Sailing the Hauraki Gulf

The Hauraki Gulf, east of the city of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island, is a popular playground for tourists as well as local boat owners. It is also the venue for the iconic 2021 America’s Cup sailing challenge. Despite Covid restrictions on tourism from overseas, we had freedom of the Gulf on Moondust.

The Hauraki Gulf lies between Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island.

This area is extremely popular, being close to Auckland, as it features a number of islands, most of which are also accessible by ferry. We had previously visited Great Barrier Island, so this time, sailing from Whangarei, north of Auckland, our first stop was Kawau Island.

Kawau Island

Kawau is one of the bigger islands in the Hauraki Gulf and has an interesting history. In 1862 Kawau was bought by Sir George Grey, at that time governor of New Zealand. Interestingly, Sir Grey was Governor of the Cape Colony of South Africa before his appointment in New Zealand. It was perhaps his role played there in the resolution of hostilities between the natives and European settlers that made him the ideal candidate for governing New Zealand, with its conflict between the native Maori and British authorities at the time.

Mansion House was originally built by the mine superintendent, but was extended by Sir George Grey into a stately home.

It was great to meet up again with friends Ulla and Pellé and they spoilt us with a lovely dinner on board Loupan. They also introduced us to Patricia and David of Gulf Harbour Radio fame, who inspired us to fix our SSB radio.   

Ulla and Pellé joined us for the nice walk to Mansion House.

Unfortunately the house was closed, being off-season, but we could still enjoy the colourful peacocks and exotic gardens that were established by George Grey.

A few days later Trijnie and Hennie, our Dutch friends on Yana, arrived. Together we did the short hike to the old copper mine, which was active in the 1840’s.

Pete, Hennie and Trijnie at the site of the old coppermine.
The boiler and chimney for the steam engine that powered the pump are remnants of an era gone by. 

With Patricia’s help we contacted a radio technician in Auckland who would be able to fix our SSB radio, so we sailed to Auckland to deliver it. We were also able to purchase a spare second hand anchor to replace one which we lost when we sailed south. It was hanging off the bow roller and the aluminium stock must have fatigued and snapped. It is a good thing it happened then and not when the safety of Moondust depended on it!

Nearing Auckland American Magic, one of the AC 75 hydrofoil contestants in the America’s Cup, passed us at a ‘modest’ 34 knots!  They are expected to reach speeds of 50 knots!
Islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

Waiheke Island

After a quick stop in Auckland, we headed for the very popular Waiheke Island, which is known as the ‘island of wine’ for its numerous award-winning wineries.

New life was already sprouting in some of the vineyards on the island.

Fortunately Waiheke offers shelter from all quarters and thus we kept moving from bay to bay with the extremely variable wind directions.

Moondust anchored in Awaawaroa Bay, Waiheke island.

After some inclement weather an improvement brought some glorious days, so we enjoyed some of the beautiful walks on the island.

A quaint little church in Man of War Bay.

Motuihe Island

Motuihe was initially a private working farm before it became the property of the government in 1872. As such it was used as a quarantine station during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and also as an internment camp during World War I. In later years it became a children’s health camp and during WW II it was used as naval base to help protect Auckland from the threat of Japanese invasion.

In 1987 the Department of Conservation (DOC) assumed control of the island and since 2000 the Motuihe Restoration Trust works hand in hand with DOC to restore original vegetation to the island, eradicating rabbits and other pests and re-introducing indigenous bird species.

Apart from reading about the island’s interesting history on one of our walks, we also discovered that Motuihe has some of the most beautiful beaches that we’ve seen thus far in New Zealand.

One of the island’s beautiful beaches, with a backdrop of steep cliffs.

Rangitoto Island

 Once again seeking shelter we moved to the inlet known as Islington Bay between Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, just off Auckland.  These neighbouring islands are very different in geology. Rangitoto is a young volcanic island and its rugged lava fields and forests contrasts starkly with the rolling green hills of neighbouring Motutapu. 

Some of Rangitoto’s lava fields.

A two hour walk takes one to the summit of the volcano from where the now overgrown crater is clearly visible. Here there are beautiful views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf and it will provide an excellent vantage point to watch the America’s Cup racing events.

Rangitoto’s crater is 60m deep and 200m wide.
View towards Auckland from the summit.

On another hike we strolled through lush vegetation to explore the lava tunnels and caves on the island.

The vegetation on the moist windward side of the island is very different from the dry lava fields.
Pete at the mouth of the caves.
Me coming up from the caves.

Sailing solo

The Hauraki Gulf also offered the perfect nursery for Pete to get to grips with sailing Moondust single-handed. Since my extended visa for New Zealand was about to expire at the end of September, which coincided with my daughter’s wedding in South Africa, I made huge efforts to get home.

Part of living off the grid as a solo sailor is being able to cut your own hair.

I arrived in South Africa on 3rd September and had to isolate in Johannesburg for ten days, but was in time to enjoy a beautiful wedding.

Marguerite and Jaco making their wedding vows.

Pete holds an Australian passport and can thus stay in New Zealand indefinitely. However, should he leave he also won’t be able to return until the extremely conservative Kiwis re-open borders. He thus elected to stay.  I hope that I’ll be able to return to Moondust well before the next cruising season, which begins at the end of the south west Pacific cyclone season in May 2021.

8 Replies to “Sailing the Hauraki Gulf”

  1. Thanks for sharing your voyage. Its fun the hear what you have been up to and it gives med a good opportunity to think back on the wonderful experiences we had together on our voyage from Tonga to Opua. Good that you had the SSB radio fixed. We used our SSB daily during our trip from Minerva to Opua. All the best from Marci and Thord from a rainy Sweden.


    1. Wow that is lovely , I’m sure Karin , you will miss the venture hopefully you can get back , lovely pictures and congratulations on your daughter wedding .
      All the best .


  2. Beautiful pictures! Success, Pete, with your single sailing adventure! Are you also skilled in the bread baking?
    Have a good time in South Afrika, Karin.


  3. Sjoe ek het sulke verdeelde emosies oor hierdie keer se post. Dit moes hartseer gewees het om Pete en Moondust agter te laat maar opwindend en spesiaal om by jou dogter se troue te wees. Ek hoop jy sal baie gou weer by Pete kan aansluit .


  4. Lovely to hear all your wonderful news – you certainly have such an interesting time. Hope all goes well for you Karin in SA and your daughter looked really beautiful at her wedding. Hope it won’t be to long before you can go back. Much love to you both.


  5. Hi Pete & Karin,
    It took me four days to read through all the stories.
    What a life and story thank you for sharing it with all our land lock guys.
    Yes! covid has turned the world upside down. Lucky for us we on the farm and there is a bit of space. No traveling 😂


    1. Hallo Fanie,

      Wonderful to hear from you! Thanks for reading all our posts. Yes, sailing around the world is very different from overlanding in Africa. It has been an amazing experience but we do hope to travel our beloved Africa again some time soon.

      All the best to you both.

      Karin and Pete


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