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Cruising - Bay of Islands, New Zealand

INDEX: Introduction / Seafarers Welcome / Sewage Regulations / Fishing / Port of Opua / Paihia & Waitangi / Russell / Kerikeri / Outer Bays / Maritime Park & Reserves


"The scene which unfolded was indeed a most surprising place. It was full of an innumerable quantity of islands forming as many harbours which must be as smooth as mill ponds as they landlock one another numberless times." - A quote from Sir Joseph Banks diary. botanist on Captain James Cook's first expedition to New Zealand in 1769.

"I thought it quite sufficient to be able to affirm with certainty that it affords good anchorage and every kind of refreshments for shipping." - From Captain James Cook's log 1769

Amazing to discover these quotes and realise that the only change in the Beautiful Bay of Islands over a period of 232 yeas is the terminology and the sophistication of facilities and provisions.

The Bay of Islands cruising grounds are still the envy of all boat owners living outside the area and a respected treasure of all locals. It offers many sheltered anchorages in any wind direction, crystal clear water and an abundance of marine life. To keep it this way we will introduce you to rules and regulations imposed by various governing bodies to preserve this inheritance for all cruising boats and our future generations. We invite you to share wish us and enjoy our sheltered cruising playground, our abundance of seafood and our recreational parks and reserves.

For cruising convenience you will find four townships accessible by water which offer all the supplies and services required by cruising folk. Out in the bay there are numerous sheltered anchorages where you can ride out a blow or simply enjoy a quiet evening at anchor.

Most local boaties navigate around the bay using "Pickmere Atlas of Northland's East Coast of New Zealand". Another trusted source of cruising information is "The Royal Akarana Coastal Cruising Handbook", Hon. editors, Mary Hamilton and D'arcy Whiting. Both publications can be purchased from Opua.

Like all other communities we have our share of opportunists who strike at the height of the cruising season. We strongly advise securing your possessions at all times. Lock your outboard motors on and immobilise your motor if beaching or leaving your dinghy on a dinghy pontoon.

For comfort and convenience the Bay of Islands now offers two marinas. Opua has permanent visitor berths for rental and the Kerikeri Cruising Club marina can also offer rental berths when available. Moorings are available for lease too which can offer security for your boat and peace of mind if you choose to tour our beautiful country by land.

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Seafarers Welcome

Opua is the first port of call for most overseas cruising folk. For the residents and businesses in Opua it is akin to welcoming back a migratory flock of birds. Many are returning but some are visiting for the first time. What ever the case it is time to celebrate the successful crossing of the Pacific Ocean for cruising folk and the beginning of summer for the locals.

Traditionally Opua Cruising Club provides the venue for a combined Thanks Giving Dinner. The organisation takes on various formats according to who arrives, sometimes by enthusiastic cruisers, other years OCC has organised the celebration by cooking the turkeys with all the "fixins" and calling for volunteers to lend a hand in the kitchen. All attending then contribute by bringing a salad or dessert to share, the bar is open and the scene is set for the telling of many a cruising adventure and the swapping of lies.

This celebration has been extended to functions and festivities during the week of Thanks Giving to which all are welcome. We trust the wind will be in your favour for your to arrive in time to join us and to explore the region by bus, rental car or even your own vehicle.

Opua Cruising Club invite you to sail with them on an overnight club cruise to a sheltered bay where all meet on the beach for more swapping of lies while coking your own barbecue on a shared hot plate and possibly using the last of the daylight for a game of petanque. Pancakes on the beach for breakfast is a possibility depending on which ever way the mood swings.

We look forward to adopting you into our community.

"Besides being New Zealand's most northerly Port of Entry. It is a yachting enthusiasts paradise. There are 50 smaller bays or inlets having good holding ground and providing good weather protection. In addition, the 100 or more islands provide a variety of scenery. good beaches, and many sheltered coves for anchoring." - Earl Hinz, former Editor of Cruising World (Author of Landfalls of Paradise)

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Sewage Regulations

HOLD IT! We are cleaning up the coast
The Resource Management (Marine Pollution) Regulations 1998 control the discharge of oil, noxious liquid substances, treated and untreated sewage and garbage into the coastal marine area. This is the area from mean high water springs out to the12 nautical miles which is the outer limit of the New Zealand territorial sea.

