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Getting out on the water is a key part of kiwi culture. As the former home of the America’s Cup, New Zealanders are renowned for their passion for sailing. During summer holidays and long weekends, locals flock to offshore islands to swim, fish and dive. Enjoying freshly caught fish for dinner while looking out over a New Zealand sunset is a special kind of kiwi bliss.
Including a few days’ sailing in your New Zealand holiday allows you to explore the country from a unique perspective. Discover deserted white-sand beaches and tiny islands; re-set your clock to that of the sun and the tides. Chat to friendly locals in quaint seaside towns, heading ashore for an ice-cream and a swim. At the end of the day, relax on the aft deck, cocktail in hand, reflecting on another perfect day on the water.
At First Light Travel we’re kiwi’s ourselves, so we’re in the know about the best local spots to head out sailing. Whether you’re an experienced sailor or would prefer enjoying a crewed boat experience, we’ve got plenty of options and sailing styles for you to choose from.
Here are a few of our favourite regions along with a few reasons as to why they’re so special – have a read and see which one appeals the most.
The Bay of Islands
Picture this: 133 perfect, undeveloped islands; dolphins, whales and marine life galore and a subtropical micro climate. Add in some fascinating early New Zealand history as well as a couple of boutique coastal towns and you’ve got the perfect place to set sail and explore. The Bay of Islands is located on the north-east coast of the north island, and it’s a boatie’s dream-come-true. Here, the many inlets, bays and coves provide shelter from any prevailing wind direction, and waters teeming with fish mean that fresh snapper or John Dory (New Zealand’s favourite eating fish) is commonly served up for dinner.
Home to the most sunshine hours in New Zealand, Abel Tasman is made up of spectacular coastline and crystal-clear water. Blessed with tiny islands and remote coves, it’s the perfect place to relax with a picnic on-shore after finding a bay all to yourself. Visit the fur seal colony and enjoy snorkelling in the marine reserve – abundant with life – off Tonga Island. Abel Tasman is also a great place to combine a sailing experience with onshore activities – sea kayaking tours, hiking and mountain biking are all easy to access from various points along the coastline.
Home to a network of submerged mountain valleys, islands and idyllic bays, the Sounds – as the locals call them – offer another cruising paradise. Scenery here is diverse and spectacular; lush forest clings to soaring mountains and golden-sand bays dot sheltered inlets. The Marlborough Sounds offers hundreds of kilometres of deep-water coastline to explore by boat, making it the perfect place for yachtie’s craving adventure.
Let First Light Travel help you create the sailing experience you’re dreaming of. We cater to everything from seasoned sailors to those wanting a day or two on a fully crewed yacht. Get in touch and have a chat to us about the type of sailing vacation you’re after, or find out more on our website.