Rough weather conditions including large swells and strong winds hindered a search and rescue operation for a boatie who went missing in Northland.

The man had taken his 7m Buccaneer for a spin in the Mangawhai Harbour to test the boat's engine about 6pm on Wednesday.

When he did not return by the expected time his wife went to the Mangawhai Surf Lifesaving club to ask members if they could look for her husband.

At 9.16pm the surf club contacted the Coastguard Operations Room in Auckland who then contacted police and dispatched the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to search for the man.

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Coastguard Whangarei's Circa Rescue team also searched the inner harbour but due to 4m swells they were prevented from searching outside the harbour entrance.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter searched the shoreline of Whangarei Harbour and the Bream Bay area until darkness on Wednesday with no result.

Yesterday , about 7am, the Coastguard Air Patrol was in the air flying over the Bream Bay area, but low cloud and driving rain hindered the search.

Coastguard operations manager Ray Burge said rough weather conditions meant the aerial search was halted for about two hours.

"There were 4m swells [yesterday] morning and 50 knot and above winds. There was also low cloud which meant we had to stand down.

"At the moment we have Coastguard Whangarei's Circa Rescue on standby. The conditions are still rough so the search is best from the air," he said.

As of 2.30pm yesterday, Coastguard Air Patrol, The Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the Police Eagle Helicopter were in the air searching the Hen and Chicken Islands, Bream Bay.

Mr Burge said he could not give details of the boat's appearance as it could lead to the identification of the boatie. He would not say if the missing man was a local or not.