The regulations also control the dumping of waste and other matter into the coastal marine area and the incineration of waste (in a marine incineration facility) in the coastal marine area.

As of 1 July 2000 you must be more than 500 metres from the shore, more than 500 metres from a marine farm and in waters deeper than 5 metres before you can discharge untreated sewage from your ship.

Sewage includes drainage from any form of toilet, spaces containing living animals and waste water mixed with such drainage.

You can discharge treated sewage anywhere in the coastal marine area except within 100 metres of a marine farm.

Treated sewage is sewage that has been passed through an on-board sewage treatment plant. When sampled, before discharging, treated sewage must meet the standard set out in the regulations: when sampled five times or more over 24 hours contains faecal coliforms less than 250 faecal coliforms per 100 millilitres with suspended solids less than 5 milligrams per litre when analysed on shore.

Pump-Out Stations
The tow marinas, Kerikeri Cruising Club Marina and Opua Marina in the Bay of Islands, have pump out stations.

Kerikeri Cruising Club Marina
Located in Doves Bay, Kerikeri Inlet
Hours 8am - 5pm Monday to Friday; 8am - 12pm Saturday and Sunday
Contact: 09 407 9434

Opua Marina
Situated up stream beyond the Opua wharf. Contact the marina office Ch. 12 VHF, phone 09-402-7124 or visit the marina office upstairs above the marina ablutions block. 8:00am - 5:30pm, seven days a week.

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Line fishing or trolling a lure to catch the evening meal is a popular cruising past-time. Drift fishing over a reef will most likely produce a snapper or similar fin fish. When trolling a lure, you are likely to strike a kahawhai (sea trout), kingfish or maybe a tuna. The taking of fish or shelfish is limited to a daily bag and size, so please become conversant with these regulations and enjoy our kai moana (seafood). Fefer to Ministry of Fisheries pamphlet, A Guide to New Zealand Fishing Rules.

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Opua - Port of Entry

Opua is the most northern port of entry for New Zealand offering a wide clearly marked approach and welcome shelter within. Customs clearance jetty can be found on the north western end of the wharf. After clearance you will be directed to an anchorage or a mooring so you can find your land legs again.

Opua is the commercial marine centre where all services are within an easy stroll. For the more serious try the wonderful coastal walkway to Paihia or discover the magnificent bush walk from Oromahoe Road to Paihia Celebrate the end of your blue water crossing with a meal at Ferryman's Restaurant or enjoy a casual takeaway meal with a cold bottle of wine or beer from the store. The Opua Cruising Club also welcome you and provide meals on given days.

Opua Cruising Club
Situated on the waters edge, summer membership is available for a nominal fee which will give you access to all club facilities. The Club has a private jetty for loading and unloading, with water and shore power. Time alongside is limited to half an hour, or longer upon request. Wednesdays and Fridays the jetty is required from 1700 hours by the club boats for club racing, which you are all cordially invited to join as crew or enter your boat. Facilities include token operated showers and coin operated washing machines and driers (provided and maintained by Far North Holdings Ltd, VHF radio, book exchange and TV. The club is open for meals and bar facilities with EFTPOS all year Friday, Sunday and Wednesday from 1600 hours, During the summer these hours may be extended to meet demand.

Opua has a 240 berth marina with permanent visitor berths available. Facilities include coin operated laundry and showers, water and shore power and sewage pump-out facility.

A Summer membership with Opua Cruising Club will give you access to water for a small charge. Water is also available alongside Sealift Floating Dock (please ask if the outer pontoon will be free), while refuelling at Opua Store or within the Opua Marina if you are renting a berth. This is town supply treated water of good quality.

Rubbish Disposal
Rubbish bins are provided for boats within the marina. Cruise boats using swing moorings or at anchor will find a instruction for rubbish disposal in the marina office as provided by the Far North District Council.

