Australia / New Zealand
Recent America's Cup and Olympics events created the
incentives and the infrastructure for Australian and New Zealand to become top
cruising destinations. Australia offers many cruising options, including the
Sydney Harbor environs and the Whitsunday Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and
adventurous cruising along the country's northern shore.
Sydney Harbour is home to a number of sport fishermen and yachts that offer a variety of boating experiences. It's also common to combine a few days aboard a yacht with trips to the continent's breathtaking interior.
The real gem of Australian cruising is on the Great Barrier Reef. Jet service to this area is through Cairns or Port Douglas on the mainland or via Hamilton Island, the largest and most developed of the Whitsunday Islands.
Of the 93 islands in the group, just a dozen or so are inhabited. Nestled inshore of the buffering Great Barrier Reef, this group stretches about 100 miles between Cairns and McKay. The Whitsundays are wholly within a national park, a designation that limits development and has helped maintain an extraordinary diversity of wildlife. The size and quantity of game and reef fishes will astonish anglers and sport divers. All the diversity is not under the water as these islands teem with unique birds and even salt water crocodiles.
For those beginning their cruise at Hamilton Island, the first stop might be Whitehaven beach, an undulating strip of white sand some three miles long backed by a brilliant green tropical forest.
At the other end of the Whitsundays' spectrum is the five-star Hayman Island Resort. For fine dining and luxury amenities, this is the place. The grounds are elegant and the restaurants and facilities are superb.
The eco-resort of Lizard Island, 27 miles off the Queensland coast, is an excellent base on the reef. Diving enthusiasts should visit the famous, nearby Cod-Hole to spot Maori wrases and hand-feed the giant potato cod that grow to 600 pounds. The more adventurous can cruise to the outer reefs where underwater visibility routinely exceeds 150 feet. Outside the reef line, 1,000-pound black marlin are plentiful from August to December. Nine hundred miles to the east, the three-island nation of New Zealand, or Aotearoa as the Maoris call it, offers excellent fishing and cruising in a land that has everything from snow-capped mountains in the south to bubbling mud baths in the north and about 40 million sheep in between.
Among the country's most popular cruising grounds are the Bay of Islands, a warm-water paradise on the northeast corner of the North Island. Perfect for all water sports, this enormous bay and its accompanying islands are famous for their proximity to world-class marlin fishing grounds.
The Hauraki Gulf and its myriad islands are sporting new megayacht facilities courtesy The America's Cup. Nowhere in the Gulf is an anchorage more than two hours from Auckland via an impressive network of high-speed ferries. Auckland is a world-class city in miniature with upscale shopping, quaint artsy neighborhoods, great museums and an up-and-coming wine region just an hour out of town.
To get an understanding of the Maori culture, you must travel to the North Island's volcanic interior. Rotorua is the cultural center and the best place to partake in a traditional Hangi concert dinner. Flyfishermen also sprint to the interior for a chance to temp trophy-size rainbow and brown trout in the region's many rivers and lakes. A top destination is the ultra-exclusive Huka Lodge at Lake Taupo.
On the South Island, cruising centers on the remarkable Marlborough Sounds. From the air, the Sounds resemble fiords carved from emeralds and blocks of jade. Unimaginably pristine, this area is home to the world's rarest dolphins and tiny blue penguins. No trip to the South Island, and indeed New Zealand would be complete without a tour of the expansive wine region, which spreads out from Blenheim.
The South Island is paradise for adventurers. Bungee jumping was invented here. Whitewater rafting, kayaking, flyfishing, mountain climbing and skiing expeditions are all easily available and just a short plane or helicopter ride away.