An easy way to get an idea of what you might be coming to is to jump on Google Earth
and take a look. Opua, Whangarei and Auckland are all situated in very large areas of harbour.
Opua is situated in the Bay of Islands. The Bay of Islands has something like 300 km of coast line and contains, I think, nearly 150 islands of every shape and size one might imagine. There are a few very small villages doted about, Keri Keri, Pahia, Russel, Okiato, Waitangi. They are all little villages with a few hundred people. Scattered throughout the wider Bay of Islands are thousands of holiday homes joined together by terrible winding narrow roads.. There are so many places to safely anchor in the Bay of Islands that you could live there for years, at anchor, changing location every week or two and still not see it all.
The Bay of Islands is Auckland’s playground. Dotted throughout are homes, many are beautiful homes for the ultra wealthy. So flying helicopters are, sadly, a regular feature. But the majority are shacks (what New Zealander’s call a bach). The locals living there are mostly poor, or they’ve tuned out of modern society. The vast majority live on welfare.
Whangarei is actually a very very large natural harbour fed by numerous rivers. At the head
of the harbour lies the Hatea River where the city of Whangarei itself exists, built around the river entrance. There’s nothing particularly attractive about Whangarei city. As New Zealand cities go it has a large degree of unemployment and nearly half of the population live on benefits. Graffiti, crime, drugs, gangs is my mental picture of Whangarei city. I’m sure people living there would disagree with me but the Northland region (basically the area north of Auckland) has all sorts of problems from lack of development, get rich quick schemes, minimal industry.
From the 'heads of the harbour (where the oil
refinery someone mentioned is) to the Riverside Marina in the Hatea River, right smack dab in the heart of Whangarei city is a 10 nm trip. Along the way there are numerous places you can safely anchor. It is quite tidal and there are huge areas of tidal flats. But there’s also considerable safe water and many lovely places to drop the pick.
Auckland itself was built right smack dab in the midst of an isthmus, which on the east lies the Pacific Ocean
and the west the Tasman Sea. Again numerous rivers, hills, valleys bays and. dare I say it volcanoes. Auckland has 3,100 kms of coastline. It’s huge physically, but it also is a sprawling city, where a third of New Zealand’s population live.
In all three locations there are many many places you can safely and legally live on the hook. There are no anchor Police in New Zealand unless you’re stupid and anchor in a shipping
lane. You can expect the occasional visit from a harbour or fisheries ranger
. They’ll be asking if you have sewage facilities and be interested that you might be exceeding fishing
limits. Mainly they’re interested in ensuring you know the rules.
My personal guide to anchoring is to usually anchor where there are moorings. The moorings are typically in more sheltered spots with reasonable holding.
Worth pointing out too is that in New Zealand no one can buy the seashore. It is always public. And we have what is called the Queen’s Chain (we were an English
colony). That means that land ownership
can only start 22 metres/yards above the high water mark. Even at privately owned islands you aren’t prevent you from anchoring. The only exception to this are Government
reserves typically for endangered species but they are clearly sign posted.
In order to decide where to go you need to consider what it is you’ll need and what is your taste. If you want an exciting city life, then Auckland no question, but no matter where you anchor up you’ll have hundreds of houses looking out at you. Transport around Auckland is horrendously congested. Public transport is sadly lacking, and geared almost entirely to the commuters. You’ll be best to buy a little car (and for NZ$2K you can get something quite acceptable to me anyway, maybe you prefer a Porsche, there are plenty of those too). But be aware, like Los Angeles, Auckland was built around the car.
If your prefer somewhere with million dollar views, and are happy to go for days on end without seeing people then the Bay of Islands are perfect. But every week or so, when you need to buy groceries you’ll find minimal choices at the shops available in those little tourist villages. The villages are geared towards serving tourists staying in hotels. So wonderful café meals
etc. Also there is a very good farmers’ market at Keri Keri. I think it is on Sunday mornings. Because there are so many pleasure boats, there’s a small but thriving marine industry. The choices are limited but the skills are high. Most parts
need to be ordered overnight from Auckland.
Whangarei has far more marine services and supplies. But the marine industry there is geared to somewhat larger commercial
boats. There are big supermarkets, and several shopping centres.
Auckland has everything in abundance. Prices of labour are pretty similar across all three locations, Expect to pay $80 - $100 per hour for skilled marine labour. The further from Auckland, I think it is fair to say you’ll find the staff more innovative and will, for example, have a go at fabricating a defective part that you would otherwise wait weeks for because it must be imported..
I would also encourage you to consider, during your stay, to sail south. There is far more to NZ than those three destinations.