New Zealand

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New Zealand Cruising Guide

An online cruising guide for sailing around New Zealand.

New Zealand
Map - click for larger view
Capital: Wellington
World icon.png 41°17′S, 174°27′E
Language: English, Maori, Sign
Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
Timezone: UTC+12 (DST observed)
Calling code 64
New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation, situated about 2000 km (1250 miles) southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga.
New Zealand Marine Forecast Areas.jpg
Marine Forecast Areas

New Zealand (Aotearoa, or the "Land of the Long White Cloud") comprises two main islands, the North and South Islands, Te Ika a Maui and Te Wai Pounamu respectively in Maori, and a number of smaller islands, located near the centre of the water hemisphere. Cook Strait, 20 km wide at its narrowest point, separates the North and South Islands. The total land area of 268,680 km2 (103,738 mi2) is a little less than that of Italy and Japan and a little more than the United Kingdom.

The country extends more than 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) along its main, north-north-east axis, with approximately 15,134 km (9,404 mi) of coastline. The most significant of the smaller inhabited islands include Stewart Island/Rakiura; Waiheke Island, in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf; Great Barrier Island, east of the Hauraki Gulf; and the Chatham Islands, named Rekohu by Moriori. The country has extensive marine resources, with the seventh-largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, covering over four million square kilometres (1.5 million sq mi), more than 15 times its land area.

Cruising the region

New Zealanders generally have a relaxed, can-do attitude and will have a go at trying to fix pretty much anything with a few improvised materials and tools.

Climate & Weather

New Zealand's climate is complex and varies from warm subtropical in the far north to cool temperate climates in the far south, with severe alpine conditions in the mountainous areas.

Mountain chains extending the length of New Zealand provide a barrier for the prevailing westerly winds, dividing the country into dramatically different climate regions. The West Coast of the South Island is the wettest area of New Zealand, whereas the area to the east of the mountains, just over 100 km away, is the driest.

Most areas of New Zealand have between 600 and 1600 mm of rainfall, spread throughout the year with a dry period during the summer. Over the northern and central areas of New Zealand more rainfall falls in winter than in summer, whereas for much of the southern part of New Zealand, winter is the season of least rainfall.

Mean annual temperatures range from 10°C in the south to 16°C in the north of New Zealand. The coldest month is usually July and the warmest month is usually January or February. In New Zealand generally there are relatively small variations between summer and winter temperatures, although inland and to the east of the ranges the variation is greater (up to 14°C). Temperatures also drop about 0.7°C for every 100 m of altitude.

Sunshine hours are relatively high in areas that are sheltered from the west and most of New Zealand would have at least 2000 hours annually. The midday summer solar radiation index (UVI) is often very high in most places and can be extreme in northern New Zealand and in mountainous areas. Autumn and spring UVI values can be high in most areas.

Most snow in New Zealand falls in the mountain areas. Snow rarely falls in the coastal areas of the North Island and west of the South Island, although the east and south of the South Island may experience some snow in winter. Frosts can occur anywhere in New Zealand and usually form on cold nights with clear skies and little wind. (From NIWA New Zealand Weather)

Sources of weather forecasting:

Weather Zones

The coastal weather zones in New Zealand have names like "Abel", "Cook", "Conway", "Grey", etc. It is quite difficult to get a description of what these weather zones are and where their borders are. A call to one of the Marine Radio operators on VHF 16 will usually be able to resolve which weather zone you are currently in, but the weather forecasts for the weather zones on VHF don't specify the parameters of those weather zones (unlike, for example, in Australia, where the weather forecast will be preceded by a description like "Hunter Coast, between Broken Bay and Seal Rocks and 60nm seawards, points which can be found on the standard charts).

There is a hover-over map on the NZ Met Service web site under "Marine and Ocean" but it's difficult to make a screen capture of this map for use while cruising. Study the map that has been captured here and make a note of the weather zone names before venturing into them.

None of the commonly available NZ cruising guides contain a map or a description of these weather zones.

In general, these weather zones lack granularity. For example, the weather in the part of the "Conway" zone north of Kaikoura bears little resemblance to the weather in Pegasus Bay. This has the effect of reducing the accuracy of the wind and wave forecasts heard on VHF. Some forecasts will give a variation in wind strength in the northern or southern part of the weather zone but treat these as a general guide only, and don't rely on them to have any degree of accuracy.

