THE BAY OF ISLANDS
Ocean playground, earthly
Paradise for anyone who enjoys being around, in or under the water, and
sub tropical kingdom of the giant kauri tree. With a maximum width of 50
miles/ 80 km, nowhere in the Northland is far from the sea - and its
activities associated with the seas that are its main attraction.
Within walking distance of Paihia is Waitangi,
perhaps the most historically important location in New Zealand. It was here that the Treaty
of Waitangi was signed in 1840 by Maori chiefs and representatives of the British
Crown. The "Treaty House," home of the then British Resident, in front of which
the Treaty was signed, is a focal point of the reserve, along with the Maori meeting house
with carvings representing many different tribes, and a 120-foot, 150 man war canoe,
launched each Waitangi Day (February 6), New Zealand's national day.
A trip through history
One of the oldest towns in New Zealand, and for a short time capital of the country,
Russell is a 20 minute ferry ride across the bay from Paihia. In the early nineteenth
century Russell earned the nickname, hell-hole of the south-west Pacific, for the antics
of its swashbuckling sailors and traders. Many of the buildings from this era have been
retained and lend the waterfront a charming colonial atmosphere. About 14 miles/ 23 km to
the north of Paihia is picturesque Kerikeri on the northern extremity of the bay, set amid
citrus and kiwifruit orchards. It's a flourishing center for arts and crafts people,
particularly potters and weavers, whose small galleries and studios make for interesting
shopping. On the Kerikeri inlet stand a few of New Zealand's oldest buildings: the Kemp
House, built in 1821, the Stone Store, completed in 1835, and St. James Church, built in
1878. Nearby, Rewa's Village will give you an idea of what a pre-European Maori
unfortified village looked like.
The Bay's marine activities
A longtime favorite attraction with visitors is a cruise in the bay, surely one of the
most beautiful and interesting marine sightseeing trips anywhere. As well as an amazing
variety of islands, visitors will see a wealth of bird life, seals, dolphins, or perhaps
even a whale. The diving store at Paihia can provide information on diving sites along
with catering for divers'needs, including air filling and gear rentals, but don't forget
your diver's certification card. Overseas, the Bay of Islands is possibly best known as a
big-game fishing center, where beyond the sheltered waters of the bay some of the largest
specimens of striped marlin in the world are caught. Fishing tournaments are held from
January through April.
Cruises and excursions
A unique way to enjoy a cruise on the bay is on the tall sailing ship R Tucker Thompson,
typical of the schooners that plied the Pacific 100 years ago. You can get handson
experience by helping sail, or just relax and dream of bygone days. In an area where there
are so many historical associations, even the main launch operator, Fullers, has become
part of the local history Of the area, and its "Cream Trip," originally run to
service the outlying farms around the bay, is renowned far and wide, On t is 5 1/2-hour
cruise among the 150 islands, each distinctly different from its neighbor, you will learn
something of the area's history. Departing from both Paihia and Russell, another cruise
almost as well known is the Cape Brett/ Hole-in-the-Rock half-day trip to the outer
reaches of the bay. Excursions up Ninety-Mile Beach to Cape Reinga and to the majestic
kauri forests are musts.
How to get there:
The Bay of islands is about 150 miles/240 km from Auckland, an easy half day's drive via
Whangarei, the regional center, or if you prefer, a 45-minute flight or a coach tour from
Auckland that run several times daily. For those with limited time, or who prefer not to
drive, day tours and longer also depart from Auckland. Hotel and motel accommodation is
available at Paihia and Russell.
Bay of Islands Golf
Kauri Cliffs was designed and built by David Harmon of Golf Course Consultants, Orlando, Florida. 15 holes face the Pacific
Ocean, 6 of which are played alongside cliffs that plunge into the sea. The inland holes meander through marsh, forest and
farmland. Kauri Cliffs is about 3 hours 45 minutes drive from Auckland, 1 hour by helicopter, north of Auckland. If you intended
to explore the Bay of Islands you may wish to stay and play Kauri Cliffs.
Travel north of downtown Auckland, over the bridge, along Highway 1 for 71 miles/115 km
and you reach the Brynderwyr Hills, the southern boundary for this region. At the foot of
the hill you may choose to go up High way 12, through Dargaville and the kauri forests, or
continue or for another 35 miles/ 56km to Whangarei. A city of 44,000 and the main
commercial and administrative center for the region, Whangarei has a wide range of
accommodation and restaurants, excellent craft shops, attractive gardens and the famous
Clapham Clock Museum with one of the largest collection of timepieces in the world.
Crystal clear waters
A little to the north is Tutukaka, a notable deep-sea and big-game fishing base with a
season extending from December to May. Offshore, the crystal clear waters of the Poor
Knights Islands Marine Reserve are popular diving spots with an amazing range of fish,
including many tropical species. These waters were nominated by Jacques Cousteau as one of
the top five diving locations in the world.
How to get there:
Coach lines run several daily services from Auckland to Whangarei. Air services fly
Auckland to Whangarei daily. From Paihia to Whangarei is about 40 miles/ 70 km.
The Kauri Coast
This area is reached by turning off Highway 1 onto Highway 12 at the foot of the
Brynclerwyn Hills. About 16 miles/25 km along this road you reach the small settlement of
Matakohe, which has an interesting museum containing relics of the area's kauri milling
and kauri gum-digging pioneers. The main town of the area is Dargaville on the Wairoa
Lord of the forest
The region's native forests contain some of the few remaining stands of giant native kauri
trees in the country. Short, easy walks from the road allow you to view some of the
largest trees in the world. The largest specimens are in Waipoua Forest where the greatest
of all, Tane Mahuta, "Lord of the Forest," stands nearly 170 ft/ 52 m tall, and
is over 1,200 years old. Around 19 miles/ 30 km north of the kauri forests brings you to
the deeply indented Hokianga Harbor, an area of giant sandhills and secluded bays. At
Opononi Beach, see the statue of Opo, the dolphin which befriended the locals 40 years ago
and made the village famous. About 10 miles/ 17 km further on look for the Rawene
turn-off, as a car ferry from this town, across the harbor to Kohukohu, provides a
short-cut as you're going further north.
Ninety Mile Beach to Cape Reinga
It's a day's return trip from Paihia or Kaitaia to the very northern-most tip of the North
Island, Cape Reinga, where a lone pohutukawa tree on the farthest tip of land marks a
sacred spot for Maori: the legendary leaping-off place for the spirits of the dead on
their homeward journey to Hawaiki. From here, Ninety Mile Beach sweeps down the west coast
of the peninsula forming a natural 90 km/ 60 miles highway for tour buses on their return
beach bus trip. This route is not recommended for cars, as insurance does not cover travel
on the beach. For an alternative route to Paihia, turn down Highway 1 at Awanui and you'll
reach Kaitaia. At Fairburn, about 15 km/10 miles down a side road, there is a
"nocturnal park" which allows visitors to view glow~worms and kiwis during the
day and in the evening. Continuing south down Highway 1, over the scenic Mangamuka hills,
there's a grove of majestic giant kauri trees in the Omahuta Forest Sanctuary.
The Bay of Islands is about 150 miles/240 kms from Auckland - an
easy half day's drive via Whangarei, the regional centre, or if you prefer, a 45 minute
flight on Mount Cook Airline. Coaches also run from Auckland daily or you can rent a
Campervan, minivan or sedan.
Budget Rental Car
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