New Zealand’s epic islands.

Published 08 July 2020

The 36th America's Cup is about to take centre stage in New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf. The warm up act is the America's Cup World Series, which takes place 17-20 December 2020. Then the real show begins with the Prada Cup, 15 January-22 February 2021, to identify the challenger, before the grand finale, the America's Cup itself, between the challenger and the holder, Emirates Team New Zealand, from 16-21 March 2021.

The racing is going to be intense but it's very far from the only reason to visit these spectacular islands. There is so much to see, so many of nature's most precious jewels sparkle brightest here. With the ocean playgrounds of the Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands, Fiordland and Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand is a diverse paradise best enjoyed on a superyacht charter.

Tīkapa Moana (Hauraki Gulf)

Billy Connolly once joked that he went to New Zealand and there was nobody there. Obviously, the day the Scottish comedian visited, everyone was out on a boat, probably on Tīkapa Moana (Hauraki Gulf). If so, they had set off from Auckland, the perfect place to start your exploration of the Hauraki Gulf’s 50-plus islands.

Kawau Island is a 25-mile sail from Auckland, passing through the Tiritiri Matangi channel and past Moturekareka and Motuketekete Islands before entering the sheltered, clear waters of Kawau’s Bon Accord Harbour.

At the heart of Hauraki Gulf lies New Zealand's capital Auckland
At the heart of Hauraki Gulf lies New Zealand's capital Auckland

About 12 miles from Kawau Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island is a Jurassic Park for birds, many only just surviving extinction, but now thriving in their predator-free forest. At the honey baths, tuis, fantails, robins, bellbirds and saddlebacks flit in and out to take their turn in a pecking order that makes sense only to them.

Aotea (Great Barrier Island), 60 miles from Auckland, is defined by its isolation. The main entrance to Rarohara (Port Fitzroy) is Port Abercrombie, but threading a yacht through Man O’ War Passage instead is always a thrill. Great Barrier is the first island in the world to be designated a Dark-Sky Sanctuary. It’s also famed for its green-lipped mussels, while the fishing is excellent among the surrounding Broken Islands.

Close to Auckland, Waiheke Island is home to vineyards, olive groves, beautiful beaches and chic dining
Close to Auckland, Waiheke Island is home to vineyards, olive groves, beautiful beaches and chic dining

At Smokehouse Bay, accessible only by boat, you can smoke your catch and soak in a woodstove-heated bath. The décor is a simple, rustic structure on a tiny beach. The sea around the island teems with life. Snorkel among demoiselle, snapper, tarakihi and parrot fish, with conger eels poking out from rock crevices. Like the birds, the best way to observe them is to stay in one place.

Bay of Islands

Further up the east coast of the North Island is the Bay of Islands, a subtropical paradise. The settlement of Russell on the mainland is picture-book pretty. The Strand runs along the waterfront between the beach, pohutukawa trees and white-painted timber buildings of the 19th century.

Aerial view of the multitude of bays, coves and secret beaches
Aerial view of the multitude of bays, coves and secret beaches

Out in the bay, there are 144 islands, one of the most beautiful being Urupukapuka (top image), its open grasslands criss-crossed with bush trails. There is plenty to see: boats negotiating the passages between islands, rugged rock bays that have been bashed by waves for centuries on the seaward side, and tranquil coves on the sheltered side.

The Hole in the Rock at Motukokako
The Hole in the Rock at Motukokako

The Bay of Islands has distinctive landmarks: the Black Rocks slink low to the north; the Nine Pin is a triangle silhouetted on the horizon. Only the Hole in the Rock at Motukokako, also known as Piercy Island, allows boats to pass right through it.

To see beneath the water, Motuarohia, or Roberton Island’s marine reserve has easy snorkelling among snapper, leatherjackets, spotties and coloured seaweeds. There are also two ships sunk as dive sites in the bay: the HMNZS Canterbury at Deep Water Cove near Cape Brett, and the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, near the Cavalli Islands.

St Paul's Rock stands sentinel over Whangaroa Harbour
St Paul's Rock stands sentinel over Whangaroa Harbour

North of the Bay of Islands, the rocky cliffs of the mainland overlap to conceal the entrance to Whangaroa Harbour until final approach. Inside, it is so sheltered that it’s more like a lake than the sea. To kayak here is paradise as you paddle around the mangroves, explore the creeks at full tide or hover over rocky sea mounts watching for fish. No visit to Whangaroa Harbour is complete without a glass of New Zealand Chardonnay on the deck at Kingfish Lodge.

Marlborough Sounds

The South Islanders call their island ‘the mainland’, and they’re only half-joking. One of its best attributes is the Marlborough Sounds, as scenic as the Bay of Islands but more remote, sparsely populated and with a hint of something wild. Most homes are accessible only by boat, so the occasional jetties and boat sheds peek out from dense, dark-green bush into Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte), Kenepuru and Te Hoiere (Pelorus) Sounds.

Commuting in Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte) Sound is a more relaxed affair
Commuting in Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte) Sound is a more relaxed affair 

Dolphins often ride boats’ bow waves or play and feed in the Sounds. They may include the world’s rarest and smallest species, the Hector’s Dolphin. It’s easy to identify: even marine biologists describe its black dorsal fin as resembling one of Mickey Mouse’s ears.

For fine dining in the wilderness, book your seat at the Bay of Many Coves Resort or the less formal Punga Cove Resort. Both are located in the outer Queen Charlotte Sound, accessible only by sea and definitely far, far from the madding crowds.

Fiordland National Park

The 44.2m HEMISPHERE and one of many spectacular waterfalls

Hauraki Gulf

Sandy shores

Wellington Harbour

Not for nothing is New Zealand known as 'the land of the long white cloud'


Toi o Tāmaki art gallery

Marlborough Sounds


Fiordland National Park

Piopiotahi (Milford Sound)

Abel Tasman National Park

Split Apple Rock

Waikato River, Lake Taupo

Huka Falls

Stewart Island, Southland

Views south from Wohler's Monument, Oban

Marlborough Sounds

Famed for viticulture

Lake Tekapo

Aoraki (Mount Cook) seen across the lake

Coromandel Peninsula

Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove)

Charter in New Zealand


For LADY E, 2020 was all about a 6m extension to add a fabulous new beach club with bar, lounge, TV, nightclub sound and lighting systems. New bridge deck beauty salon, sun deck spa as well as gym and jacuzzi. Hot new Wajer 55s tender - the works.

Find out what's changed

To find out more about Burgess’ yachts for sale and yachts for charter, please contact a Burgess broker. Alternatively, get in touch with one of our offices directly: London, Monaco, New York, Miami, Singapore or all other locations.

- Yachts, prices and availability are correct at the time of publication.

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