Note on Accuracy of NZ Weather Forecasts

In general, I have found that NZ weather forecasts as issued by the NZ Met Service are highly unreliable. The level of unreliability increases the further south you go. Cruisers who are used to hearing a weather forecast in other parts of the world and making assumptions about the accuracy of the forecast wind speed or direction will need to reset their expectations on enteirng NZ waters. In particular the weather in many parts of NZ is highly changeable during the course of a day, and the NZ met service make no attempt to take this into account -- their forecasts are usually only indicative of the approximate average wind strengths during the day, and a rough guide to which direction the wind may be coming from at some time in the day (although on 3 out of 5 occasions I have listened to recently and experienced the conditions, the forecast wind direction was not correct for any part of the day).

GRIB files or other sources of weather information from privately operating weather forecasters or overseas weather agencies should be considered when entering New Zealand.


Land Information NZ
NZ223 New Zealand and adjacent ocean areas - northern sheet (1:3500000)
NZ224 New Zealand and adjacent ocean areas - southern sheet (1:3500000)

LINZ Retailers Page.

Also see individual regions.

Local Radio Nets

  • Russell Radio - for frequency and schedules, check out their website.
    • Position reporting and weather updates based on your position
    • Will arrange assistance to cruisers who requires it
    • Provides information to overseas visiting yachts for the right course for the "Q" berth and the Customs dock in the Opua Marina
    • Will inform Customs and Immigration of your ETA; if you have pets, they will also inform Quarantine

Also see World Cruiser's Nets.

Approaches and Navigation

See individual regions.

Arrival/Departure procedures


Upon entry in New Zealand territorial waters, the Q-flag must be hoisted and remain aloft until the yacht has been cleared inside port. The first entry into New Zealand from a foreign port MUST be made at an official port of entry.

On approaching an official port of entry you must attempt to announce your arrival by calling Taupo Maritime Radio on VHF via their coastal relay stations. If unable to contact them, the local port authority can forward your arrival confirmation. Your actual arrival must be be announced to the "port of entry" on VHF16.


"Taupo Maritime Radio" maintains a continuous watch on 2182kHz, 8291kHz, 4125kHz, 6215kHz and 16420kHz. You can also contact them by phone: Ph: +64 9 359 6655 or +64 25 961 375 (after hours). A phone report may also be made to MAF in Auckland, Tel. +64 9 366 0345, +64 9 309 9093 or +64 274 975 171 (after hours).

If you are unable to contact the authorities by radio and therefore arrive "unannounced", the skipper (alone) must immediately make contact with Customs or the Police by phone and return immediately to the yacht - no other crew to go ashore until the clearance procedures have been completed.

Customs and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) quarantine officers will meet you on arrival. Clearance will be completed by Customs (also handles Immigration) and a Quarantine officer (after a thorough yacht inspection).

Note that all of the above also applies to New Zealand yachts arriving from offshore.

From the New Zealand Customs Fact Sheet No. 32:

N.B. New Zealand legislation requires the master of every craft en-route to New Zealand to provide certain information at least 48 hours prior to the expected arrival time in New Zealand territorial waters (12 nautical miles from the coastline). The information required includes:
  • Full details of the vessel.
  • Estimated date and time of arrival.
  • The Customs port of entry at which the vessel will arrive.
  • Full details of all crew and passengers on board.
  • The name of the originating port and subsequent ports visited en-route to New Zealand.

You can provide this information by:

  • Facsimile sheet — use the form in the New Zealand Border Agencies Information Pack for Yachts and Small Craft and fax it to +64-3-358 0069, or
  • Customs Website Download and complete the forms listed, and return them by fax or email.
  • New Zealand Customs Service, Marine Section, PO Box 29, Auckland. Ph: +64 (0)9 307 6516, Fax: +64 (0)9 359 6692. Email
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). Ph: +64 9 256 8547. Website, Email - (information on quarantine inspection and regulations affecting onboard pets)


Departure must be made from an official "Port of entry". Advise the New Zealand Customs Service at least 72 hours ahead of your intended departure to arrange for customs/immigration clearance. Once your clearance certificate has been issued, you must to go to sea within a "reasonable" time and any delays must be reported to Customs.

