The Beautiful Bay of Islands

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The next part of our New Zealand adventure involved a trip up north to Paihia in The Bay of Islands. As you may have read from my previous post, we had been advised not to stay in Auckland for too long, however we had a spare 10 days until my parents arrived and when researching all the different places not to far from Auckland (as that's where we would be meeting mum and dad) we quickly decided Paihia was the place for us. Laid back beach days, hiking trails, dolphin swimming, sand surfing at Cape Reinga and beautiful island scenery. Only 4 and a half hours bus ride from Auckland it was the perfect distance to get there and back in the 10 days we had - we used Naked Bus and it cost us around $50 each return. I'm gonna start by saying we adored The Bay of Islands and managed to cram so many fun things into our trip, this post will give you a little insight into what we got up to during our stay.





Cape Reinga
I'm going to start with our biggest trip we took part in whilst at TBOI, visiting Cape Reinga, the most northern point of New Zealand. We booked the trip via our hostel - Pepper Tree Lodge, which for the record was lovely, Brian the owner was the funniest Kiwi we have come across and has a story for EVERYTHING! We booked up a 'surf and swim' package with Fullers for $200 which included an entire guided tour or the cape, sand surfing, visiting the historic kaori tree forest, fish and chips and a drive down the famous 90 mile beach. Plus the 'swim' part which was an eco friendly dolphin swimming experience, which we saved to do with my mum and dad. Cape Reinga was defiantly one of the best day trips I have ever done! We were originally meant to be put on 'the backpacker bus' without 'all the old buggas' (I quote Brian) but instead ended up on a bus where the average age must of been about 75! It was a laugh a minute though and made the trip. Robin, our bus driver was amazing, super knowledgable and really funny. Our first stop on the trip was the kaori tree forest. These gigantic, majestic trees were really quite something, some over 1000 years old! It was amazing to walk amongst them and learn about their importance to New Zealanders. After a short coffee break we then went on to stop at a little beach to have a massive cone of fish and chips. Next we visited the huge Te paki sand dunes where we were given a crash course lesson in sand surfing - it was exhausting climbing to the top but well worth it as the surfing part was super fun. Julian, a 74 year old man on our trip gave it a go which was rather entertaining! After sand surfing we made our way to the cape where we could walk right to the tip of New Zealand and see the beautiful lighthouse and the clashing of the deep blue Pacific Ocean and wild turquoise Tasman sea - the views from the cape were some of the best I'd ever seen. It was also really lovely to learn about the spiritual significance behind the cape as well, and how Maori's believe that when you die your spirit exits earth and enters heaven via Cape Reinga travelling down 90 mile beach, Maori folk often visit the cape to morn their loved ones. After admiring the cape for around an hour we drove back to Paihia via 90 mile beach, driving next to the crashing Tasman sea! 90 mile beach, is massive (clues in the name) and quite a spectacle! All in all I highly recommend paying Cape Reinga a visit if you're ever in TBOI - whether you go via a tour company like us or drive yourself, it's worth it.



Waterfall Walks and Island Hopping Hikes
For somewhere not renowned for its hiking trails as much as other areas in New Zealand we found TBOI to be really great for walks and hikes and managed to cram in 3 whilst we were there. Our first one was a 5k one way bush walk to Haruru Falls. The walk itself was really fun, with mangrove tree walkways and great view points along the way, and the end result was worth the sweaty stroll. We enjoyed a yummy picnic overlooking the falls. The walk itself wasn't too challenging so can be enjoyed by a wide variety of fitness levels. A second walk was a little more extreme, at 12k and definitely more of an uphill hike this, the walk from Paihia to Russell Island is defiantly not for the faint hearted. It took me and Craig around 6 hours to complete it - stopping for the odd picture break and to obviously cross the ocean on the $1 ferry from Opua to Okiato. The hike was very scenic with loads of view points over looking the islands, it was one of my favourite days in TBOI. Russell island itself was charming, really quaint and home to the first ever pub in New Zealand - The Duke of Marlborough, where we enjoyed a celebratory pint! It was such a nice pub we took my mum and dad back there for a meal and I think it was the best meal I've had whilst being in NZ! Our last walk was a little 3k bush walk to a view point overlooking Paihia, short and sweet this was just a nice little walk to do in the afternoon after lunch!



Eco Friendly Dolphin Experience
This was part of our Fullers 'surf and swim' package, which we luckily managed to add mum and dad onto. This was by far one of the top things on my bucket list. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to see Dolphins swimming in the wild and hopefully one day be lucky enough to swim with them - so this was quite literally the best day EVER! I must say I loved everything about this trip, it was extremely well organised and very informative. The people who ran the trip obviously adore Dolphins and care so much about preserving them in their natural habitat. They made it clear from the start that we would be limited to how much time we spent with a pod if we found any, its important not to disturb and interfere with their normal behaviour and intrude on their natural environment for too long. We were also made aware that if there were babies or juvenile Dolphins in the pod we would not be allowed to swim with them as this can affect their immune system. We were super lucky on the trip and quickly found a pod of over 20 Dolphins that were all extremely playful and friendly, jumping in and out of the water, following our boat. Unfortunately there were in fact baby Dolphins in the pod making it unethical for us to swim. Originally I thought this may hinder my experience but it was just as incredible to see them from the boat swimming in the wild. I will however still be pursuing my dream to swim with them in the future. I should also add that the trip was really great if you wanted to get out and see a lot of the different islands in the bay - our captain managed to stop off at a lovely little cove so we could jump out and have a swim in the sea.



So that's my low down on Paihia and The Bay of Islands! I will stop rambling on now. Just a couple more recommendations if you ever visit. El Cafe is an amazing little South American lunch spot, does great coffee and the veggie burritos are to die for. Plus Movenpick ice-cream mustn't be missing, so many yummy flavours and not enough time to try them all - a tad expensive but worth breaking the budget for.



Elly X

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