Experiencing the Bay of Islands On-board the R. Tucker Thompson

There’s a wealth of amazing things to do in Paihia, but few Bay of Island activities are as unforgettable as a sail aboard the majestic R. Tucker Thompson tall ship. The ship provides visitors with an authentic New Zealand sailing journey through the Bays’ world-renowned scenery and is sure to be a highlight of any trip.

The R. Tucker Thompson has taken over 120,000 travellers and locals alike on adventures on the water, giving them the chance to experience sailing a traditional tall ship. Visitors of any age or ability are welcome to come along and hoist the sails, take the helm or have a casual chat to the staff. Visitors who are feeling brave and up for a challenge can even jump in a harness and climb the rigging of the ships nearly 20 metre high masts.

R Tucker Thompson Bay of Islands

 The R. Tucker Thompson at full sail (Photo credit: R Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust)

As well as helping to sail the ship, a day trip on R. Tucker Thompson includes a lunchtime island stopover in a sheltered bay, and chance to swim the areas warm waters. A BBQ lunch on board and freshly baked scones are provided, and visitors have the chance of spotting some of the Bay of Islands colourful wildlife, including dolphins, seals and penguins. Guests should definitely ensure they bring their cameras, as sailing the Bay of Islands also provides some of New Zealand’s most spectacular sightseeing opportunities. 

The ship itself is a beautifully maintained gaff-rigged topsail schooner, which was built starting in the 1970’s by the eponymous R. Tucker Thompson. The R. Tucker Thompson was designed to be an example of how conventional ship designs from the past could be implemented with the best contemporary materials available, and features a welded steel hull with a deck and topsides clad in kwila planking. The ship was completed in Mangawhai and officially launched in 1985.

The R. Tucker Thompson’s not only used for incredible day trips – She has sailed around the Pacific and to destinations all over the globe, including a round the world trip to England via the Panama Canal in 1986. For people looking for somewhere extraordinary to hold a party, a wedding or function, the team can customise sailing packages to perfectly suit almost any event, and better still, the funds are going to a good cause.

R Tucker Thompson at anchor

The R. Tucker Thompson on a typically stunning Bay of Islands day (Photo credit: R Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust)

Because this unique Bay of Island’s attraction is now operated by a Charitable Trust, all funds from tourism activities are used to provide youth voyages for teenagers to learn about sailing, team building, confidence and leadership

Sailing aboard the R. Tucker Thompson is available seasonally from around the 1st of November until mid-April, with the ship departing Paihia each day at 9.30am (or Russell Wharf at 10am) and sails back into Paihia at 4pm (or Russell Wharf at 3.30pm). For those that don’t have a full day to spare but want a taste of sailing in New Zealand, the R. Tucker Thompson has half-day late afternoon trips that leave Russell at 4pm and explore the inner bays around Paihia and Waitangi. These sailings are available every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday during the ships operational period.

Visitors to New Zealand looking to make their way to Paihia or Russell from Auckland can hire a rental car from Auckland Airport and take State Highways 1 and 11 for an enjoyable scenic drive through Northland. 

Related posts you may like

High-Flying Sightseeing with Rotorua Canopy Tours

Coromandel & Driving Creek Railway

Taking a Leap with Taupo Bungy

Exploring the Coromandel with Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours