Opua – Your choice in NZ?

by Drew on January 31, 2010

Many, many months ago I posed this question on the http://www.cruisersforum.com website (I’ll link the post as soon as I get to land). Which place do I chose for arrival and which to store the the boat in NZ while we visit the states? I got a lot of great answers, many of which led me to choose Opua as our entry point. Now that I’ve actually sailed into and out of NZ I feel like I can throw in my own opinion for the upcoming (and rather large I hear) 2010 Pacific Puddle Jump Fleet. I’ll be bluntly honest with my opinion and it will hurt a few feelings out there.

Opua is not my favorite place on Earth…that’s for sure. For those of you planning on joining the All Points to Opua Rally, I don’t recommend it. You arrive in this nice marina and at first, you’re feeling great. You check in and go ashore to check out the rally event schedule on to find out that everything costs at least $15. You figure, why not, and go to get some cash only to realize there’s no ATM at the marina. No problem. You’ll just walk into town and hit the bank. Where’s the closest town with a bank? Oh, that would be Paihia…an hour plus hike away. So you settle for a cab and ask the marina office to call one for you. Huh? What’d you say? Twenty bucks each way? But it’s only 3 miles down the road!?! So you head back to the boat and turn on the radio for the morning net. You wade through some attempted humor for a few minutes, listen to some guy yell at all the new arrivals for using the wrong VHF frequencies to chat, and then that same guy reads a weather forecast that’s already repeated 20 times a day elsewhere on the VHF and loops continuously on WX station 8. A bunch of people call in and thank him for this and you are confused why. After listening to all this, the most awkward radio net in the world, you deduct that the Yachtie Shuttle run by one of the locals is a decent option. It’s $6NZ but you go on his schedule and are therefore stuck in town for a few hours even if the only reason you went there was to get some cash. On top of all this, you decide to get a night at the marina to get some internet work done and wash the boat. After paying a premium for the marina (12m slip for me was $33NZ compared to $24 in Whangarei and $16.50 in Kerikeri), you log on to the internet only to find out that 1gb of transfer, enough for a few iTunes songs and to watch 5 youtube videos of your new nephew, costs $45 dollars and the company charging you for this access is owned by NO OTHER THAN THE GUY WHO ORGANIZED THE ALL POINTS TO OPUA RALLY!

My recommendation. Check into Opua and unless you broke something on the way that needs an immediate fix, leave Opua. Anchor out at Russell or behind Motumaire Island off Pahia. Go to the bank, use the internet, hit the store, grab some meals and then go out and see the Bay of Islands. I do have to comment on the few things that made Opua nice. The burgers, the seafood chowder, and the eggs benny at the Marina Cafe are awesome. Bob, the American who works in the most expensive chandlery I’ve ever seen, Cater Marine, was the super helpful. And Melita, at the Marina Shop, who sold me a liability insurance policy I needed for keeping the boat in a marina, was great. I also have to add the disclaimer that it’s only by word of mouth that I heard the guy who organized the rally runs Pacific Wifi. I didn’t have time to check my facts on that but will as soon as we get to OZ.

I also have some thoughts on Whangarei, where we ended up storing the boat while we returned to the states for a month. But I’ll save those for a later blog post. All in all, my official opinion is this. Don’t make set plans to remain in any one place in NZ for the season. There’s good cruising to be had and absolutely no reason to sit around on your boat in a marina or at a mooring. If you’re only planning to drop the boat off somewhere and travel by land to the South Island or head back home for a few months, anywhere will do. Find the cheapest and stick it there. I would look somewhere like the Kerikeri Marina in Doves Bay, or the marina in Tutukaka, or on the pile moorings at Kissing Point in Whangarei where we kept Dosia. $120NZ/month isn’t bad when you’re only looking for a parking spot. These places don’t offer much in amenities but who cares when you won’t be there to enjoy them. Don’t fall for the hype!

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