Beautiful rolling green hills, lush forests, glistening water, fumbling lambs, and sweet smelling air have surrounded me over the past four days as I've headed up from Auckland to Paihia and then to Cape Reinga.
Starting in Auckland via the Kiwi Experience tour bus, we unpacked in Paihia about 5 hours later, with the option of various boat tours upon arrival. Seeing as I have several months ahead of me, I didn’t pay for any add-ons here. Fortunately, this area is perfect for walks, and you don’t actually have to pay anything to experience the full beauty of the Bay of Islands.
The next day, a bus picked us up for Cape Reinga, the furthest north you can venture. There’s a nice walk to a lighthouse and the views are incredible.
The Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean merge tumultuously here, and it’s a clear demarcation of where two bodies of water collide.
For the Maori people, the merge of the sea and ocean symbolize the coming together of male and female and the creation of life. It’s really stunning and there are so many walks, which would have been nice to take if I had more time.
Heading back down south, we climbed up sand dunes with boogie boards, and slid down the side for an afternoon of sand surfing. Unfortunately, it was quite a bit of work for very little pay off. The sand wasn’t packed tightly, so we didn’t really pick up much speed.
Nevertheless, it was a nice place for a picnic lunch, and Ninety Mile Beach was just around the corner. It’s really only 55 miles of the most beautiful ocean views as you drive on the sand.
The next day, I took a ferry over to Russell with a couple of new friends from the bus tour. From Paihia, it’s only a 10 minute ride to the first capital city of NZ, originally known to be a pretty dirty town with heaps of brothels and booze. You’d never know it today by its pristine streets and buildings.
After a 20-minute walk up the hill, we had a really nice 360 view of the surrounding islands.
We then made our way along Long Beach Rd. to what felt like our own private beach and had a quick swim in the bay. It was really cold, but so worth it. I think the best views of a place are from the water!
We finished up with a picnic and ice cream, and then ferried back around sunset. A day walk to Russell or just a ferry ride and walk is a very inexpensive way to see more of the area and create a fun day. Others who had gone before us said it was boring, but I think it's all what you make of it and the company you keep...which often shapes any travel experience, if you ask me.
Our last day was a morning walk to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the Maori and British signed a treaty on February 6, 1840.
There were major differences in the translation from English to Maori. Needless to say, there has been some tension about land ownership over the years, and in 1995, Queen Elisabeth II formally apologized.
It was an interesting place to visit and included the Treaty and Meeting Houses, and the Ceremonial War Canoe made of Ancient Kauri trees. The craftsmanship and size of a Waka (canoe) was impressive, and some could hold hundreds of men.
This is a pricier ticket, but we somehow managed to get a good deal from the cashier. I would recommend paying for the visit because it really gives more context to New Zealand's beginnings and it's an easy walk/day trip from Paihia.
After this, the Kiwi Experience bus too us back to Auckland for a night before heading out in the morning to Cathedral Cove, one of several stops on the way to Wellington, the new capital city.
Paihia activities, places and restaurants:
Cape Reinga is really special and has many walking paths, if you have the time.
Walks in the area are a great way to see hidden beaches.
Sand surfing is tough work walking up, but with packed sand, fun to slide down.
Ninety Mile Beach is beautiful as we zoomed down in the coach.
Russell was the first capitol, has great views, and is a fun day trip.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds is worth the money for some valuable history of NZ.
El Café for great wifi and an equally great deal on coffee and food.
Alfresco’s has a nice vibe and views.
Alongside for a slightly more expensive drink and comfy couches over the water.