New Zealand is awash with amazing coastal experiences, writes Zoe Ingham. Here's just a few of our favourites:
Sailing the Bay of Islands
Northland's Bay of Islands is made up of 144 islands, snuggled together between the Purerua Peninsula and Cape Brett, forming a peaceful pacific paradise. Summer is synonymous with the region, and its cheery climate and subtropical beauty lends itself to a long menu of marine activities.
You could do worse than spend the day sailing in these picturesque parts. There are plenty of islands offering good anchorage and opportunities to park up for the day and watch marine life, go diving, and throw a line out.
From multi-day sailing courses to sunset charters and overnight stays, there are sailing options to suit anyone - sturdy sea legs or not. For those looking to expand their skills and take up sailing as a hobby, Great Escape's sailing courses offer internationally recognised qualifications. Or, for those who already know their way around a yacht, there's the option to take your own chartered trip around the islands.
If you'd rather sit back and let someone else do all the work, try a sunset charter with Paihia company Eco Cruz. Hop aboard the Manawanui, a 22-metre ketch, and soak up the glorious Far North coastal region. This is a two-night sailing adventure, so there are opportunities to see marine life, snorkel or kayak. Some trips only operate during summer months, so check ahead of time.
Diving the Poor Knights
Northland's Poor Knights islands serve up some of the best dive spots in the world. The islands, including Sugarloaf Rock and High Peak Rocks (Pinnacles), are protected nature reserves and their unique ecosystem contributes to unforgettable diving for those who take the plunge.
The reserve is around 22 kilometres off the east coast of Northland. Rikoriko Cave is one of the largest sea caves in the world and just one of the major attractions at the Poor Knights.
With underwater caves, arches, tunnels and sheer cliffs you'll find plenty of spots to explore beneath the waves. Fish, shellfish, urchins and anemones huddle in sponge gardens and gorgonian fields, while black coral can be found in the deeper waters. Visit during warmer months if you want to see stingrays cruising archway waters.
To enjoy an unforgettable Poor Knights experience, try Dive! Tutukaka's day trips. The award-winning company offers an array of diving tour options, and they also cater for non-divers, with kayaks and masks and snorkels available on board. Enjoy a day of diving then hop back on for a hot shower and a warming hot chocolate.
Kayaking the Hauraki Gulf
Stretching along the east coast of the Auckland and Waikato regions, the Hauraki Gulf is rich in locations to kick off a day of kayaking.
In fact, with more than 50 islands spread across the 1.2 million hectares of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, a day won't nearly be enough time to spend on the water.
There's more to Waiheke than wine, so have a paddle then a pinot after kayaking out on Waiheke waters. Kayak Waiheke offers trips from Matiatia Bay, conveniently located near the ferry to and from Auckland. Enjoy cruising around the coastline on a half-day guided tour or a three-hour guided sunset and moonlight adventure.
Another great option to explore Auckland's waterways is a day trip kayaking to Rangitoto Island. Book a trip with Auckland Sea Kayaks and paddle across the Waitematā Harbour, where you might be lucky enough to spy little blue penguins or Cook's petrels. Then enjoy a one-hour trek up to the summit of Rangitoto followed by a hearty lunch before kayaking back to St Heliers Bay.
Surfing in Gisborne
With its consistently good conditions, the east coast beaches of Gisborne serve up some of the best surf in the world. Pack the wetsuit and become one of the first people to see the sunrise each day, and feel pretty smug while enjoying dawn surfing.
There's something for surfers of all levels at Gisborne's beaches. If you're a beginner, try Waikanae Beach or northern Makorori for small swells. Experienced surfers can take on the barrels and hollows of Wainui Beach. It can be a tough paddle, with powerful waves hitting this beach, so this is certainly one for those who are confident on the board. Whether you're just starting out or in need of a quick refresher, it's worth booking a lesson with Surfing with Sarah before you dive in.
Whale watching in Kaikōura
Whale watching has to feature on most people's bucket lists and you'll be hard-pressed to find a spot more suited to ticking off this activity than Kaikōura.
Whales tend to like hanging out in Kaikōura waters because of the submarine landscape. It's a favourable environment for the mammals with the continental shelf dropping into extremely deep underwater canyons, as well as a warm northern current meeting the colder southern current, causing nutrients to be carried upward.
Whale Watch Kaikōura offers year-round trips where, depending on the season, there's the opportunity to spot a number of different whale species. The appearance of a giant sperm whale, which can stretch to 20 metres in length, is always a highlight for those lucky enough to spot one.
Kaikōura is one of the only places in the world where sperm whales are frequently spotted. Orca tend to hang out in visible spots from December to March, while humpback whales favour the winter and are mostly seen in June and July.
The tours also include possible sightings of dusky and Hector's dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, and many sea birds, including the royal albatross. It's really an extravaganza of nature and a day out that you won't forget.
Cruising Stewart Island
For a unique break, head south to Stewart Island and soak up the unspoilt beauty on a cruise around our third largest island.
Stewart Island is a nature lover's wonderland, with kiwis outnumbering humans - an estimated 20,000 of our feathered friends call the island home. Blue and yellow-eyed penguins roam around its rugged edges, while Ulva Island bird sanctuary is a safe haven for saddleback, yellowhead and more.
A cruise with Heritage Expeditions makes for a memorable adventure. With its 700 kilometres of coastline versus 25 kilometres of road, Stewart Island is a destination best explored by yacht or boat. Climb aboard the Heritage Explorer and voyage around historic spots, wildlife habitats and hidden coves. A bonus to make this trip even more special is the opportunity to experience the Aurora Australis.
Fishing charter in the Chatham Islands
There's off the beaten track and then there are the Chatham Islands. It would be hard to find a fishing spot more remote than here. With its cold, clear waters the islands boast world-class fishing and are the perfect habitat for fish such as blue cod, hapuka, kingfish, terakihi and blue moki.
It's about a two-hour flight from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch to get to the Chatham Islands, 800 kilometres east of New Zealand. As it's quite an isolated region, an easy way to explore the islands is with a company like Owenga Charters, who will take you to the finest fishing spots. Drop anchor and experience the traditional "Chatham Islands way" of fishing using hand lines, before taking home your share of the catch for the freshest dinner.
This piece originally appeared in New Zealand Herald Travel for World Ocean Day here.