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Old 19-07-2015, 19:29   #1
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Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

Hello-

We're still in Bora Bora, but starting to think about later this year and where we should aim for in New Zealand. We hope to cruise a number of places on the North Island, but we will need a "base" to work out of for a few months while we do some boat projects and have some family come for visits. Has anyone been to both Opua and Whangarei and can give us their thoughts on which may be better for us? We prefer to stay out at anchor. We don't need restaurants, but a market within walking distance is preferred (won't have a car). Whangerei looks to be the larger town, but are there any anchoring opportunities?

Thanks- Matt

s/v Perry
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Old 19-07-2015, 22:06   #2
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

We also plan to go there for hurricane season.
This are links to the 2015 brochures for Whangarei and Bay of Islands. I found the paper versions in the marina in Tahiti. Good reading.

Whangarei:
ISSUU - Wmg guide 2015 by Sharron Beck

Bay of Islands:
http://www.bayofislandsmarina.co.nz/...a_Mag_2015.pdf
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Old 19-07-2015, 23:02   #3
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

Opua is a very small tourist village in the Bay of Islands. There is very little in the way of services and shopping. It has a population on about 350 (yes 350 not a typo). And of course in the season everything is charged at tourist prices.

Whangarei is a small city with a population of 50,000. Far better for any marine services you might need. Plus it has markets, supermarkets, shopping centre etc.

You can anchor out at both locations but Opua is certainly a better locale for anchoring.

Perhaps even consider Auckland which actually isn't much further south? It is real city (population over a million) with everything a first world large city offers. Numerous sheltered bays and coves in which to anchor.
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Old 19-07-2015, 23:34   #4
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

Bregts- Thanks for the links info. Too bad the Whangarei one is not downloadable for offline use.

grantmc- Yeah, that's the dilemma, small and anchor friendly, or decent sized but limited opportunities to stay out of a marina. Do you know where the closest anchorage is to Whangarei? I looked at the arial view and the river seems to be only full of moorings. Can you tell me more about Auckland? We enjoyed the city when we visited 15 years ago, but heard that there aren't really any good/ convenient anchorages and all the marinas are completely full (not that we're looking to stay in a marina).

Thanks- Matt
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Old 20-07-2015, 00:28   #5
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

In 2011, we stayed both in Opua and Whangarei, with the majority of our time spent at the Town Basin Marina in Whangarei, which we thoroughly enjoyed (great hikes up to the top of Parihaka right from the marina) but I don't recall any places to anchor there. There are piling moorings that can be rented from the marina but that's all I remember.

Keep in mind that there are some very strong currents in Opua. We provided a very entertaining show as we attempted to approach the Immigration dock when we arrived at the height of a flood tide. I'm still embarrassed at the many bad words I said out loud then.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 20-07-2015, 01:25   #6
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

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Originally Posted by teneicm View Post
Hello-

We're still in Bora Bora, but starting to think about later this year and where we should aim for in New Zealand. We hope to cruise a number of places on the North Island, but we will need a "base" to work out of for a few months while we do some boat projects and have some family come for visits. Has anyone been to both Opua and Whangarei and can give us their thoughts on which may be better for us? We prefer to stay out at anchor. We don't need restaurants, but a market within walking distance is preferred (won't have a car). Whangerei looks to be the larger town, but are there any anchoring opportunities?

Thanks- Matt

s/v Perry

Opua has a great vibe and you can anchor at Paihia and Russell as well although not as protected. Whangarei is popular with cruisers but is not the best example of a town in NZ. You can rent a pile mooring for a reasonable amount in Whangarei but I don't see how you could anchor. We really enjoyed staying at the viaduct marina in Auckland. Keep in mind that if you have US dollars you will only spend $0.66 for a NZ dollar so paying to moor the boat does not hurt as bad. It's also really easy to buy and sell a car there, we sold ours for more than we bought it for when we left.


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Old 20-07-2015, 01:40   #7
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

I've had my boat in Gulf Harbour just north of Auckland since last August... berth cost is about $17 NZD ( ex GST ) a day for under 12 metres.

Once used a pre-booked mini bus/taxi thingo to Auckland Airport... about $100 NZ plus about $20 for each additional passo... about an hour and a bit.
Also commuter ferries during the week into downtown Auckland ... dont know the cost.

Marine services... lots in the marina itself... I've used Brin Wilson , Gulf Harbour Riggers, Gulf Harbour Upholstery, and the Volvo people who are all very good.
Everything else your heart could desire between there and Auckland but a car would be handy for a lot of stuff. Frinstance getting overseas propane tanks tested so you can get them filled in NZ isn't that easy these days...used 'Dive Centre' which is down near Albany... a hire car would be pretty much essential.
Mini mart sort of a place and small shopping centre within walking distance of Gulf Harbour... good vittling maybe 15 minutes drive away in Whangaparaoa and Silverdale.

And... when you have fixed all your broken bits.... there are plenty of good anchorages throughout the Hauraki Gulf area
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Old 20-07-2015, 02:01   #8
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

I don't know what you are talking about no anchoring. I anchored in whangarei for almost 5 months straight during which time I converted my boat into a floating garden.

Better to avoid checking in opua as the customs officials there discriminate against exceptional sailors. The official from whangarei had to come to opua to give me clearance because the guy there refused to even after 3 weeks of debate.
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Old 20-07-2015, 02:09   #9
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

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Originally Posted by boat_alexandra View Post
I don't know what you are talking about no anchoring. I anchored in whangarei for almost 5 months straight during which time I converted my boat into a floating garden.

