua. Overall, it is definitely worth the minor hassle of navigating the river. (But see NOTE AS OF JUNE 2001 above.) While here, if you have bought or rented a car, it is a very short hop to drive west to New Zealand’s main Kauri Forest for trees the likes of which we had never seen or even imagined.
Port Notes – Auckland Area & Whangaparoa
Gulf Harbour Marina (S 36°37.41, E 174°47.26)
On the Whangaparaoa Peninsula just north of Auckland, Gulf Harbour Marina is new, extremely nice, well-run, and offers excellent value. Call ahead on VHF Channel 73 for arrival instructions. The marina has floating docks and provides all lines. All normal facilities, including fuel, are available. Only overseas yachties are allowed to live aboard. There is a “big boat” marina extension across the basin to accommodate any size vessel, but the area is isolated from all the facilities; and A-Dock and B-Dock in the main marina take up to 60-footers just fine. Many of the slips are privately owned and only managed by the marina. There is 24-hour security (not that it seems necessary). Office staff are very helpful. Our dockmaster, Saint Paul, seems always to be at hand when needed and notices the smallest change or problem with one’s boat or lines. Although we had never left the boat in the water as much as overnight before, we left it here for weeks at a time with no concerns.
Electricity, water (free), and telephone are available to the slips. The prevailing wind is southwest, but clocks around to the north and northeast upon arrival of a low-pressure system. It can get quite windy in the marina basin, but unlike most other Auckland area marinas, there is no surge.
Gulf Harbour is beautiful. Although the marina is surrounded by country-club suburban development, the natural scenery is lush and gorgeous. The Auckland skyline is visible in the distance. Several beaches and a large regional park with great hikes are within walking distance. America’s Cup racing is visible with binoculars from the jetty. Local shopping and restaurants are good but require a car, as the marina is about 3-4 miles from the main village. Within walking distance are a small food shop and a few restaurants, including the great little marina social-center cafe and bar “Ripples.” Also within walking distance are a hotel and country club, with 18-hole golf course. At the main village, Whangaparaoa, are movie theatres, a great health club, and a shopping mall with good supermarket. At Manly, a small village slightly nearer the marina, are several excellent restaurants, a superb yacht-friendly butcher, and a tennis club.
The boatyard is first-class, with a 135-ton lift, large new paint shed, good facilities, and excellent management. Every marine service is available, and all Auckland marine vendors will deliver goods and send workers here.
Gulf Harbour is without question the best marina in the world.
Marinas in Auckland Area
For long-term stays, marinas are excellent value in NZ. In the Auckland mainland area, no suitable anchorages are available (deep water, bad surge, restricted areas, no liveaboards allowed, etc.). Accordingly, most cruisers — even the purest purists — pick a marina as home base. Many slips are privately owned, and bargain prices may be had by checking the newspapers before contacting marina management. Here is a list of the most popular marinas in the Auckland area. To our knowledge, the majority of cruisers who stay in the Auckland area usually choose either Gulf Harbour or Tauranga Bridge.
We wholeheartedly recommend Gulf Harbour Marina and, if we were to go back to NZ, would stay there again, no question. GH is the nicest, best-run marina I’ve ever seen and still manages to keep their rates quite affordable. The boatyard, too, gave us nothing but pleasant experiences. Some of our good friends who had major re-fits done in New Zealand speak so glowingly of Westpark, too, (particularly “Touch of Gloss” painters) and got such outstanding results there that I think if I were completely re-building or re-fitting a boat in New Zealand, I would certainly look at Westpark as well. For cruisers on a seriously tight budget, Tauranga Bridge is the least expensive and a charming, yacht-friendly place to be.
- Gulf Harbour
Whangaparaoa Peninsula, north of Auckland
Tom Warren, 649-424-6200; fax 424-0703; VHF ch 73; email@example.com
We docked our boat here for 18 months and loved this marina. See above text for details. 45 minutes by car or ferry to Auckland city. 10 minutes by boat to America’s Cup course. 20-min walk to Shakespear Nat’l Pk. Many, many cruisers.