Fullers Bay of Islands provide a 24 hour credit or Mobil card service for petrol and diesel in Opua. Diesel is also available from the Opua General Store.

Stores & Supplies
The Opua General Store has a comprehensive range of groceries, fruit and vegetables, vacuum packed meat, papers, magazines, wine and beer to name but a few. The store also provide s Postal Service. Roadrunner Tavern has as outlet attached to Fullers Workshop offering a full range of spirits, wine and beer.

Marine Services
Opua is the marine maintenance centre for the Bay of Islands, offering boat builders, marine electricians, diesel and marine engineers, refrigeration engineer, sail making, spar maker and outboard sales and service. Cater Marine Ltd and Ocean Outfitters Marine Supplies & Services offer a full range of chandlery. Three haul-out facilities, Ashby's Boatyard and Doug's Opua Boatyard offering long term hardstand and Sealift Floating Dock will attend to your boat's underwater maintenance.

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Paihia & Waitangi

Paihia is a popular tourist township eight kilometres from Opua, offering 3000 tourist beds and approximately 3000 permanent population. This is the main centre for hooking into adventure activities or taking a bus to explore the north. A visitor berth is available on the Paihia commercial wharf which is a very busy place with ferries, charter boats and tourist trips perpetually on the move. For shopping expeditions a more tranquil approach could be to anchor off Te Ti Beach or off Motumaire Island and take your dinghy ashore. Be aware of Hermione Rocks north of Waitangi and Micky Rocks north of Motumea. The shopping centre offers a comprehensive range of stores including butcher, fruit and vegetable, supermarket, baker, hardware, clothing, stationers, liquor and wine, post office and wonderful cafes and restaurants all within an easy stroll of the beach. Banks, travel agents, laundromat, doctors, dentist and a visiting optometrist make up the commercial centre.

Around the bluff to Te Ti Beach and Waitangi makes an interesting walk. Waitangi Treaty House is a must for those interested in New Zealand's early history. Here you will find a fine example of a fully carved Maori Meeting House and a Maori War Canoe. Nestled in the Treaty Grounds you will find the Waikokopua Cafe, an ideal coffee or lunch stop. This is also adjacent to the popular and spectacular Waitangi Golf Course, Kelly Tarlton's Ship Wreck Museum and the Bay of Islands Yacht Club. There is a formed river walkway including a board walk over the mangrove inlet flats, from Waitangi to Haruru Falls, spectacular in the early spring when the native golden flowering kowhai is in bloom.

Cruising yachts are able to use the visitors berth on the Paihia wharf where town water supply is available. The Paihia wharf is a very busy commercial wharf catering for passenger ferry services to Russell and fishing charter boats.

Mobil provides a 24 hour credit or Mobil card service on the Paihia wharf.

Te Ti Beach, Waitangi
A Shell Service Station with grocery items, a dairy and liquor supplied, takeaway food outlet, cafe and hairdresser, At the north western end of Te Ti Beach an old scow houses Kelly Tarlton's Ship Wreck Museum.

Propane Gas (LPG)
Caltex Service Station, situated on Puketona Road, off Te Ti Beach, will do LPG gas refills.

Bay of Islands Cruising Club, Waitangi
This friendly boat club has visitor pile moorings available by contacting Dave Lewis of Paihia Hammer Hardware, phone 09-402-7853 or by visiting the club. All visiting yachties are always welcome to use the clubrooms which are open for socialising, with the bar open Wednesday to Sunday from 1700 hours and for a meal Friday evening in the summer. 

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Russell - Historic and Romantic

Romantic Russell is an historic township with a very colouful past. Once a den of iniquity for whalers and early traders, it now offers a peaceful haven right on the waters edge with many historic buildings as memorials to the past. The shopping centre can cater for your every need with a grocery store, fruit and vegetables, liquor stores. A chemist, hardware, bookshop, postal service, Internet and for fresh produce in Matauwhi Bay. Take a break or meet a friend for a leisurely meal or cup of coffee in one of the many cafes or restaurants. Matauwhi Bay and adjoining Pomare Bay are popular, safe anchorages for cruising folk offering shelter for all but north-westerly conditions. These bays are ideally placed for access to the Russell Boating Club and the township, an easy stroll away. 

