Sailing in the Bay of Islands


Paihia hub nz

North of Auckland, nestled on the East Coast and well on the way to Cape Reinga is Paihia. This little town has become a popular place to visit for several reasons. Firstly, a very short walk across the bridge will land you on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace of the new country as this is where the agreements between the Maori and the westernised colonisers were signed in 1840. It also is a great stopping point for those who want to go all the way to the top; to experience driving along 90 mile beach (which is not actually 90 miles long), to see the surreal sand dunes, the multiple isolated bays, and the famous Cape Reigna where two oceans meet. It also the access point to the Bay of Islands, a group of over 140 sub-tropical islands with isolated and undeveloped beaches, big game fishing, indigenous culture and endless sailing opportunities.

A trip to Paihia without going on the water is like a portion of pavlova without cream - sure, it tastes good, but something is certainly missing. There are plenty of ways to find yourself on the ocean, from luxury yachts to adrenaline pumping jet skis, and so a little research prior to your visit is worth your time.
For those who want to experience the sites and to frolic with the dolphins, there are multiple commercial cruises that will show you around the enclave. Most of these will take you out to the iconic “Hole in the Rock” which is, as the name suggests, a hole in a rock, but will sail you around the islands and enlighten you on the rich history of the area. Dolphins are common here, amongst other marine life, and the playful and promiscuous creates are often found chasing the cruise boats and pleasing the crowds with acrobatic displays and impressive leaps. Cruises leave regularly from Paihia and can last anywhere between a few hours and a whole day.
For those who want to become more intimate with the area, perhaps a slower sailing trip a little more optimal, and there are many different ways to do this. Firstly, you can charter a yacht and create your own trip and itinerary. Before doing this, check all the weather and water conditions, and speak to some locals about where to go, how long to spend there, and what to take. If you're not so confident to go alone, you can certainly book yourself in with an experienced leader and a group of other enthusiastic sailors and be guided around the picturesque landscapes while pulling the ropes and harassing the wind. Some sailing trips include short island stops where you can eat, hike, and dive into some Maori culture. Another popular activity is snorkelling and diving.
For those really keen sailors, there is perhaps no better way to have a unique experience of the bay than the CRC Bay of Islands sailing week. This happens annually towards the end of January, with participant applications beginning during the August prior to the event. This is one of the biggest regattas in New Zealand, running since 2002, and attracts participants from all over the world. Over three days, the town of Paihia bursts with iridescence, with parties and events revolving around the family friendly, fun, yet competitive event. The regatta is broken down into different divisions, depending on the size and type of your vessel, and each day is packed with sailing action. Since its initiation, the competition has been growing in size every year, with higher percentages of young sailors and female sailors participating every time.
If you wish to enter but have no boat, or if you have a boat and have no crew, the team behind the event have set up a “crew wanted and available” web page where eager sailors can build their teams. If you don't wish to participate but still want to witness the event, the town of Paihia will still be a great place to be and you can watch the battling boats from your own relaxed cruise. For information regarding the exact dates of the next event, applications, photographs and more information check out the official website at
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