Customs and Immigration


  • Passports must be valid for at least three months beyond intended departure date. Australian citizens do not need visas nor do citizens of the European Union (except for Greece whose passports were issued BEFORE 1/1/2006), Bahrain, Brunei, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Israel, Korea (South), Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, USA, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, Kuwait, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Uruguay
  • A three month visitor's permit is granted on arrival. Visas can be renewed through the Ministry of Immigration
  • British citizens may stay for up to six months on a visitor's permit. Pemission to stay beyond the maximum permitted period may be granted if the yacht needs to undergo repairs, or if you need to wait out the South Pacific hurricane season (October to April). Maximum length of stay is twelve months
  • It is required that all crew show availability of funds of $400 NZ per month if living on the yacht. Crew disembarking in New Zealand will be required to show an onward ticket, or sufficient funds to purchase one. The owner of the yacht must prove ownership and supply evidence of adequate 3rd party insurance

An Immigration officer can be contacted by phone at: Ph: +64 9 914 4100 or fax the New Zealand Immigration National Contact Centre on Fax: +64 9 914 4100.


  • Firearms and ammunition MUST be declared on arrival and will be held in police custody until your departure. (The police MAY approve an onboard safe that will be sealed until your departure)
  • Keep medicines in their original packing - these should be accompanied by a valid prescription
  • Items such as flick-knives, swordsticks, knuckle-dusters, (and anything that can be termed a weapon) are prohibited
  • List (and declare) all equipment other than fixtures - these will not be subject to duty if remaining on board and re-exported on departure (some items may be sealed by Customs). Items to be landed must be declared to customs on arrival. Goods imported into New Zealand such as radios and navigation equipment require a Temporary Import form and a deposit to cover duty and sales tax, which will be refunded on re-export. If imported permanently, they will be subject to duty
  • All foreign yachts entering New Zealand on a temporary basis must fill in a "Temporary Import" form. The duty payable is assessed, and this amount is set by declaration on entry (the current rate is 19.7% - Aug'08). The yacht must leave New Zealand within 12 months of entry otherwise this duty is due on the yacht and its equipment. Extensions are not normally given beyond the twelve month limit unless the yacht is not seaworthy
  • The duty-free allowance for each person on arrival is 1 litre of spirits and 4.5 litres of wine or beer. Amounts in excess of this will be liable for customs charges
Note on GST Free Purchases

Each foreign vessel, on entering NZ waters, is given a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). This allows the owner of the vessel to purchase GST (tax) free supplies for the vessel, as long as those supplies are then exported from New Zealand. Different vendors will handle this TIP in different ways, for example:

  • Burnsco will take a copy of the TIP and issue the owner with a "cruiser card". This entitles the holder to GST free on all purchases from Burnsco on showing the card, plus some occasional discounts on specific items.
  • Some vendors will fill in the details on the reverse of the TIP, and offer GST free prices on relevant purchases.
  • Some vendors will take a copy of the TIP and offer GST free prices on relevant purchases.
  • Some vendors will state that the TIP is not valid for New Zealand and refuse to offer GST free prices. This information is incorrect.
  • Some vendors will state that this is not how GST is handled in New Zealand, and refuse to offer GST free prices. They will inform you that you must claim a GST refund on exiting the country. This information is also incorrect, New Zealand has no GST refund scheme on any purchase that includes GST in the price while made in New Zealand.
  • I strongly suspect that vendors who fall into the latter two categories are simply too lazy to do the correct GST paperwork, and that some are perhaps rorting the system. Caveat emptor.

The TIP must be surrendered to customs when leaving New Zealand. Customs officers may choose to inspect items listed on the reverse of the TIP to ensure that they are still on the vessel and are about to be exported from New Zealand.



New Zealand has very strict regulations on the importation of animals, animal and plant products. It is advisable to arrive with a minimum of fresh stores. Items that must not be landed are fruit, vegetables, plant products, foodstuffs, eggs and waste from these items, pot plants, meat and animal products. All waste must be disposed of through the proper garbage disposal system including egg containers. The quarantine officer will explain this on arrival. Until such stores are consumed or destroyed the yacht will be under surveillance and restricted to berthing at a wharf where these garbage facilities are available. Organic garbage should be disposed of before entering New Zealand territorial waters. The quarantine officer may also inspect for pesticides, which must be of a formula registered in New Zealand. This can include insecticide sprays, cockroach traps and antifouling.

Obtain written authority before taking anything ashore such as bicycles, motorcycles, sporting equipment, etc.

Items that are likely or certain to be confiscated during a quarantine inspection include:

  • Honey and any other bee products.
  • Chicken and any other products of poultry origin.
  • Unsprouted whole seeds.
  • Opened packets or tins containing meat products, or meat products of uncertain origin.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables.

Items that passed a recent quarantine inspection include:

  • Tinned meat (beef, not chicken) products clearly labelled.
  • Frozen beef mince still in its original packaging (from Australia, meat from other countries is likely to be taken)
  • Tinned vegetables clearly labelled.
  • UHT treated fruit juice in its original packaging.
  • Dried fruit and vegetables.

