If your next holiday calls for a unique melange of seaside paradise, natural beauty and a bit of ancient history, book a flight down south to one of the prettiest countries in the world, New Zealand. In this small but breathtakingly stunning country, heading to the popular holiday destination, Bay of Islands will be touted by many as a good move.
Loved by the Kiwis and tourists alike, this enchanting destination is located around 60 km north west of Whangarei. Lying about 210 km from Cape Reinga at the northernmost tip of the country, Bay of Islands is ever popular for activities such as fishing and sailing and as a generic tourist hotspot. If you’re a fan of big game fishing, Bay of Islands offers one of the best experiences in the world.
Visit the picturesque boutique towns of Paihia, Russell, Waitangi, Kerikeri and Kawakawa to uncover the multitude of treasures that this maritime paradise has to offer. Spend a day experiencing the best that nature has to offer and discover the mysteries hidden in the soils of New Zealand.
Each town has a smorgasbord of attractions and activities to offer, so you’ll never run out of things to do. Find freedom and serenity under the bluest skies in the world, after Rio de Janeiro.
The earliest settlers in the region were a Maori tribe called Ngapuhi Iwi, the largest tribe in the country today. The precursor of the tribe travelled to the Bay of Islands via the Mataatua, a Maori migration canoe. Many settlements played significant roles in the nation’s development. Okiato served as the New Zealand’s first capital. New Zealand’s Magna Carta, The Waitangi Treaty was signed in Waitangi. Kerikeri was a significant port while some islands like Te Pahi are steeped in war and history.
The Bay of Islands was the place where relations were first born between Europeans and the Maoris. Whalers and missionaries arrived and settled here in the 18th and 19th century once Captain Cook, the first European to set foot in the country gave the region its name.
The hinterland of the region, Paihia is the ideal place to start your journey into the Bay of Islands. Accommodation is fairly abundant and easily available except around Christmas time. Swim, fish and surf at Te Tii Bay, a fantastic beach fringed by pohutukawa trees. Visit in November and December to see the trees in bloom and the water glow with a vermillion hue. Head a little to the north of the beach to sea the Kelly Tarlton’s Shipwreck Museum and feast your eyes on undersea treasures.
If you visit the region in May or June to join the Maori New Year celebrations with a traditional ceremony. Let melodies waft through your ears as you listen to musicians you love and will learn to love at the annual Paihia Country Music Festival held at Paihia, Russell. Waitangi and Haruru Falls. If you have a penchant for jazz, make sure you catch the Bay of Islands Jazz festival in the same four towns in August.
What’s a trip to New Zealand without some outdoor fun? Paihia is loaded with opportunities for coastal and bush walks, paragliding, kayaking, sailing, swimming with dolphins, paintball and mini golf. Kill some time at the several restaurants, cafes and shops.
Known as The Cradle of the Nation, Kerikeri bags the honour of being New Zealand’s oldest European settlement. It was also the first permanent mission station in the country. Visit this area to go back in time to see what the island was like in the old days. Step into 1821, when New Zealand’s oldest surviving wooden building, Kemp House was built. Adjacent lies the Stone Store established in 1832 to stock supplies Revamped into a colonialesque store, you can browse here for antiques and souvenirs of the past.
Establish a connection with the ancient civilisation of the Maori’s by taking a five minute walk from Stone House to Rewa’s Village. The town of Kerikeri is peppered with beautiful walks such as The Manginangina Kauri Board Walk through Puketi forest, Rainbow Falls, and the Wharepoke Falls.
Aroha Island is an ecological learning centre 12 km from Kerikeri teeming with wildlife like exotic and native parrots such as the Kakariki. Follow the Art Trail to galleries, studios and a chocolate factory to meet local artists and craftsmen. Plenty of outdoor water activities are on offer and you can golf at the Kauri Cliffs course at Matauri Bay.
Due to the efforts of the Department of Conservation at the Kerikeri Ecological District, the kiwi bird has found a home within the largest city in the Bay of Islands.
Sail across the water from Paihia to this little town tucked under the hills. Russell was formerly the capital of the colony New Zealand before it was moved to Auckland. Built in 1835, New Zealand’s oldest surviving church lies here. It provided sanctuary to the settlers during the sacking of the town in 1845.
The hotel The Duke of Marlborough has the oldest liquor licence in the country and was frequented by sailors and whalers. Visit Pompallier House which was built in 1839 by French Roman Catholic missionaries to see a functioning printing press which was originally in use to print Bibles and a tannery.
For a sight of many local artifacts, a trip to the Russell Museum is an excellent option, bearing a one fifth scale model of Captain Cook’s ship, Endeavour.
A short drive from Paihia, Waitangi is situated near the pristine waters of the Bay of Islands. In this very region, New Zealand’s Magna Carta, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the Maori Chiefs and the British Crown.
The treaty is housed in a large, expansive and peaceful estate. For a taste of an epoch making movement in the history of the country, it is a must visit.