Sailing in the Bay of Islands is one of those must-do’s in life: there are 144 islands to explore, with pristine waters, stunning sheltered inlets and peninsulas to discover, as well as forest and wildlife galore. Whether you’re a complete novice who wants to learn to sail with a friendly and knowledgeable skipper, or a seasoned sailor who simply needs a good boat, or you just want to sit back and relax while others take the helm, we bring you some of the top-rated sailing charter outfits in the Bay of Islands to ensure your experience in this world-renowned sailing destination is top-notch.

R Tucker Thompson Tall Ship 

What’s not to love about being able to haul the sails, climb up the rigging or bowsprit, swing off a rope into the water or even captain a ship? It’s a very rare opportunity worldwide to be able to sail in a replica traditional heritage vessel, let alone doing so in such a beautiful location. What’s more, this gaff rigged tops’l schooner is run as a social enterprise – the profits from summer sailings are used to fund youth development voyages for local kids over winter. The R Tucker Thompson is also rated as a Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice 2020 – the staff on this schooner have a real reputation for being welcoming and friendly. This has been the highlight of many a trip to Northland and really is unique among sailing experiences. You can choose from a full day sail or a late afternoon sailing.

Barefoot Sailing 

At Barefoot Sailing, experienced skippers will take you out on their beautiful 33-foot catamaran to explore hidden bays and beaches of the Bay of Islands – specialising in small groups of around 16 passengers.

Great Escape – Sail Yourself Yachts

This is the one for those that fancy themselves sailing adventurers yet still need to learn to sail. At Great Escape, professional instructors can spend a couple of days sailing around the islands with you, teaching you everything you need to know (tailored to your experience), then you are able to skipper a yacht for your own 2 or 3 day adventure – even if you started the week as a complete beginner. How’s that for accelerated learning! Alternatively, if you’re already a sailor, you can charter a yacht, for the ultimate sailing holiday for couples or families. Reviews of the experience show the crew to have incredible professionalism, knowledge and passion for sailing – and really well-maintained boats to boot. In fact, Great Escape won the Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice award in 2020, meaning that they consistently get great reviews and are in the top 10 percent of attractions.

Carino Sailing Adventure 

This company is the only yacht licensed to view and research dolphins – and every ticket contributes directly to marine research and conservation. The crew will take you for an inspiring day out learning about marine conservation, snorkelling from the catamaran, exploring and connecting with nature.

Phantom Sailing 

This boat is a 50-foot custom-built ocean-racing sloop, and was the home of the owners for 18 years. From October and April, the max-10 ppl trips are a great way to experience a day out on an incredibly beautiful boat.

She’s a Lady Island Sailing Adventures 

This is a beautiful day sailing with skipper Dave, where you fish under sail, help sail the boat if you wish, land on an island, snorkel, kayak and have a gorgeous picnic lunch – Dave is full of anecdotes, stories and laughs, for a great day out with a personal touch.

Vigilant Yacht Tour 

This 42-foot cutter is built from native New Zealand timber – the day trips or overnight charters give you access to kayaks, snorkels, meals, and very engaging crew who’ll give you good insights into the region.

These are just some of the companies in the vibrant sailing community that can set you up with an amazing sailing experience – one of the best and most sustainable ways to explore our beautiful Bay of Islands.

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