It is important to declare anything that may potentially pose a quarantine risk, if it does not pose a risk then you will be allowed to keep it, if not then it will be confiscated. If something is not declared but discovered during the inspection of the vessel then heavy fines can result.

Health and Security


Travelers to Rotorua should note that due to geothermal activity the town smells of sulphur, which may cause problems for some with sensitive noses. You get used to it, and the scenery is worth the trouble.


You'll find that for the most part Kiwi's are friendly and helpful. And whilst most locals are honest there is a criminal minority. So take the same care of yourself, boat and your belongings as you would anywhere. Be especially careful to avoid having to walk anywhere late at night, even in small towns. Most NZ Police Offcers are not armed.

Ports & Popular Stops

Poe.jpg = Port of entry, Island icon.png = Island, Marina icon.png = Marina, Harbour icon.png = Harbor, Anchor Icon.png = Anchorage, Question icon.png = Needs data.

North Island South Island
Auckland Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png
Gisborne Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png
Gulf Harbour Question icon.png
Mana Harbour see Wellington
Napier Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png
New Plymouth Poe.jpg) Question icon.png
Opua (Bay of Islands) Poe.jpg
Tauranga (Bay of Plenty) (Poe.jpg Question icon.png
Wellington Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png
Whangarei Poe.jpg
Whangaroa Question icon.png
Whitianga Question icon.png
Christchurch (Lyttleton) Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png -- see also South Island, East Coast
Akaroa Question icon.png -- see also South Island, East Coast
Dunedin Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png -- see also South Island, East Coast
Greymouth Question icon.png
Invercargill (Bluff) Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png
Nelson Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png] Question icon.png
Oamaru -- see also South Island, East Coast
Oban Question icon.png -- see also Stewart Island
Picton (Marlborough Sounds) Poe.jpg Marina icon.png Harbour icon.png Anchor Icon.png]
Timaru Poe.jpg Question icon.png -- see also South Island, East Coast


External Territories

  • Sub-Antarctic
    • Antipodes Islands
    • Auckland Islands
    • Bountry Islands
    • Campbell Island
    • The Snares

Regional Cruising Guides

(in order of north to south)

Inland Lakes


Several air lines service international routes from/to New Zealand. Whilst the majority of flights arrive/depart Auckland, wellington, Christhcurch and Queenstown also have international airports.

  • Air New Zealand
  • Qantas

Routes/Passages To/From

Cruiser's Friends

Sharron and Brian in the Whangarei Marina are very helpful with information to the cruising boats.

Forum Discussions

List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)

External Links

References & Publications

  • Hamilton, Mary, Coastal Cruising Handbook, Royal Akarana Yacht Club, PO box 42004, Orakei, Auckland, New Zealand, ISBN 9780473157920 - covers Three Kings islands to Cape Kidnappers
  • Murray, Keith W. J, New Zealand Cruising Guide, Steven William Publishers, PO box 13521, Johnsonville, Wellington, New Zealand, ISBN 9780959784893 - central area, covers Cape Palliser to Farewell Spit
  • Noel Bell, A Boaties Guide to Fiordland, Mana Cruising Club, PO box 57045, Mana, New Zealand, ISBN 154158875 - covers Fiordland

Personal Notes

  • SV Wiskun = We were in NZ between 2003 to 2007. As of this period, incoming overseas yachts were given 6 months Temporary Import Entry. Most cruisers who applied for extensions were given up to 1 year; however there must be a valid reason given, i.e. health, ongoing repairs on the yacht; etc. The first time we applied for an extension, we flew out of the country and sent the application for extension from overseas. We even enclosed a self addressed envelope purchased in NZ before we left. Our application was granted within 3 weeks. If ongoing repairs is the reason, they do come to the boatyard to check. Applications for further extensions may be granted based on valid reasons, but a security bond may have to be placed based on the value of the vessel. Our suggestion upon arrival is to declare as low as possible, the value of your vessel.
  • Note re Visitors Visa. You get 3 months on arrival. Can be extended after filling in paper work and fee. Might be easier to organize a longer visa before arrival. Eg. from the NZ Consulate in Tonga.
  • Delatbabel -- Arrived in Nelson NZ in December 2013 and was given a 2 year Temporary Import Permit. The form said 1 year but the customs officer explained that the time period had recently been extended to 2 years. I don't know if this is applies only to Australian vessels or those from all countries as well.


SailorSmiley.gifContributors to this page

Names:Lighthouse, Whangarei Marina, TaoJones, kiwi303, Delatbabel, Grantmc

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