The City of Sails celebrates its birthday this weekend with a historic regatta, as it has done for 172 years. Danielle Wright finds out what to expect at this year's event.

In September 1840, a small regatta was held on Waitemata Harbour with three races of two boats each. This was part of Auckland's foundation and naming ceremony.

Several months before, on January 29, Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands and went on to draft the Treaty of Waitangi. This is the day we celebrate in our annual public holidays, but the September 1840 regatta has become part of the tradition too.

This year, a huge fleet of vessels, including tall ships, gaff riggers, sloops, racing keelers, multihulls, sailing dinghies, radio-controlled boats, waka ama, elegant Sea Scout craft, beautifully restored classic yachts and an armada of more than 20 vintage tugboats and America's Cup prototypes will take part in the 2012 Oceanbridge Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta, now the largest one-day regatta in the world.

Times and best vantage points


Even if you're not keen on the regatta, heading to one of the vantage points will provide plenty of public holiday atmosphere on Monday. In Devonport, spend the day walking from the village up to North Head or Mt Victoria and around to Narrowneck Beach to see the regatta from different viewpoints. Stop for an icecream and a guided weekend walk-in tour (10.30am or 1.30pm) at Torpedo Bay's Devonport Navy Museum at the base of North Head. At the Viaduct, enjoy family entertainment as well as views of the regatta and cafes.

9am: Tugboats young and old will gather at the entrance to the Viaduct Harbour and parade up to their start line off North Head.

10am: Tugboat Race off North Head. Watch them race around the Narrowneck buoy and return to finish at Devonport Wharf. The best vantage points are North Head, East Coast Bays beaches, Devonport and Devonport Wharf.

11am: Races start off Princes Wharf at five minute intervals from 11am, with the flying multihulls starting at 11.05am. Race times are:

11.30am: Division One Keelers.

11.35am: A Classic and A Modern Classic Divisions.

11.40am: B Classic and B Modern Classic Divisions.

11.55am: Tall ships and waka.

12pm: Harbour Blast starts off Orakei Wharf.

12.30pm: First boats expected back at Princes Wharf from Mahurangi and Rakino Island, including keelboats and trailer yachts.

The best spectator vantage points are Bastion Pt, North Head, East Coast Bays, Tamaki Drive, Orakei, Queens Wharf and Princes Wharf. The waka ama canoes start from Westhaven Tower, paddle past Princes Wharf to Orakei Wharf, cross the harbour to North Head and return to the finish at Westhaven.

Other events to watch out for
10am: See America's Cup-style remote-controlled yachts in a miniature race to the finish. Electrons are at the Marine Association Pontoon, Westhaven Marina and International One Metre and Nautic 12 fleets are further out at Wattle Farm, Manurewa.

11.30am: There will be a fire-fighting display off the Viaduct, followed by a parade through the Viaduct. Dragonboat racing also commences in the Viaduct Harbour.

If the regatta has inspired you, consider adding the Volvo Ocean Race to your calendar for March. The nine-month race began this month in Spain and will stop at the Viaduct Harbour, from March 8-18. It's the first time the race has stopped in Auckland in 10 years.

Watching on the water

If you don't have your own boat, or a friend with one, catch the Fullers Anniversary Day Cruise from 9.30am-12.30pm and watch the tugboat and classic yacht races on the harbour. Book online or call (09) 367 9111.

Prices are: adults $49, children (5-15 years) $24.50 and seniors $41.

Extend your day with a Ports of Auckland public tour. The 40-minute boat tour takes visitors alongside the container terminals and commercial wharfs with commentary explaining how each operation works - just don't ask about the industrial dispute.

Search for times or call 0800 360 3472. The boat tour is free to the public but bookings are essential.

A sea kayak also offers a unique viewpoint of the regatta. Auckland Sea Kayaks has a Rangitoto Summit Tour running on Anniversary Day. Kayak among the action before hiking to the summit of Rangitoto.

No kayaking experience necessary. Contact 0800 999 089 for bookings, $225 per person.

A nostalgic option is to board SS Puke, Voyager Maritime Museum's steam tug, built at the end of the 19th century.

Trips last 15 minutes and cost $2 for adults and $1 for children. The trip departs Tidal Steps, Karanga Plaza, Viaduct Harbour (next to the Viaduct Events Centre) between 11am-1pm and 2pm-3pm all Anniversary Weekend.

Voyager also has sailings on Breeze, a square-rigged brigantine or on the Ted Ashby, a ketch-rigged deck scow.

Catch of the day

The Auckland Seafood Festival features chefs from leading Auckland restaurants, as well as 30 New Zealand species of seafood, 18 different craft beers and 40 different wines.

The Oyster and Champagne Tent returns and the Wild Seafood Challenge is a new addition with sea cucumbers, whelks and other wild food for those brave enough. The Chowder, Brews and Blues stand is offering a prize for guessing the special ingredients in the seafood chowder. Avalanche City will be performing at 4.30pm on Anniversary Monday and the kids will be happy with treasure hunts in the giant sandpit.

Visit the Kids Gone Fishin' event from 9.30am-11.30am on Sunday at North Wharf, Wynyard Quarter, and you will get a half-price ticket to the festival the next day.

Pre-book your ticket online.

Ultimate free fishing event for families

The event will run from 9.30am to 11.30am on Sunday at North Wharf, Wynyard Quarter at the corner of Halsey St and Jellicoe St.

Fishing celebrity and Blue Light patron Graeme Sinclair will host the morning, so its a great way for the "big" kids to have a chat with him and hear about some of his great fishing stories and for the children to grab an autograph.

The recreational fishing zone also has live demonstrations, access to the experts and even on-water activities to enjoy.

The New Zealand Blue Light Kids Gone Fishin' events have been a popular event throughout New Zealand for more than 15 years and this year's will be the largest ever.

To avoid disappointment, pre-register online with no transaction fees at Eventfinder.

Each registered child receives a 50 per cent discount on one adult entry to the Auckland Seafood Festival that day.

The Big Draw

If you want to linger longer around the waterfront and fancy yourself as an artist, take your sketchbook, pens and pencils and from 1.30pm-4.30pm join the Big Draw, to sketch the Auckland Anniversary Day sights. Meet at Wynyard Quarter Information Kiosk at 4.30pm and see how different or similar your views are to the others. See here for inspiration.

Be in to win
Weekend Life and the Volvo Ocean Race have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail in the Pro-Am Race on board Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand on Friday March 16 on the Waitemata Harbour. The winner gets the chance to trim sails, navigate a route and even take the helm alongside elite sailors in one of three Pro-Am Races, with drinks and food in the exclusive Latitude Lounge prior to racing.

The Small Print: You must be at least 18 years of age and of good physical health, although no sailing experience is required (or you can award the prize to another suitable person). The organisers will try to reschedule in case of bad weather, but will not be liable for any claims of compensation if this is not possible.

* To enter go to, enter your details and the keywords Volvo Ocean Race by midnight, Wednesday, February 1.