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Top destinations for boaties in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to own a boat. From sailing to fishing and water sports, we've rounded up the best places to explore with your boat in New Zealand.
By · April 5, 2024
Top destinations for boaties in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to own a boat. Whether you live at the bottom of the South Island or the top of the North, there’s no shortage of lakes to sail on, seas to fish or coastlines to explore.

Here are ten of the best places to visit with your boat in New Zealand.

What should boat owners know before they use their boat in New Zealand?

New Zealand has specific laws around recreational fishing, wildlife protection and general boating safety. If you’re new to the country, or to boating in general, make sure you understand what’s expected of you as a boat owner.

Boating Safety Regulations

Before you set off, familiarise yourself with New Zealand's maritime rules and regulations, including safety equipment, navigation lights, and right-of-way rules. Make sure your boat is properly equipped with life jackets, flares, fire extinguishers, and other essential safety gear.

What to know

While it’s not mandatory to register your boat, it’s still a good idea to understand the local regulations for your area, as some Councils require owners to register their jetskis or personal watercraft (PWCs). A PWC is usually defined as a small boat with an outboard or propellor-driven motor.

Marine Mammal Protection

There are many marine mammals that make the waters of Aotearoa home. This means, we also have strict rules around interacting with dolphins, whales, and seals. It is illegal to disturb, harass, or harm animals in any way.

What to know

Boaters must maintain a safe distance (usually at least 50 meters) from marine mammals and avoid approaching them directly. Special regulations apply to whale watching and swimming with dolphins.

Check out the DOC website for specifics on how close your boat can get to whales, dolphins or seals in the wild.

Fishing Regulations

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to fish. Our waters are home to a wide range of species. But with great fishing comes great responsibility.

To sustain our fishing populations there are rules around the size of fish you are allowed to catch.

What to know

Before fishing, make sure you are at least one nautical mile away from a marine reserve and check the size of your catch as you go. Check out MPI for current rules on fishing gear, methods and measuring.

Marine Reserves

New Zealand has 35 marine reserves or marine sanctuaries around the country. Marine reserves are great for preserving marine biodiversity and habitats. The overflow in fish populations from these areas is also what makes our coasts such a great place to fish.

What to know

These areas are off-limits to fishing, shellfish gathering, and other extractive activities to allow our fish populations to recover and thrive. Be mindful of marine reserve boundaries and refrain from fishing or disturbing marine life within these protected areas.

Check out the DOC website for marine reserves near you.

Biosecurity Measures

It’s always a good idea to properly clean your boat after going on the water. This helps prevent the spread of invasive species like didymo and other spreadable algaes that can impact local lakes and waterspots.

What to know

Make sure you properly clean your vessel's hull, bilge, and equipment after use. Wash your boat, trailer, and gear with water and detergent if travelling between different waterways. This helps avoid introducing invasive species to new environments.

Weather Conditions

New Zealand's weather can be unpredictable, with sudden changes in wind, tides, and sea conditions. Stay informed about weather forecasts and sea conditions before heading out on the water.

What to know

Always be prepared to change your plans based on the weather forecast or sudden changes in weather. Keep a lookout on Metservice for the most up-to-date forecast. Always prioritise the safety of those on the boat over your chosen activity.

The best places to boat in New Zealand

Bay of Islands, Northland

The Bay of Islands is made up of 144 picturesque islands. That means even if you’ve been a dozen times before, there’s always something new to explore. The Bay of Islands is a maritime haven. It offers calm, warm waters, and lots of coastline and coves to explore. It’s the perfect destination for sailing or for anyone looking for a calm day on the water.

If you like water sports, make the most of being surrounded by such stunning scenery by kayaking around the coast. Much of the Bay of Islands is located in a marine sanctuary which is ideal for snorkeling and swimming.

While you can’t fish in a marine sanctuary, the nearby waters are often highly populated with fish. Just make sure you are at least one nautical mile away from the marine reserve.

Hauraki Gulf, Auckland

The Hauraki Gulf is made up of over 50 islands and is known as the playground for Auckland's boating community. If you’re into sailing, spend the day navigating the gulf's pristine waters.

If adventuring is more you thing why not take a trip over to Waiheke Island or beyond to Kawau Island and Great Barrier Island.

