Along the Away

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Along the Away NZ Trip Map Bay of Islands

The next stop on my Kiwi travels was the Bay of Islands, on the north coast of the North Island. I travelled up on a backpacker bus which was good as we stopped a couple of places along the way.

The McKinney Kauri Tree in Parry Kauri Park is estimated to be over 800 years old! It’s 125 metres tall and 25 metres around – a bit too wide to fit my arms around!

McKinney Kauri Tree

 

We stopped at Whangarei Falls where it was drizzling with rain, but luckily I had my new goretex rain jacket with me. It was an expensive splurge (even at less than half price in the Kathmandu sale) but worth it.

Haruru Falls Selfie

There is a circular track that took less than 30 minutes to walk with a view of the falls from the top and then from down below.

 

Whangarei Falls

 

The falls drop 26.3 metres!

Whangarei Falls

 

Look how lush and green the forest is, just beautiful.

Haruru Falls

We got back on board the bus and continued on our way to the town of Paihia, a handy spot from which to explore the Bay of Islands. I had read about an overnight cruise around the islands called Rock the Boat which sounded like a lot of fun so I booked it in while still in Australia, but then I arrived to a wet and windy scene… and the news the boat had sprung a leak! It’a always disappointing when travel plans don’t pan out, but there’s always usually a bright side to find and in this case I’m glad that I wasn’t on the boat while the weather raged (bad) or when it sprung the leak (very bad).

Paihia

In hindsight maybe the Bay of Islands would best be left to the summer months when the weather is dryer and the water more inviting, however despite the wild start the weather did fine up enough the next day to head out on a cruise around the islands with our eyes peeled for dolphins. The ocean was too rough to go out past the bay so we missed seeing the famous ‘hole in the rock’ but dolphins we did see!

Bay of Islands map

The important question one must ask oneself when returning from an outdoorsy coastal holiday is ‘how many dolphin photos can one person take, seriously?’ The answer is ‘freaking hundreds’. Most of them random shots of water with maybe a hint of a shadow of a dolphin under the surface. After a massive photo purge, I still really want to show these ones.

Look how beautiful the mist looks in the trees on this island, with the first sighting of dolphins in the water.

Bay of Islands Dolphins

And then they came closer! Yay!

Bay of Islands Dolphins

Beautiful, graceful, happy dolphins.

Bay of Islands Dolphins

With a baby!

Bay of Islands Dolphins

The skipper spotted a sailing boat moored near one of the islands which is part of a youth support program. Young teens who are selected to be a part of the program live on board the boat for weeks at a time with no phones, junk food or other modern conveniences, while they learn to sail, fish and other life skills.

Bay of Islands youth sailing boat program

 

Our skipper pulled up close to the boat and sounded the horn to wake them all up. He said that sometimes the kids come out on board and will perform the Haka for the cruise boat. We waited awhile and then signs of life appeared. A bunch of happy but shy looking kids came out on board, and three stepped forward and launched into a wonderful display of the traditional Maori war dance. It was really brilliant, and so unexpected!

Bay of Islands youth sailing boat program

We kept on cruising… and we saw more dolphins!

Bay of Islands dolphins

Bay of Islands dolphins

Bay of Islands dolphins

We had the opportunity to jump off the boat at Urupukapuka Island to explore for awhile.

Bay of Islands Seagull

 

Urupukapuka Island

The colour of the water was so beautiful, and constantly changing.

Urupukapuka Walk

Urupukapuka Walk

Urupukapuka Island

I headed for a water-logged path that ran past a ramshackle building, through a sweet gate and up a very steep hill.

Urupukapuka Walk

Urupukapuka Walk

Urupukapuka Island

Urupukapuka Walk

I trudged up to the top and was rewarded with a breathtaking view across the water.

Urupukapuka Island

Back on the boat we started heading back to Paiha where we had started the cruise; finally the sun was out and putting a sparkle on the water for us.

Bay of Islands boat cruise

We were given the option to hop off at the tiny town of Russell if we wanted. I thought it sounded like a quaint place to visit so when we docked I hopped off with a small group. The skipper gave us ferry vouchers so that we could get back to Paiha when we wanted inclusive of the cruise price we’d already paid.

Russell was a really sweet place, but it wasn’t always that way!  This excerpt from the Russell Wikipedia page sums up some of it’s fascinating history:

When European and American ships began visiting New Zealand in the early 1800s, the indigenous Māori quickly recognised there were great advantages in trading with these strangers, whom they called tauiwi. The Bay of Islands offered a safe anchorage and had a high Māori population. To attract ships, Māori began to supply food and timber. What Māori wanted were respect, plus firearms, alcohol, and other goods of European manufacture.Kororāreka developed as a result of this trade but soon earned a very bad reputation, a community without laws and full of prostitution, and became known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific”.

Given how small and far away it is from everything it is unbelievable to think it was New Zealand’s first capital! It was also home to New Zealand’s first church and pub.

Russell - Bay of Islands

After about an hour we got back on the local ferry and headed the short distance across the water to Paihia. By this time the day was putting on a fine show for us and I can see how beautiful the Bay of Islands must be in the glory of summer.

Bay of Islands cruise

Back at Paiha the clear and sunny afternoon was too tempting to stay indoors so a long walk along the water and beach was called for.

Paihia Beach

Paihia Beach

 

I’m not sure what the story of these totem-like carvings are, but there was a row of them standing in the middle of an large reserve across the road from the beach.

Paihia Totem

I walked around the local library which is housed in a heritage home donated to the town by one of the earliest Anglican missionaries in Paihia.

Paihia Library

The Bay of Islands was a lovely place to visit, but best when the weather is dry and clear enough to enjoy the beautiful sights of the water and islands.

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