Better to avoid checking in opua as the customs officials there discriminate against exceptional sailors. The official from whangarei had to come to opua to give me clearance because the guy there refused to even after 3 weeks of debate.
Well I'm exceptional*... indeed I consider myself to be exceedingly exceptional.... I had no problems....

* people often say... 'every one is invited... except him'......
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Old 20-07-2015, 02:42   #10
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

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Well I'm exceptional*... indeed I consider myself to be exceedingly exceptional....
Yes, well maybe a different exceptional and that is fine. I am not the first to have problems there, I know of two other cases, and I have _never_ had any problems anywhere else in about 50 ports in pacific and indian oceans.

They discriminated against me because I don't have an engine, cook on a wood fire, and the official even told me my free board was "too low". When they finally put my boat back into the water after detaining it for a week (during which time they debated if a kayak was or wasn't a life raft among other things) the official said to me "If you had painted your boat we never would have done this"

So just to let everyone know, if your boat is old be sure to have fresh paint topsides (which well eventually end up back in the environment and serves no practical purpose) it or don't clear in opua.
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Old 20-07-2015, 10:36   #11
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

What a load of rubbish about Opua. We checked in there 2 years in succession, and providing you abide by the rules, they are fine.

In Opua there are good moorings available, or you can anchor. But the services available are not as good or as competitive as in

In Whangerai there is no anchoring near the town, but the marina is good and friendly, either on piles or on pontoons. Great service, smiles😋, helpful and friendly. It is not expensive.

Auckland, again good facilities, but not cheap. Would recommend Gulf Harbour, but wherever you need a car. We bought from Cars for Cruisers in Opua when we arrived, and sold when we left 2 years later. Philip stored it for us whilst we sailed to Fiji and back. Enjoy, it is a magic country, still miss it! Fair winds and calm seas!
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Old 20-07-2015, 11:34   #12
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

We were last in Whangarei in 2008 so our experience is very dated. We did spend two cyclone seasons there and we loved it. Opua is beautiful but isolated and services are indeed very limited. But people love staying there too.

Not sure where the one poster anchored for 5 months in Whangarei since we did not see anyone doing so and couldn't imagine where that might be. It certainly would not be encouraged as moorings fill any nearby coves and the river is only navigable in the dredged channel for almost the entire length. It is several miles to the river bar to Whangarei.

We stayed at Riverside Drive Marina just down from the town basin at the very end of the river. Our moorage was on a dock so we walked on and off the boat rather than having to use the dink to get to shore as you would at the town basin. The town basin was somewhat cheaper though and closer to the town center by foot. Easy walking distance to all stores from the marina too. We bought a car and kept it for two years. Not sure what was meant by the comment that Whangarei is not a normal NZ town. It certainly appeared pretty normal compared to all the other towns we visited over the two seasons we traveled there.

There is a new marina just inside the river entrance near the oil refinery there. They may have slips available (or not) but they would be isolated too and you would want a car or be willing to use the bus to get in to town about 10 miles away. Too far to dink. Other mooring fields are private in the various bays that line the river.

We certainly would love to revisit Whangarei but we would also spend some time in Opua as well. You definitely would need an advance reservation to stay in the RDM. The town basin used to be first come first serve and there was some turnover during the season.
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Old 20-07-2015, 12:01   #13
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by teneicm View Post
Hello-

We're still in Bora Bora, but starting to think about later this year and where we should aim for in New Zealand. We hope to cruise a number of places on the North Island, but we will need a "base" to work out of for a few months while we do some boat projects and have some family come for visits. Has anyone been to both Opua and Whangarei and can give us their thoughts on which may be better for us? We prefer to stay out at anchor. We don't need restaurants, but a market within walking distance is preferred (won't have a car). Whangerei looks to be the larger town, but are there any anchoring opportunities?

Thanks- Matt

s/v Perry
Well for my money Opua is by far the nicer of the two. Whangerei is ok, but is basically a service town. If you need work done and are going to do it on a mooring/at anchor and mostly yourself, then perhaps Whangerei may be more practical, though the town wharf is a lot more practical still and again. But Opua is a wonderful place, wonderful people, wonderful cruising ground and if you are living on the hook you can move to Pahia or Russell at will. There are also excellent canvaswork, electrical, woodwork, welding, rigging, and engineering facilities withing 3 minutes walk of the dinghy dock at Opua, so I don't quite agree that there are "few" services there. In any case if you talk to Rent a Dent you can rent a car CHEAPLY and be in Keri Keri or Whangerei lickety split.
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Old 20-07-2015, 12:08   #14
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

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Yes, well maybe a different exceptional and that is fine. I am not the first to have problems there, I know of two other cases, and I have _never_ had any problems anywhere else in about 50 ports in pacific and indian oceans.

They discriminated against me because I don't have an engine, cook on a wood fire, and the official even told me my free board was "too low". When they finally put my boat back into the water after detaining it for a week (during which time they debated if a kayak was or wasn't a life raft among other things) the official said to me "If you had painted your boat we never would have done this"

So just to let everyone know, if your boat is old be sure to have fresh paint topsides (which well eventually end up back in the environment and serves no practical purpose) it or don't clear in opua.
'Course plenty of sailors have died sailing out of there, and a good number in recent years. Their caution may seem paternalistic, but maybe they also don't like having to launch rescues or search operations, or for that matter remembering the disappeared… speaking of which, I take it you saw "Wonderland" still on a mooring there, with the ghostly solar powered anchor light still aglow?
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Old 20-07-2015, 13:22   #15
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Re: Can we get the low down on Opua and Whangarei NZ?

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.
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