8, 2010 – Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
As we wait in the Bay of Islands for the right weather window to leave for Fiji, we thought that we’d
put down some thoughts on cruising in NZ. This may be a little dry so I apologize to the non-cruisers who
read our blog. First of all, I will admit that we are in no way experts on cruising in NZ and you will
not be given any advice on anchorages, routing, or weather forecasting for the area. But what we will try
to do is provide a little insight on the different main ports that we visited in NZ and what we believe they have to offer
to an international cruiser spending one season in New Zealand.
One of the most frequently asked questions in Tonga for those cruisers heading
to NZ is, “What are your plans for NZ?” or “Are you going to dock in Auckland, Whangarai,
Opua…..” I have to admit it was a little stressful for me, figuring out where we were going
to go and what we were going to do. By far the majority of the cruising herd, head to Northland especially
Whangarei. Of the rest, many stay in the Bay of Islands or go to Auckland, a few go to Tauranga, and a
very, very few, like us, head to the S. Island. Most people make their decision on which port to go to
based on what they want to do in New Zealand and what they enjoy. The most important thing is to make the
decision based on your needs and interests, not just follow the herd because NZ has so much to offer everyone.
Nelson – If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that we made the decision to
sail to Nelson at the northern point of the S. Island. We made the decision because we knew we wanted to
spend much of our time in NZ exploring the S. Island which is known for its beautiful mountains and scenery. As
I mentioned, very few boats actually sail to the S. Island but we were so glad that we did. When
we told fellow cruisers and even locals that we were going to sail down the west coast to Nelson, many people thought that
we were crazy. Why do you want to do that? We heard over and over. I
am so glad that we didn’t get scared out of going. We waited for good weather and had a lovely sail.
We stayed at the Marina in Nelson and it had everything that we needed (btw, don’t be put off if you don’t
get a ‘reservation’ – they don’t take them, but they will always find room. It
wasn’t fancy but it was nice. Nelson is a very nice and quaint small city – pop around 40K.
It had the feel of a nice northshore suburb of Chicago. We heard that the first outdoor cafes in
NZ were in Nelson, if that tells you anything. You can walk to town, grocery stores, library, etc. from
the marina but it was a wee bit of a walk. Although not necessary, a car was handy.
As for boat supplies and repairs,
you could do almost anything there & as we found everywhere in NZ….if they don’t have it, they get it –
usually next day…that’s a strange way of doing business (at least profitably) but how it goes here.
The pricing for parts was as cheap or cheaper than anywhere else, and the labor rates were cheapest overall.
They had good mechanics, except for the Volvo mechanics – who had a very bad reputation in town – so we
Overall, the best thing about Nelson for us was that it was a great place to stage our travels of the S. Island.
So if you are a cruiser planning to spend much of your time traveling the beautiful South Island, or just like a great
town close by with accepting and friendly locals, consider this as a very doable option.
Auckland – As I mentioned before,
Auckland is the City of Sails and there are thousands of sailboats and several marina options. We stayed
in Westhaven Marina which we heard is one of the largest marinas in the world. It was a very nice marina
with newer docks and facilities but the downside is that it is far (and I mean far) from the services and town.
If you are basing yourself in Auckland and have a car then it could be a fine option but for our 10 feet, it was a
long way….but not too long to spring for a cab. We had planned to do more boat repairs and utilize
more of the services here, but since it was so difficult to get around, we opted to wait until we reached Whangarei.
Another great option in Auckland is to stay in the Viaduct Marina. It is right downtown, close to
restaurants, theatres, and all that a city of 1 million has to offer. It is slightly more expensive than
Westhaven but much more convenient. Since Auckland is a large city, even at Viaduct, you are not extremely
close to the boat services or grocery shopping but it is a doable walk and an easy cab ride. We know cruisers
who spent their season enjoying the city life in Auckland without buying a car.
Whangarei – From
our experience, this is the place to go if you need extensive boat work done during your stay in NZ. The
town is really designed around the Town Basin Marina and you can easily walk to the grocery stores, Warehouse (like WalMart),
restaurants, etc and you can get about any boat part or repair accomplished during your stay here. The
downside to the area is that you really don’t have cruising grounds close by, since the town is at the end of a long
shallow, dirty river. Since it is so far north, it is also further to travel to the beauty of the S. Island,
however, many people do. Most boats that come here don’t even move while they are here and the owners
either travel back to their home countries, buy a car and travel NZ that way, or accomplish that long list of boat repairs.
Since so many cruisers come here, there is an extensive social community in the area, and it definitely felt for us
like we were back in the world of cruising.