The Bay of Plenty

The Bay of Plenty is know for its golden sandy beaches and abundant waters. It’s not surprise that this area is also a haven for boat owners. Sheltered harbours provide ideal conditions for recreational activities, including fishing, swimming, and water skiing.

Keen to go fishing? Whakatane is one of the best fishing destinations nearby and offerssome of New Zealand's best angling spots.

Rotorua Lakes

Surrounded by volcanic landscapes, Rotorua's lakes offer a unique boating experience in New Zealand. From Lake Rotorua to Blue Lake, these calm, deep waters are ideal for water sports, fishing, and family-friendly adventures.

The lake district of Rotorua is ideal for long weekends as there are many camping grounds and walking tracks nearby that are worth exploring.

Lake Taupō

As New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupō offers endless opportunities for getting out on the water. Whether you are into jet boating, sailing or fishing, there's something for everyone to partake in on its calm waters.

Explore the iconic Maori rock carvings or simply cruise along the scenic shoreline. Whether you seek adventure or relaxation, Lake Taupō delivers an unforgettable boating experience.


Wellington might has a reputation (and nickname) of being the ‘Windy City’ but it’s also an ideal place to own a boat. The centrally located marina and its many bays means there’s always somewhere sheltered to explore.

Enjoy a leisurely cruise around the south coast, sail over to Dave’s Bay, drop anchor in Oriental Bay or sail up the Kapiti Coast. There’s also great diving spots to be found close to the city, including Island Bay.

Marlborough Sounds

Nestled in the northeastern tip of the South Island, the Marlborough Sounds are one of the most beautiful places in the country for boat owners to explore.

With over 1,500 kilometres of secluded coves, stunning coastlines and sandy beaches to explore, the Sounds offer some of the best sailing opportunities in New Zealand.

Discover hidden bays, encounter diverse marine life and enjoy the calmness and tranquility of a day (or weekend) on the water.

Abel Tasman National Park

The sun-drenched region of Nelson-Tasman gets some of the highest sunshine house in the country. Here, you’ll find the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park, a paradise for hikers and sea lovers. The park is home to golden beaches and clear waters and long stretches of quiet, pristine coastline.

Visit the Tonga Island Marine Reserve for unparalleled snorkelling and diving experiences, or simply cruise along the shoreline, taking in the beautiful scenery.

Central Otago’s Lakes

From Lake Wakatipu to Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, Central Otago has plenty of lakes to explore. Enjoy a day on the crystal clear waters surrounded by stunning mountains.

If you’re into fishing, watersports or just spending time on the water, Central Otago has you covered. There are lakes to fish for trout or simply soak in the breathtaking scenery.

Getting your boat from A to B

Whether you need to transport your boat to your holiday home or are buying a boat off Trademe, getting your boat from A to B isn't always easy.

At Wise Move, our boat transportation teams can make sure your boat is delivered on time and without any hassle. Book your boat transportation service today.

What do our customers say?

Read reviews of Wise Move to learn stories from our customers.
Small boat Jetski
Mount Maunganui
Reviewed 1 day ago
Great communications and very easy and responsive to deal with. Did everything they said they would. Many thanks!
Beerescourt, Hamilton
Cashmere, Christchurch
Reviewed 3 days ago
Really good communication and quick and good delivery
Waihi Beach
Reviewed 1 week ago
Jeff was Great to deal with will definitely use again if needed..
Other boat Pop top camper
Reviewed 1 week ago
Great job and a competitive price. Kind regards
Māngere, Auckland
Reviewed 1 week ago
Absolutely brilliant. Couldn't ask for more. Highly recommend and will be using again. Thanks!!
Witherlea, Blenheim
Reviewed 3 weeks ago
Awesome experience, thanks Nick
Motor boat Huntsman dorado
Cashmere, Christchurch
Reviewed 24 April, 2024
Jeff was fantastic, great communication, he did exactly what he said he would, and delivered the boat exactly as requested. I am very impressed and would certainly recommend Eagle Eye and Jeff to anyone with something to transport.
Sail boat on trailer
Reviewed 13 April, 2024
10/10 Nice job, good value, easy and reliable to deal with.

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