The Bay Of Islands, also known as the birth place of New Zealand, was somewhere I’d been wanting to visit for years.

We stayed in Paihia and by the time I’d gotten round to making these plans last September, a lot of the accommodation in both Paihia and Russel was solidly booked out, so pickings were slim. But we stayed in a motel really close to the main strip, a 5 minute walk to the pier and as close as you would want to be to the shops and restaurants.

On our first day we took a ferry over to Russel, hiked up to the flag pole and look out point. Had fish n chips on the beach for dinner, and a late swim as the sun set.

Our second day was our journey to Cape Reinga. If you’re up in that part of New Zealand, you have to go all the way. The drive up was really great and driving past areas densely populated with manuka trees was fantastic. We all wound down our windows and enjoyed the delicious aroma.

There’s a little hike down a path filled with informational plaques which eventually winds around to a view of the lighthouse sitting on the point of land jutting out with a view of the point at which the oceans meet. We saw one insane woman trying to push her baby in a pram up on a dangerous precipice. You could see several people stop and look on in concern. A few people asked her if she needed help but she just laughingly brushed them off.

On the drive back we were told that we had to stop at the famous Fish'n'chips shop at Mangonui. My parents really enjoyed their expensive bowls of raw fish salad but I wasn’t so impressed with my fish n chips.

The next day we went on the Fullers Explorer trip. First stop was in a bay full of playful dolphins. There must have been about 15 of them with some babies as well. They were leaping and diving and swimming right up alongside the boat.

It was so amazing to see but I wish we had been on a smaller boat with less tourists all scrambling over each other to get to the best photo taking vantage point. As we sped off a few of the dolphins playfully dived up in the wake.

Next stop was the hole in the rock. I wasn’t expecting much but it is really impressive once you’re up that close to a phenomenal 60 foot hole which has been rendered through years of wind and waves. The skipper was brilliant and said she would try to get close to the entrance to see what the conditions were like. If it was too rough she wasn’t going to risk going through. But after sitting reasonably peacefully at the entrance for a couple of minutes she determined it was safe to proceed. It seemed like a really hazardous and precarious maneouvre once we were right in the centre of the passage way. When we were safely through the other side the skipper announced her releif and told us that she always feels pretty happy after getting through successfully.

Our next stop was to the beautiful island of Otehei Bay at Urupukapuka island. This was my favourite part of the day. The bay was gorgeous with crystal clear water and stunning views and abundant Pohutakawas. We hiked up to the popular lookout and the view was literally breathtaking. It was one of the most spectacular 360 views I’ve ever taken in. With beautiful blue ocean and islands jutting out from the sea in every direction. I could have stayed there for hours. Unfortunately it was only a quick stop over and we desperately wanted a chance to swim in the amazing bay before heading off, so we rushed down and stripped off for a quick swim.

On our drive back to Auckland we drove by the way of Hokianga. We stopped at Rawene a quaint little town with the best café The Boat Shed which sits right in the harbour with balcony seating for the best views and great coffee.

Our next stop was Opononi to see the famous bay of Opo the dolphin and her statue.

Tips for a Bay of Islands trip:

  • If I was to go back again I would take a day trip to Urupukapuka island and spend an afternoon swimming in the beautiful Otehei bay.
  • Eat a delicious Indian meal at the Indian/Thai restaurant “Greens” in Paihia
  • A trip to the Waitangi treaty grounds will cost you $25 or $15 if you’re a New Zealand resident. We decided not to go in and had a coffee at their café instead. The café has a really beautiful garden with a view of part of the Waka.
  • Don’t skip breakfast before you drive up to Cape Reinga. There’s nothing really up there to eat after you go through Kaitaia.
  • There are two ferrys that go to Russel. One of them has a last ferry at about 4pm and it may seem to some people that it’s the only option. The Fullers ferry has a much later running schedule.
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