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WorldNew ZealandWellington
Port of Entry
41°19.825'S, 174°51.010'E Chart icon.png
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Wellington Harbour

Wellington lies at the southern end of New Zealand's North Island. It is often the stepping off point for those wanting to cross Cook Strait and cruise through the Marlborough Sounds. Wellington’s harbour, called Lambton Harbour is a beautiful horse shoe shape, surrounded by many forested high hills. The entire harbour is safe for large and small ships, with few rocks, good depths in almost every part, and a modest tide of no more than 1 ½ metres (excluding spring). But of course like anywhere in the roaring forties, it can get rough and very windy.

Wellington city itself has a population of about 185,000, and taking account the wider population of its four satellite cities the total population is 380.000. Public transport around Wellington is good, although a little expensive, with frequent bus and train services.

For the cruising yachtie Wellington isn’t somewhere you’d typically choose to go except either as a stop off on your way to the South Island, or you have residents there that you wish to visit. That’s not to say that Wellington doesn’t have attractions and charm, it does in abundance, but for those on their way to the Marlborough Sounds consider the alternative of a layover at Mana near the satellite city of Porirua, assuming you’ve passaged down the North Island’s west coast. Refer to the information on marinas below.

Attractions for Wellington city itself include the world renowned Te Papa, the national museum. Te Papa is a new addition to the capital and one of the world’s first 'interactive' museums. Te Papa is set right on the water front, in the midst of the central business district. It’s actually a very short walk from the Chaffers Marina.

Wellington once had a reputation for being dull and grey, full of dour civil servants dressed in drab clothes. But since around 1985 that reputation hasn’t been deserved. The city is now vibrant, busy and colourful with outdoor bars and cafes throughout the inner city. The culture of Wellington City is one of relaxed shopping. Try a flat white, Australia's best known contribution to coffee drinking adopted as one of its own in Wellington. We’ll discuss some of the attractions below, but if you do stopover you will enjoy your stay.

Wellington and Porirua Harbours are the only safe havens in this rather bleak (and sometimes most hostile) coast south of New Plymouth on the west coast and Napier on the east coast of the North Island. Lying within the notorious Cook Strait there's really nowhere to cruise or gunkhole. It can also be very windy, with Cook Strait creating a natural wind funnel thorough the region.


Land Information NZ
NZ46 Cook Strait (1:200000) or
NZ463 Approaches to Wellington Harbour (1:100000)
NZ4633 – Wellington Harbour (1:25000)
NZ4634 – Wellington Harbour Entrance & Wharves (chartlet scale varies)
NZ4632 – Approaches to Porirua Harbour (1:16000)


Sources for Weather forecasts:

Wellington is located next to Cook Strait, which forms a narrow gap between the mountain ranges of the North and South Islands. This gap between the islands and mountain ranges accelerates the wind through the Cook Strait making Wellington a very windy city.

Wellington’s average wind speed was measure at 22 km/hr (source data for 1971 to 2000). During the same period there were an average of 22 days per year with wind speeds over gale force (63km/h). Wellington tops the mean wind speed comparisons (for New Zealand) with the notable exception of the Chatham Islands and ranks number 3 behind Kaikoura and Scott Base, Antartica for the number of gale force days.

October is the windiest month of the year with a mean 27 days of wind speeds over 15 knots, 19 of those days are over 20 knots. July is the least windy month with a mean of 21 days with wind speeds over 15 knots, 12 of those days are over 20 knots. October to January is the windiest time of year with the least windy months extending from February to July.

For wind speeds of 15-20 knots, northerlies are the most common a massive 80.6% of the time, the next closest frequency direction is from the South at 13.1%. Westerly (WNW, W, WSW) and Easterly (ENE, E, ESE) wind directions are not represented at all. Higher wind speeds over 20 knots show a similar distribution. The bias to direct Northerly and Southerly wind directions is probably slightly exaggerated by the North South alignment of the hills surrounding the airport (where the study was undertaken).

Wellington is not only known for its frequently windy conditions but for the strength of its wind. The Metservice reports the following extreme wind conditions in Wellington:

  • Wellington averages 173 days a year with wind gusts greater than about 60 km/h (32knots) and gales in the Wellington region regularly measure gusts over 140km/h (75 knots)
  • The strongest wind speeds where recorded at Hawkins Hill at an incredible 248km/h (134 knots) on the 6 November 1959 and 4 July 1962



There are two islands within the harbour, the first seen as you enter is really a large rock called Ward Island. Ward Island is a popular picnic site in the summer. There’s an anchorage with good holding on the eastern side, just off the sandy beach.

A couple of miles north is a larger island called Sommes Island. Sommes Island is a DOC (Dept. of Conservation) reserve and well worth a visit. To walk around the entire island takes about 2 hours at a leisurely pace and in summer it’s a popular place to walk and picnic. The island is served by regular ferry service several times a day throughout the year. The writer has always felt Sommes Island is a gem in the capital’s crown and encourages all visitors (and Wellingtonians) to make the visit.

At the north eastern end of the island is the ferry service jetty where pleasure boats may offload passengers. 100 metres north of the jetty are 2 free DOC mooring buoys where it is expected the skipper will tie up and then dinghy to the shore to meet his/her passengers. DOC is fastidious that no one inadvertently introduces any creatures or weeds to the island. So they will check the bags and shoes of all visitors and there is a building by the jetty for that purpose.

The two DOC mooring buoys at Sommes island are also often used by overnight cruisers, they’re free and relatively sheltered, but can be a little rolly in a northerly.


