After driving 7,000km in six weeks, we needed to chill-out and the Bay of Islands, NZ proved an ideal place. We spent six relaxing days, based in Paihia, the biggest town in the region, taking life in the slow lane.
The Bay of Islands is one of New Zealand’s most import tourist areas, with 140 subtropical islands, according to Captain James Cook‘s historical count. Highlights include undeveloped beaches, big-game fishing and the Maori culture. The area is immensely important for Maori, colonial and New Zealand history. The 19th-century whaling port of Russell was the first colonial capital – now it’s a holiday address for the super-rich and celebrities – in season, cruise ships unload many thousands of passengers for a quick looksy.
Highlights for us included:
- A full day cruise, visiting many of the historic and stunningly beautiful islands, plus as a bonus seeing many majestic dolphins and a large variety of sea birds
- Visiting the Waitangi Visitor Centre, the birthplace of New Zealand, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, between the Maori people and the British Crown
- Admiring Haruru Falls, a block waterfall located in a hidden valley on the dazzling and peaceful Waitangi River
- Taking the ferry twice to Russell, where we joined a mini-tour highlighting the history and contemporary life; we walked, lunched and sat on a bench guessing the nationality of the many tourists
- Spending a half a day at Opononi, on the west coast, enjoying the spectacular scenery on a delightful cliff-top walk and then descending steeply to the sandy beach – all great fun until the rain came, so a quick ascent up the cliff path.
In the morning, we’re heading north, based on Doubtless Bay for three nights, planning to examine New Zealand’s most northerly extremities.