The water available at the wharf tends to be saline which is fine for all but drinking. An upgrade is being planned so this information could change.

Rubbish Disposal
There is a rubbish trailer at the end of the main wharf in Russell and also in Matauwhi Bay.

Mobil provide a 24 hour credit or Mobil card service on the wharf.

Propane Gas (LPG)
Russell Hammer Hardware can do gas refills.

Russell Boating Club
The clubrooms are on the water providing a dinghy jetty, toilets and a unisex shower, but these facilities are about to be upgraded. Russell Boating Club offers a summer membership and is open Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings. The big event for this club is the annual Tall Ships Race, early January, a real spectacle of sail with boating enjoyment in mind, followed by a hangi (food cooked in the traditional Maori way) and dancing into the night. A must for a truly New Zealand experience.

Little Fresh, a store positioned in Matauwhi Bay provides laundry facilities along with fruit, vegetables and basic needs.

Marine Services
Russell Marine Centre Ltd offers haul-out on a cradle and hardstand with adjoining showers, toilets and covered workshop.

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Kerikeri - Cradle of the Nation

Kerikeri township is 30km from Opua by road or it can be approached on the water by following the markers two hours before high tide for boats with a 2 metre draft or less. Choose a rising high tide for deeper draft boats. Markers 1, 8, and 13 give a green flash, green markers (uneven numbers) to starboard and red (even numbers) to port. Kerikeri basin is the tranquil navigable limit of the picturesque Kerikeri River. Pile moorings are privately owned but some are available for hire. For those restricted by draft, the anchorage, moorings or Kerikeri Cruising Club Marina at Doves Bay are an option with dinghy access up the river or a taxi can be called.

You will find the basin steeped in early Maori and European (Pakeha) history. The limitations of this publications will not allow space enough to cover this historic intrigue, but we suggest that you embark on this adventure and wander around the 24 hectare Historic Recreational Reserve where the history is written on display boards. Better still, take a break at The Landing, Café and Bar. 

Kerikeri offers the most comprehensive shopping centre with boatbuilders, world known sailmakers Simon and Judy Willis, marine canvas, rigging specialists, marine engineers, electrical, electronic and refrigeration engineers. Two large supermarket, cinema and a variety of cafes, restaurants and other retail outlets serve a local population of 8000. It has the Bay of Islands airport with scheduled flights to Auckland. There is a strong emphasis on horticulture, having three vineyards with many fresh fruit and vegetable roadside stalls.

Kerikeri Cruising Club Marina in Doves Bay offers berths 10 to 20 metres to rent. Each berth has 240v AC power points. Showers, toilets and laundry facilities located in the marina building are available with a berth rental or by payment to the marina manager on a casual basis. The manager may be contacted by phone 09-407-9434. The clubhouse, located on the point above the marina, has a restaurant with a licensed bar. Hours are subject to seasonal change so please check for present hours.

Subject to availability water may be purchased during office hours from the fuel jetty, $5/100 litres. The water supply is rain water catchment with limited capacity, so boat wash-downs are not permitted. Treated town supply water is also available at the jetty in the Kerikeri River Basin. Please conserve water at all times.

Kerikeri Cruising Club Marina offers diesel which can be procured with a Mobil card, or the Marina Manager can arrange fuel for cash.

LPG (propane) Gas
Caltex Service Station, Main Road, Kerikeri; and Kerikeri Hire, Mill Lane, Kerikeri

Marine Services
Moorings, landing jetty, accommodation, showers, laundry, car parking etc are available.

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Outer Bays

Kaimarama Bay, Rawhiti

Rawhiti Air Fill
Do not be limited by the name. Rawhiti Air Fill is a wonderful beach-front store situated in Kaimarama Bay, which can cater for your every cruising needs. You will find Kaimarama Bay south east of Albert Channel with three feet of water near the moored boats at low tide. Your passage into the bay is safe, being clear of any submerged rocks.