Auckland, near Harbour Bridge
649-309-1352; fax 367-5477; VHF ch 13; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cool urban place to be; expensive. 25-minute walk to food/supply shopping, so car recommended. Good facilities, but getting older. Very few cruisers.
- Hobson West (America’s Cup Village)
Same as Westhaven
Ultimately cool urban place to be, but reallyexpensive, many dock-gawkers, noisy. Run by Westhaven Marina.
Devonport area, just across harbor from Auckland
649-446-1600; fax 446-1605; email@example.com
Mainly NZ boat owners. Strong tidal surge. Good local shopping. Spectacular view. Auckland 20 min by dinghy in a flat calmr; 40 minutes by car.
- Tauranga Bridge
Well south of Auckland, in Bay of Plenty
Least expensive. Darling town, good local shopping. Many, many cruisers. 3-4 hours by car to downtown Auckland.
- West Park
Hobsonville, on upper Waitemata, past Auckland Harbour bridge.
649-416-7447; fax 416-7925
Said to be excellent place to haul and have major work done. 20 minutes to Auckland by car.
Half Moon Bay.
- Bucklands Beach, just south of Auckland
649-534-3139; fax 534-1035; firstname.lastname@example.org
Minimum depth 2 meters inside marina. Largest slip is 16 meters. We did not visit, so have no details.
Auckland Shopping Areas
In the 30-mile area between Auckland and Gulf Harbour are numerous excellent shopping and provisioning areas, listed in order of proximity to Gulf Harbour.
- Gulf Harbour Marina
Major marine vending area. Boatyard, chandlery, canvas, diesel, electrics/mechanical, small food store, restaurants, bars, country club, Internet access at Ripples
- Manly Center
Manly Village, west of GH on Whangaparaoa Rd (5 min from GH)
Village shopping: superb cruiser-friendly butcher, ok bakery, fruit stand, excellent Thai & Indian restaurants, pizza, stationery, video rental, good hair salon; day spa, tennis club nearby
- Whangaparaoa Plaza Center
Whangaparaoa, west of GH on Whangaparaoa Rd (10 min from GH)
Mall with supermarket, pharmacy, movie theaters, bowling, travel agent, post shop, retail clothes & housewares, phone shop, kitchen shop, books, music, sporting goods, Warehouse (sim to K-Mart), banks, library
- Whangaparaoa town
West & south of Plaza
Laundry, liquor store, Placemakers discount hardware, In Stitches embroidery, Leisure Center swimming pool & health club (Stanmore Bay Rd)
- Orewa City
From GH, go north on Hwy 1 (20 min from GH).
Village shopping: fabric, flowers, bulk groceries, clothes, AA, fast food
- Albany Mall
From GH, take Hwy 1 south, exit Oteha Bay (25 min from GH)
Discount big-box mall: Electrical, computer, housewares, stationery, rugs, fast food, groceries, etc. This is where we provisioned for departure from New Zealand.
- Tristan Road/Wairau Pk
From GH, take Hwy 1 south; exit Tristan, turn right on Tristan, then immediate left on Wairau Rd (30 min from GH)
Major marine vendor area; many authorized repair shops, dealers. Printer, dive shop, gun shop, computer store.
- Takapuna (high street & mall)
Signposted off HIghway 1 south (40 min from GH).
Upscale retail shopping
- Westhaven Area
In Auckland, near bridge. From Gulf Harbour, take Hwy 1 south, exit Fanshaw, turn left on Beaumont.(45 min from GH)
Major marine vendor area. All possible services.
- America’s Cup Quay, Princes Wharf
Great restaurants, bars, museum, souvenirs
- Victoria Mall
Auckland — big red-brick warehouse west of Westhaven area
Flea market, souvenirs
Auckland. From GH, south on Hwy 1; exit Shelley at Harbour Bridge
Great restaurants, upscale shops, galleries
- Auckland downtown
Main Auckland retail shopping area, from harbour west to Sky Tower area.