When it comes to boating, Auckland is world famous. Its nickname is “the City of Sails” due to its position on a peninsula between two large harbors. This island location allows boaters views of unique wildlife, landscape, and movie scenery, among many other things. Here is a look at some of the things that make boating in Auckland unique.
Boating Origins from the Maori
The indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, tell the legend of the seven canoes when they speak about how humans came to populate the nation. Their Polynesian ancestors took seven canoes from Tahiti out into the ocean, aiming “a little to the left of the setting sun.” A large storm sent them off course, and the inhabitants of these canoes became the first New Zealand residents. The legend continues that the grandchild of one of the lost canoe leaders became lost once again during a canoe race in the twelfth century, and landed at the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand. This landing reunited the younger generations of the family, and reestablished a connection between New Zealand and the other Polynesian islands.
European Boating Origins in New Zealand
New Zealand was first spotted by a Dutch captain working for the East India Trade Company, Abel Tasman, the namesake of the Australian region of Tasmania. The first to map and circumnavigate the islands was James Cook, who also was the first European to “find” Hawaii and the Cook Islands. Soon afterward, it became a regular destination for sailors, missionaries, traders, and explorers.
Auckland Boats per Capita
Auckland boasts more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. In 2014, it had over 135,000 registered boats, or one boat for approximately every 11 of the 1.45 million people living there. To put this in perspective, residents of New York City would need to own 785,000 boats to have the same ratio, and Tokyo would need to have 1.25 million boats.
New Zealand Dragon Boating
If you want to know what it is like to paddle a multi-person canoe over long distances, dragon boating is a fun way to discover this. These boats are designed in the style of Polynesian multi-person canoes and are decorated as Asian-style dragons. When operating a dragon boat, it is very similar to the sport of crew. One person calls the strokes and navigates, and everyone else continues to paddle. The power created by the paddling of many people can offer both speed in racing conditions as well as the power to undertake long journeys. As this was the same kind of system that brought the Polynesians to New Zealand in the first place, it is an excellent way to cover long distances. The dragon boat club is active year round. They participate in local, regional, and international racing competition.
America’s Cup Match Races
Ever wondered what it is like to sail on a world class boat? The America’s Cup Match Races use retired America’s Cup sailing ships to bring visitors on their own sailboat races. No sailing experience is necessary, as all the boats have experienced crews. Participation is optional, and you can choose to either be a sailor in the race or a passenger watching and cheering on the rest of your crew. All the boats are finely crafted racing vessels, and it is a matter of skill and strategy to be first across the finish line.
Lord of the Rings Filming in New Zealand
Boating around Auckland allows you to see many of the different areas that were used as film sites for the Lord of the Rings movies. You have the choice to either take a guided tour on land, on water, or both, or to create your own tour based on the most famous locations on board. If you are up for a weekend boating trip from Auckland, consider heading to Nelson, which is home to several national parks, a budding artist community, and three different locations from Middle Earth. The Rings, Dimrill Dale, and Chetwood Forest all came to life in this northernmost region of the South Island.
Marine Wildlife in Auckland
Auckland is a hotspot for marine creatures. From the marine reserve to the north, Hauraki Gulf, to the entire nation of New Zealand, this is an excellent place to find many different marine mammals. The gulf alone has recorded sightings of 22 different whale and dolphin species, and a number of endangered and indigenous creatures can be seen by boat in the area. Here is a look at some of the most notable animals:
- Bryde’s whale: This rare baleen whale numbers less than 100,000. Hauraki Gulf is one of the best locations in the world to watch them by boat.
- Fin whale: The second-longest whale in the world is shy, but comes further inland than the blue. You will rarely get more than a tiny peek at these whales as they surface, but if you happen to catch them swimming under the boat in the transparent waters it is quite a sight.
- Whakaho (New Zealand sea lion): These New Zealand sea lions were almost hunted to extinction, but conservation measures have gotten the population back up to 10,000 or so.
- Orca: The orca, or killer whale, is one of the most charismatic marine mammals. These black and white predators are gregarious and friendly, and are known to put on quite a show for whale watchers, rather than simply going about their business like many other animals.
- Hector’s dolphin: The tiniest species of dolphin in the world, these dolphins are just shy of four feet long, and weigh up to 130 lbs.
- Southern right whale: These were some of the stars of the movie Whale Rider, and Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf remains one of the world’s best places to see these threatened whales.
- Sperm whale: The species best known as Moby Dick, they were hunted almost to extinction for perfume in the northern hemisphere, but healthy populations remain around Oceania.
- Penguins: If you decide to travel to the South Island, you will get the opportunity to see more species of penguin gathered together in one place than in any other location in the world.
Race to Fiji from Auckland
The Royal Akarana Yacht club in Auckland offers an annual chance to join fellow sailors in an international sailboat race to Fiji. The race covers 1100 nautical miles, and is open to both monohulls and multihulls. If you have always wanted to do a long passage, but have been afraid to be the only boat out there, this is one great way to try it, provided you are an experienced sailor. There are both racing and cruising divisions, so if you are more interested in the journey than the amount of time it takes, there is still room for you. In 2014, 22 boats checked this off of their bucket list. The 2016 boat race is scheduled to begin on June 1. Visit http://sailfiji.co.nz/express-your-interest-and-race-to-fiji-with-rayc/ to learn more.
Auckland On the Water Boat Show
The largest boating show in the country of New Zealand happens each year in Auckland in late September. This is an all-inclusive show, focusing not only on sailboats and powerboats like many boat shows do, but it also covers kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and other watersport items. The festival, put on by the New Zealand marine industry, gets a huge annual draw due to the fact that there is so much water and so many interested boaters.
As you can see, there is much wonder to discover when it comes to boating in Auckland and the nearby vicinity. As an added bonus, it is the perfect place to go boating in the winter, as the southern hemisphere’s reverse seasons offer temperate to subtropical weather and clear blue water. Discover for yourself why the friendly kiwis have their natural waterways ranked as some of the world’s best vacation destinations again and again.