The Rainbow Warrior III is making its first trip to New Zealand and its first stop will be Matauri Bay, where the original ship was scuttled 25 years ago.
The original Rainbow Warrior, a converted trawler, was bombed by French agents in Auckland in 1985 as it was about to lead a Greenpeace protest mission to Mururoa, killing crewman Fernando Pereira.
Its replacement was retired in 2011 when the organisation's first purpose-built ship was launched, a 58-metre steel-hulled sailing ship also called Rainbow Warrior. It was built in Poland and paid for by donations.
Rainbow Warrior III was expected to clear customs in Whangarei over the weekend after travelling 40 days from Sri Lanka, before heading north for Matauri Bay tomorrow.
Bunny McDiarmid of Greenpeace said it was hugely significant that the ship would travel to Matauri Bay first on its New Zealand visit.
"It's also important that she pays respects to Ngati Kura, who are the guardians over the site of the old ship," Ms McDiarmid said.
A whakatau, or welcome, will be held early on Wednesday, and members of Ngati Kura will travel out to the site of the scuttled ship.
The visit comes after a major clean-up and repair by 120 volunteers at the site of the Rainbow Warrior memorial was held in late November. A monument in the form of a black stone rainbow by Kerikeri artist Chris Booth was built on the hilltop overlooking the bay but the track had become overgrown.
Ms McDiarmid was among the volunteers and said it was great to get the memorial looking the part again, and they hoped to make maintenance an annual effort, rather than let it get away on them.
A group of Year 10 students from Springbank School in Kerikeri recently created an information sign for the memorial, explaining the meaning of Mr Booth's sculpture and the story of the Rainbow Warrior.
The R Tucker Thompson is sailing from Opua to Matauri Bay on Wednesday for the public to see the ship on the water. Part of the fee for the trip includes a donation to Greenpeace and to youth development programmes.
The Rainbow Warrior will also travel to Auckland, Wellington and the South Island.