Opua – Of all of the major ports that we visited,
we were the most disappointed with Opua, which is the main port for the Bay of Islands and a place many – if not most
yachts check into the country. The customs officials & check in procedure is about the only bright
spot this place had in our opinion. It is a VERY small town and has little amenities for cruisers, not
even a real grocery store, ATM, or a place to buy dinghy gas. There are boating services and you can get
most things done but we found it to be outrageously expensive – more than in other areas of the country.
To top it off, it is the only place in NZ that we found the service came with attitude…That being said, the
Bay of Islands are quite pretty and a nice place to “hang out” for awhile but if you want the conveniences of
being back in the Western World and plan to do many boat repairs and projects, we would recommend against Opua.
In fact, if we were doing this again we would have spent more time cruising the Harauki Gulf near Auckland
and then finalize our stay in NZ by checking out in Whangarei. For those of you, going to Whangarei,
you may want to skip Opua entirely and check into Whangarei directly.
Well, we hope that some of you, cruisers or cruiser want to be’s
find this info helpful and informative. As I said, we are far from experts but as one of the few international
cruisers to actually circumnavigate the North Island of NZ and spend time in most of the major ports, we think that we learned
a wee bit. Probably, the most important thing that we learned is that you don’t have to go to
a port because “everyone else is going there”. NZ is a large country and has much to offer
so spend the time to research the different areas and find the spot that’s right for you.
April 9, 2010 – Paradise
Bay, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Well the Easter Bunny found us again. This time we are in the beautiful Bay of Islands.
We had a very fun Easter participating in a beach egg hunt in Paradise Bay with our friends Catmousses and Ivory St.(which
is a kid boat that we met in Nelson). All 8 kids hunted eggs (including lots of chocolate ones) and played
beach games including the water balloon toss, tug or war, and the egg race. Our friend, Robin from Whangarei
joined us for the holiday weekend and shared in the fun.
After a morning
of fun, we sailed over to the tourist town of Russell and went to Easter dinner at Paula and Gary Franklin’s homestay.
Paula and Gary are the parents of our friend, Franko, from Nelson. We had a lovely time celebrating
with them and their family, Nicki, Glen, Sara, Jessie, and Kate. It was fun to be in a home for the holiday
and wonderful to spend more time with the Franklin family. We were even treated to the Hakka from
Glen who is a former Rugby Star with the All Black team in NZ – Great fun!
With the season opposite here in the Southern Hemisphere, Easter is really
the last weekend of summer and is celebrated similar to how Labor Day is in the US. Everyone is out boating,
fishing, and swimming and the Bay of Islands was a busy place. But once the weekend crowd cleared,
we were able to relax and enjoy the islands a bit and get back into the quiet lifestyle of cruising again.
Well the crew
of Imagine plans to stay in the Bay of Islands for a week or so, as we wait for the right weather window to head to Fiji.
We plan to spend most of our time cruising around these very pretty islands, which remind us of the San Juan Islands
in Washington. Although we could always find more repairs to do and more groceries to buy, we are stocked
and have vowed not to spend any more money in NZ. We have loved our time in NZ but we are ready to head
back to the warmth of the tropics and enjoy swimming off the boat, playing on the islands, and beach BBQ’s.
As we awoke this morning on Imagine, it was 59 F, we turned on the diesel heaters and decided that we are ready to
2010 – Bay of Islands, New Zealand
“English is English….. or is it”
It has been great being in an English speaking country for so long.
One of the fun things about our stay has been getting to know the “NZ speak” which tends to be a little
different than the American way. Here are some of fun phrases that we’ve learned……
– as Caroline’s sweatshirt says….”I agree that what you are proposing is good by me”.
You can substitute with Cool as, Cute as, Hot as, Good as, etc etc….
“Good As Gold” – No worries mate,
you’ll be Good as Gold (as long as the product wasn’t imported from China)
“Good on ya” or “Good
on ya mate” – Variation of ‘good for you’ or ‘good job’ or ‘we’re
happy for you’
“Cheap as chips” – Really cheap (Marc likes that one)
– Many uses, but mostly used as a greating or instead of 'Thank you'
- Cup of tea (could also be coffee but much more often tea – remember they never had a Boston Tea
Party & you can NEVER just stop in for a quick chat)
“Wee” – Often used instead of little to mean a wee bit of something, a wee
island, a wee boat, etc.
“Tea” – Took us a wee while to figure out that if someone had invited you over for Tea, that
“Jandals” – flip flop sandals
- hiking so trampy clothes are outdoor clothes very different from our definition
– hiking trail