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Sailing New Zealand in the lap of luxury

The luxury of a sailing holiday in New Zealand isn’t just about cruising idyllic waters or indulging in world-class wine and food – but a uniquely Kiwi, ‘money-can’t-buy’ experience.

While New Zealand has a priceless natural asset in a landscape that has miles of dramatic coastline, secluded islands and perfect anchorages – it’s local hospitality and the Kiwi attitude that makes waves with international visitors.

sailing New Zealand
Sailing in New Zealand. Credit: Canva

Kiwi hospitality

Tales of multi-millionaires cruising New Zealand waters or in the country to have a luxury yacht built or refitted out, more often than not also feature Kiwi generosity and a unique experience – the loan of a car in a remote port, sharing a precious fresh catch or unexpected hospitality in a private home.

And it’s that added element – or manaakitanga as the indigenous Māori people call it – that defines the New Zealand visitor experience.

Stress-free sailing

Sailing in New Zealand ticks many boxes for savvy luxury travellers looking to follow the trend to ‘live like a local’ while enjoying an easy living, stress-free holiday.

On or off the water, New Zealand has no shortage of ways to experience the lap of sailing luxury – from fine dining while anchored in a secluded bay on your own craft to land-based relaxation at one of the country’s world-class luxury lodges.

Sailing also provides the chance to enjoy the ultimate private getaway to prime locations only accessible by boat – or helicopter.

Sailing New Zealand

Magic cruising

New Zealand has nearly 16,000km of coastline with sheltered sounds, island-dotted bays and harbours that provide magic cruising grounds for craft of all types and all cruising styles from bare-boat charter to fully crewed vessels, short leisure cruising or top-level racing on an ex-America’s Cup boat – endless possibilities for a water-based holiday.

Easy access to fine dining, world-renowned wineries, legendary Kiwi coffee and leisure activities from golf to spas rounds off the experience and reinforces New Zealand as a favourite destination for luxury travellers.

Sailing also provides the chance to enjoy the ultimate private getaway to prime locations only accessible by boat – or helicopter.

New Zealand’s ports of call

Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands – rated as one of the world’s best cruising spots – is the first port of call for hundreds of yachts dropping down from the tropics.

  • For on-shore luxury, Northland has a series of premium luxury lodges like Eagles Nest, near Russell.
  • Kauri Cliffs is one of New Zealand’s most scenic and a top international golf course with fine dining experiences to match at Kauri Cliffs Lodge.
  • In the Bay of Islands, Taiamai Tours offer an authentic waka (traditional Māori canoe) journey.

Sailing also provides the chance to enjoy the ultimate private getaway to prime locations only accessible by boat – or helicopter.

The Bay of Islands.

Auckland – city of sails

Auckland is a water lover’s paradise and aptly named the ‘city of sails’. There are more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world and multiple marinas, three of which are near the central city – Viaduct Harbour, Westhaven and Silo marinas.

  • Waiheke Island – only a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland or a short sail – is a top New Zealand food and wine destination, and customised food and wine tours to discover internationally recognised wineries and artisan food producers.
  • Hurakia Lodge – a luxury villa for hire on Rakino Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf – is only accessible by helicopter or boat. The exclusive-use property sits in tranquil private surroundings with spectacular sea views.
  • Auckland Art Gallery – Toi o Tamaki is an obligatory stop to view work by top New Zealand and international artists.
Sailing NZ Auckland
Sailing NZ Auckland. Credit:

Tauranga – Bay of Plenty

The harbourside city of Tauranga is the Bay of Plenty’s main centre with Mount Maunganui, a popular seaside resort town, located only five minutes’ drive across the harbour bridge.

  • Tuhua / Mayor Island – accessed from Tauranga by boat or a short spectacular helicopter flight – is a fascinating dormant shield volcano. Native New Zealand birds are in abundance on the island which is a sacred place to local Māori.
Tauranga New Zealand

Hawke’s Bay

Berth the boat at Napier’s Ahuriri Marina and then explore Hawke’s Bay – one of New Zealand’s leading food and wine regions. The city of Napier produces great wine, fresh produce and artisan foods, and is an international centre for art deco architecture. There is also a vibrant arts scene and rich Māori culture.

  • Elephant Hill – one of Hawke’s Bay’s newest wineries – offers award-winning wines and fine dining. The winery restaurant occupies a spectacular contemporary building with views of the Pacific Ocean and stunning Cape Kidnappers.
  • The Farm at Cape Kidnappers offers a luxury retreat with lodge accommodation, a dramatic18-hole golf course, fine dining and a spa.
Hawkes Bay New Zealand.
Hawkes Bay New Zealand. Credit: Canva

Wellington bays

New Zealand’s capital city has a wide deep harbour that is home to 13 yacht clubs. Its numerous bays are perfect for dinghy and board sailing.

  • Luxury lodge Wharekauhau is a short helicopter flight from central Wellington offering day trips or luxury accommodation on a working farm. Activities include mountain biking, horse trekking or a wine tour.
  • Te Papa Tongarewa or ‘the place of treasures of this land’ is New Zealand’s national museum, and a must-do for visitors who want to learn more about New Zealand’s rich Māori and European culture.
  • The Farm at Cape Kidnappers offers a luxury retreat with lodge accommodation, a dramatic18-hole golf course, fine dining and a spa.
sailing new zealand Wellington
Wellington Harbour New Zealand. Credit: Canva

Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds encompass 1500km of coastline, bays, beaches and native bush. This maritime playground offers some of the world’s best boating and diving, fishing, eco-tours, scenic native bush walks and lodges.

  • Bay of Many Coves is a boutique destination beside the water of beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound. This 5-star luxury resort offers seclusion in a pristine natural environment.
  • The Marlborough region is the terroir of many award-winning vineyards producing the signature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Local seafood specialities include mussels, salmon and sea salt.
Marlborough Sound New Zealand
Marlborough Sound New Zealand

Nelson Tasman

With its sunny climate and tendency for warm afternoon sea breezes, the Nelson Tasman coastal region is a New Zealand sailing mecca.

  • Bishop Suites Abel Tasman has luxury stand-alone apartments in Nelson city – an arty town famous for fine food, craft beers and cultural attractions such as the World of WearableArt Museum.
  • Film buffs can jump in a helicopter and fly over remarkable locations used in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy.
Nelson New Zealand Sailing
Nelson New Zealand. Credit: Canva

Fiordland World Heritage Area

Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Area and the largest national park in New Zealand. The remote fiorded coastline includes the world-famous Milford and Doubtful Sounds.

  • Cruise the waters of the Milford and Doubtful Sounds and enjoy the remote pristine wilderness on a Real Journeys cruise boat.
  • Fiordland Lodge offers a perfect onshore escape from ocean-going. The five-star rated lodge offers many activities and top dining.
Milford Sound New Zealand
Milford Sound New Zealand. Credit: Canva

This article on sailing New Zealand was produced with content supplied by NZ Tourism. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the enewsletter here.