Crossing harbour bars

Northland has a number of bar harbours. These are harbours that have a shallow sand bar across the entrance which can create dangerous conditions in certain winds and tides. Low tide is particularly dangerous.

Northland has multiple bar harbours. These have a shallow sand bar across the harbour entrance which can be dangerous to cross, particularly around low tide. Local advice and knowledge, as well as experience, are essential for safe bar crossings.

Where are they?

Bar harbours in Northland include Herekino, Hokianga, Kaipara, Mangawhai and Pārengarenga and Whāngāpē. Smaller harbours like Ngunguru, Pataua and Whananaki can also be difficult to transit in certain weather conditions.

Before you cross a bar:

  • Check weather and tides for the area, and seek local advice.
  • Check your steering and engines.
  • Consider the skipper's experience level and the vessel type.
  • A rapid change in conditions might prevent a safe return to harbour – if your boat and provision levels won't allow you to weather it out at sea, don't leave port.

If in doubt, don't go out.

During a bar crossing

  • Securely batten down or close all deck openings, hatches and doors.
  • Ensure your vessel has adequate stability. Secure moveable objects and ensure all weights, including passengers, are as low down in the vessel as possible.
  • Ensure everyone on board is awake, dressed and wearing their lifejacket.
  • Approach the bar at a moderate speed so you can adjust your speed as needed.
  • Have a lookout at the back of the boat to watch for dangerous building swells.
  • Keep a safe following distance and well clear of any vessels.
  • It is ultimately the skipper's responsibility to determine whether or not to cross a bar. If in doubt DO NOT cross the bar.

Remember, it is ultimately the skipper’s responsibility to determine whether or not to cross a bar!

Note: Anyone surfing, wind-surfing or using personal water craft should exercise caution near bars, and keep clear of other vessels crossing the bar.

Download safety procedures and advice from Maritime New Zealand (PDF, 91 KB)View the Bar Crossing - how to cross a bar safely video 

This video about safely crossing a bar has been produced by Waikato Regional Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council.