Spotlight on New Zealand
Spotlight on New Zealand
Journeys

Spotlight on New Zealand

The arrival of the America’s Cup next year is bringing renewed attention to New Zealand as a far-flung and multi-dimensional yachting destination.

By Dominique Afacan | 27 January 2020

“New Zealand is the best kept secret in the world, believe me”, says Sir Michael Hill, owner of superyacht VvS1. “Of course, there are snippets of great places everywhere in the world, but there really is no place like New Zealand.” It’s a sentiment shared by many superyacht owners and charter guests who have gone the extra mile to reach this far-flung destination.

As the oldest trophy in international sport, the America’s Cup, lands in Auckland early next year, many yachts are considering heading over there for the first time, either to grab a spectator’s spot on the water or to compete in the Mastercard Superyacht Regatta, taking place at the end of February. In the meantime, many yacht owners, like Delisa Mayer, are coming to New Zealand purely to explore a remote country with enormous appeal.

“We almost didn’t come to New Zealand because we made the mistake of looking at it as one country instead of multiple destinations,” said Mayer, joint owner of The Big Blue, which undertook an extended tour around the country in 2014. “You get everything here; the variety of the country is incredible and diverse.”

Spotlight on New Zealand

Millennium Cup Image: JEFF BROWN | BREED MEDIA

Spotlight on New Zealand

Millennium Cup Image: JEFF BROWN | BREED MEDIA

This month, the world’s most southerly regatta, the Millennium Cup (29 January to 1 February) is taking place once again in the Bay of Islands, offering up yet another excuse for superyachts to get off the beaten path and head south. “We have raced the Millennium Cup multiple times and won it twice,” says the owner or Silvertip, which is taking part again this year. “Racing in the Bay of Islands surrounded by a dolphin pod playing at the bow is always a treat. Any superyacht cruising in the Pacific should make a point of doing the Millennium Cup.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Robert Gleed of superyacht photographers Breed Media. “Of all the places in the world we have filmed and photographed superyachts, the Bay of Islands stands out above them all,” he says. “It’s a magical place, far away from the crowds, allowing visitors to enjoy a unique environment in the seclusion of quiet bays with isolated beaches all topped off with some of the best sailing waters in the world. The Cup itself is a relaxed, yet exciting event that is truly Kiwi in its vibe. Anyone who is privileged enough to be part of it will remember it forever and want to return time and time again.”

Spotlight on New Zealand

Marlborough Sounds

Spotlight on New Zealand

Marlborough Sounds

Events like the Millennium Cup and the America’s Cup might draw the crowds, but New Zealand is really an exceptional yachting destination in its own right. With 15,000 kilometres of coastline and the two major land masses to explore (North and South Island, divided by just 12 nautical miles), yachting visitors really are spoilt for choice.

Peter Busfield, executive director at NZ Marine, believes that the country’s sense of freedom is a real draw. “One of the first things visiting yachts will experience is freedom,” he says. “Freedom to catch saltwater fish without the need for a licence, freedom to anchor and walk along any beach and the freedom to enjoy many activities without crowds and queues. And the locals are so appreciative of visitors that they will offer more assistance and advice than you can handle!”

Spotlight on New Zealand

Millennium Cup Image: JEFF BROWN | BREED MEDIA

Spotlight on New Zealand

Millennium Cup Image: JEFF BROWN | BREED MEDIA

Whilst Auckland and the Bay of Islands might divert more attention to North Island, thanks to their regattas and yachting events, the South Island is just as impressive and visitors should ignore it at their peril. With wine to sample in Marlborough Sounds, glaciers to climb (not to mention spectacular parachuting, mountain biking and fishing) in Queenstown and mesmerising fjords to sail through, it’s a rich, adventure-seekers paradise with breathtaking landscapes and incredible wildlife. “One of our best day trips away from the boat, hands down, was the Marlborough Sounds,” said Delisa Mayer. “Everything you want is right there in that little jewel of New Zealand.”

Whichever island visitors choose – or even if they attempt both (experts recommend at least three months to circumnavigate the country), there is culture, marine life and epic landscape to impress. From Northland at the tip, with its white-sand beaches and rich Maori heritage, to Southland, with its towering peaks and rainforest in the far south – it’s little wonder that many visitors are making plans to return the minute they leave. “You’ll see us back,” says Delisa Mayer. “You’ll see us back sooner than you know.”

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