See New Zealand

Also see World Cruiser's Nets


Do not hesitate to contact Wellington Harbour control (Beacon Hill) on channel 16 for help.

As with all New Zealand ports, lights and markers are carefully maintained and can be relied on to operate.


Wellington port is a Customs Port of Entry so if this is your first port of call you'll need to contact Customs and make arrangements as per the instructions for New Zealand.

For entrance details see New Zealand.


Marinas & Yacht Clubs


Wellington provides several anchorages (all are free of charge).

In the north eastern corner of the harbour lies Lowry Bay. The southern side of the bay was once the mooring ground for the Lowry Bay Yacht Club. And whilst there are still a handful of moorings in the bay it is also a good anchorage with a sandy/mud, relatively shallow, flat bottom. Sheltered from all but the worst southerly winds, but can be a little roly in northerly winds.

On the western side of Evans Bay there continues to be a large number of moorings. But you can safely anchor here with good holding. The location is also more convenient to the Wellington CBD than Lowry Bay is.

Larger yachts and tall sailing ships often anchor just off the Hutt Motorway (in the proximity of the petrol station) at the northern end of the harbour. It is good holding and you'll be in the lee from the northerlies. Not a place to be anchored in a southerly.

Mana Harbour

Mana harbour.pngMana Harbour
Small info.png (Click links for more information)
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41°1.00′S, 174°71.00′E
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Photo gallery
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Local chartlet

If you are planning to continue a trip (south or north), particularly if your route is up or down the West Coast, then consider Mana for your visit. Appreciate that Mana is NOT a port to clear NZ Customs. The main advantage of Mana is its accessibility to/from the Marlborough Sounds (refer to Cook Strait Crossing).

Mana provides very desirable beachfront suburbs and has a modern 300 berth marina. Several visitors’ berths are provided by the Mana Cruising Club at the northern end of the marina. The marina lies halfway between the Mana and Paremata stations (both a short walk). There’s a very regular 20 minute ride to/from Wellington city proper and as I write this in 2013 the price at peak time is about $16 Mana/Wellington return per adult. A 10 trip is the most economical fare if you expect to make several trips. All trains have guards from whom you may purchase tickets with cash.

Outside the harbour is Mana Island. The island is nearly one square mile in area, with a height of about 120 metres and flat topped. The island has been Dept. of Conservation controlled since 1987. It has been managed since as a sanctuary for lizards, birds and native plants after a successful mice eradication project.

The north end of the island is affected by tidal streams and in bad weather a clearance of at least 1 mile is recommended. The southern end is a popular picnic area with shelter from the predominant northerlies.

Marina and Approach

Before entering the Mana Harbour proper refer to chart NZ4632 – Approaches to Porirua Harbour. You’ll see that there are some hazards including a reef in what seems like mid channel and areas of very shallow water. In a strong northerly, particularly when blowing against an outgoing tide, it is safest to hold off your entry until an hour or so before high tide. This is because there may be a lack of depth during wave troughs with the swell waves running over the sand bar at the entrance.

The channel itself is well marked. As with any new harbour don’t hesitate to ask for help on channel 16 and/or follow another vessel. During daytime the channel is marked by two white triangular beacons at the foot of a hill. Entry at night is provided by red, green and white sector lights (follow the white light). Relatively close to the beach (about 500 metres) you’ll need to make an almost 90° turn to starboard. As with the harbour entry there are two triangular beacons for daytime and a directional light for night time that will appear on your starboard beam. The central Cruising Guide warns of people confusing the directional lights with the red lights of the railway and the background of houses. In additional there are channel markers all the way along.

The entrance to the marina requires an almost 180°, very tight turn through the entrance, as the visitors’ berths and Club House are at the northern end. Facilities include water, travelift and hard stand, diesel, and a hand cranked mast crane. Note that whilst the Marina berths proper are all floating, the visitors’ berths are fixed concrete so allow enough line for at least a 1 ½ metre tide range. Within walking distance are cafes, bars, a shopping centre, service stations for petrol and LPG supplies. There are also several workshops and shops catering for pleasure boats and their repair. Close by two are some popular beaches.

Mana Anchorages

Continuing south past the marina are several mooring areas. You can freely anchor at any of these areas, obviously with normal care. Do not continue past the marina entrance at night on your first visit.

Yacht Repairs and Services

Marine Stores

Within a walking distance of all the marinas are numerous small boat supply stores, although most geared to small power and fishing boats.


As above, with many small workshops and repair yards. As a rule you'll find these guys innovative and willing to tackle any problem. Appreciate that most locals will regard a visiting cruiiser as being very wealthy and so may not be concerned about taking a few extra hours or days on your project. So you really need to manage any work you need done.

The marina has a travel lift and hard stand area.

Fuel, Water, & Electricity

There are several service stations offering diesel, petrol and LPG within walking distance of the marinas. The marinas all have diesel available.
The tap water is clean, free and drinkable, with taps all around the marinas.
240 volt. Vessels require an electrical safety certificate if the vessel requires anything other than 12/24 volt battery chargers.

Things to do Ashore


See Wellington on wikivoyage, and also Wellington on newzealand.com

Grocery & Supply Stores



Check with marina. Also see Internet in New Zealand.


Coin machines at all the marinas (except Evans Bay Marina)

Motorbike & Car Rentals

Garbage Disposal

Dumpsters at all the marinas, along with oil recycling tanks


See Transportation in New Zealand


Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.


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


References & Publications

See New Zealand.


We welcome users' contributions to the Wiki. Please click on Comments to view other users' comments, add your own personal experiences or recommend any changes to this page following your visit.

  • A very friendly place.

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