Apart from general grocery lines, toiletries etc, Della and Ted Hartwell will refill dive tanks, or tanks are available for hire. They are able to refill diesel and petrol cans, have a few dive and fishing supplies, ice, water container refills for a small charge and organic vegetables straight from the garden. Della and Ted have a daily rural delivery from Whangarei so if your needs are beyond their stock lines, I am sure they will endeavour to get supplies in for you. If you would like a break from cooking, try their takeaways.

Oke Bay
In the north east corner of the head of Oke Bay you will find a walk-way climbing up the steep bank which takes you on to the ridge overlooking the bays known as Rawhiti (east). Rawhiti Air Fills can be reached by following the road north.

Otehei Bay
This is a popular stopping-off point for tourists taking a Fullers Bay of Islands Tour of the bay. Zane Grey Restaurant offers the only restaurant facility in the outer bay and also has limited grocery items for sale. The wharf is used predominantly for tours but anchor off and go ashore by dinghy.

Te Hue Bay (Assassination Cove) offers the only outer bay water supply. Here you will find a private jetty with a water supply of excellent untreated quality. There is an honesty box for $10.00 a fill. You will find 2 metres depth at half tide.

Oke Bay has a fresh water spring cascading on to the beach in the middle of the head of the bay which can be reached through a rocky approach by dinghy. Giardia has recently become a threat in natural water sources so it is not recommended for drinking, but for the adventurous it is fine for taking a refreshing shower or cloths washing.

Rubbish Disposal
As most islands are reserves you are asked to "pack it in and pack it out". However, from late December for a period of approximately six weeks, being the summer school holidays when many visiting boats are in the bay, there will be a rubbish barge located on the south east end of Moturua Island. You will find 4 metres of water all around at low water so keel boats can nose in to deposit rubbish. All rubbish must be bagged and tied. Please do not overfill the barge, wait for the replacement barge to be towed out.

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Maritime Park & Reserves

True conservationists are people who know that the world is not given to them by their parents, but is borrowed from their children. The park is part of your world - handle it with care.

The Bay of Islands has 144 islands set like emeralds in crystal clear water. Much of this island land is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) for New Zealanders and their guests and held in either historic, scenic or recreation reserve.

All perks in the area are open to the public and most are able to be walked over, many reserves have formed tracks and are steeped in Maori and early settler history. You will find display boxes with information pamphlets on Moturua, Motuarohia and Urupukapuka Islands.

A general request when enjoying our island reserves is to "pack it in and pack it out", leave only your footprints and take only photos. Please be mindful that pockets of land are still in private ownership. You are free to use the beach but respect the privacy of the owners.

The first adventurous sailors, Polynesians, arrived in New Zealand about 1,000 years ago, covering 5,000 kilometres in canoes. They settled initially in the north building their villages or pa sites on headlands. The ocean provided an abundant food source, while the flat areas of land were cultivated for kumara and other vegetables. All that remains of this early habitation is evidence of the extensive earth-works which can be seen suite clearly when the sun is low, casting shadows which reveal terraces and defence ditches.

Look for these sites on Urupukapuka Island, Kahuwhera Pa Manawaora Bay and Rangihoua Pa to the southwest of Marsden Cross.

Parts of these island reserves are a rich source of our natural flora and fauna. Some bush areas provide the habitat for the kiwi, our nocturnal flightless bird and national symbol. The males distinctive repetitive call (up to 20 trills) can be heard from dusk, announcing his territory. This is answered by the female in the mating season. The calls can be heard in some of the bays which have bush-clad areas.

Bird life is abundant in the Bay of Islands but many of the coastal species are endangered, so respect their habitat by being fully aware of their presence while you enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

During the summer months many of the beaches will be fringed with the crimson flowering Pohutukawa. This is considered to be the New Zealand Christmas tree which is a very spiritual tree according to Maori tradition. For this reason we ask you to admire without picking.

Toitu te whenua (leave the land undisturbed).

Please note: Motukiekie Island is now in private ownership.

For more in-depth information visit the Bay of Islands Maritime & Historic Park Visitor Centre, The Strand, Russell.

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