A land and people rich with stories
Kia Ora friends! I've just returned from another amazing trip to New Zealand and in the short 13 days I was there, was able to see and do so much. So sit back, relax and join me and I take you all around the North Island of New Zealand!
Arriving into Auckland, I decided with my limited time to hit the ground running so got in my rental car and headed north. I DO NOT recommend doing - arrival day with a long haul destination like New Zealand, you should stick to the city you flew into and enjoy the sites, allow your body to get acclimated to your new time zone and get a good night sleep but since I was short on time, I was limited on options.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a New Zealand enclave encompassing more than 140 subtropical islands next to the country's North Island. It’s known for its undeveloped beaches, big-game fishing and Maori cultural artifacts. My first stop was in the charming village of Whangarei (pronounced Fangarei) for lunch with Karly with Northland Tourism. We ate at a beautiful restaurant right by the inlet called The Quay where I enjoyed the first of many delicious meals with fresh local produce. Farm to table to very common in New Zealand and you will find it at most restaurants.
I spent two nights staying in the charming city of Pahia, which is the perfect base to stay when exploring the Bay of Islands. There are a variety of accommodations for all different budgets and there are several great options for restaurants including over in the quaint town of Russell (just a quick ferry ride away).
My first stop once I checked into my hotel, the Copthorne, was the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The grounds are are the protected site of the signing of the first accord between the British Crown & the Maori people. It is a must see and a trip to the Treaty Grounds and Museum are unquestionably one of New Zealand’s premier attractions.
At Waitangi, you'll experience the thrill of a challenge from a Maori warrior as you make your way through the grounds. If you pass, you’ll continue on to the iconic carved meeting house - Te Whare Runanga - where you’ll encounter a traditional Maori welcome, and an energetic cultural performance by our resident performing arts group - Te Pitowhenua. After the performance, I was able to meet the dancers and have a quick chat, take a picture and then had time to explore the beautiful grounds and the Museum of Waitangi Te Kongahu.
Day 2 started early and I had a full day ahead of me with my day trip to Cape Reinga with Great Sights.
My day included a stop at the beautiful to experience the Manginangina Kauri Walk.
It was so peaceful and I was in awe of the towering kauri trees on this easy, short walk on the boardwalk path through the forest.
Next we were off for the beautiful Cape Reinga, the ultimate northern New Zealand experience. See two oceans collide and discover the place of leaping, where Maori spirits begin their final journey. At the Cape, the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean in a spectacular swirl of currents. At the northernmost tip of the Cape is a gnarled pohutukawa tree, believed to be over 800 years old. According to Maori oral history, the spirits of deceased Maori leap from this tree into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.
Next we made our way to Te Paki Stream driving up the stream towards the mountainous sand dunes. It was pretty cool to be driving up a stream in a full coach bus. There are only certain times that you are able to do this obviously. These bus drivers are very skilled and know just where to drive - I know I personally wouldn't even attempt it because I'd get stuck! We stopped at the base of some enormous sand dunes where everyone on our tour clambering out of the bus, got our boards and climbed up the sand-boarding down the dunes. It was no easy feat climbing to the top of the dunes with the sand quickly shifting beneath your feet, but the view from the top was worth it! This is truly a unique experience not to be missed so make sure you get out and take climb to the top - it will give your legs a stretch after the first part of the tour and get your heart pumping with excitement.
The last part of our day concluded with a drive on the sandy beaches of Ninety-Mile Beach. This fabled strip of sand stretches from Ahipara to Scott Point, five kilometers south of Cape Maria van Diemen. Truth be told, it is actually 88 kilometers long. This beach is officially a highway, but is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides. Rental companies won’t allow their cars on the sand, mostly for safety reasons. When we were there, we were lucky to see 90 Miles Beach five day fishing competition. Hundreds of anglers surf cast from the beach hoping to catch the biggest snapper, a delicious white-flesh fish found in New Zealand waters. All during our drive down the beach, we could see many anglers waiting to catch the winner fish!
All in all, it was a long, but incredible day that I highly recommend when you are in the Northland. Stay tuned for my next part of my adventure when I take to the water in search of wild dolphins and a big hole in a rock that our boat will navigate through!