A piece of history will bring New Zealand even closer to your heart
The Bay of Islands, known for its warm blue-green waters, white sandy beaches and abundant native wildlife is also a place deeply engraved in New Zealand’s historical timeline.
Whether one is keen to learn about New Zealand’s heritage or experience New Zealand on holiday, it is little wonder that this humble sub-tropical region consistently attracts visitors from around the world, as well as from other parts of New Zealand.
Cape Reinga Tour
One of the ideal ways of exploring the Bay and New Zealand’s Far North is by taking a tour from Paihia, for which various packages are offered to the public depending on areas of interests and specific preferences.
The tour we took is the ‘Fullers GreatSights: Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Tour,’ with inclusions such as Cape Reinga Lighthouse and views, travelling along the ‘Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually 70 miles long), sandboarding and a stopover at Puketi Forest for getting up close to ancient and majestic Kauri trees, suitable for walk and trek enthusiasts.
The Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Tour is good for those who wish to learn about the significance of Cape Reinga where, according to Māori legend, spirits depart on their journey home to Hawaiki.
Seeing the point where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean come crashing together and driving along the shores of Ninety Mile Beach as the waves hit beside the custom-built coach are other unique experiences that are sure to excite visitors.
Sand Dunes of Te Paki
However, the highlight of the tour (for me) was stopping at the giant sand dunes at Te Paki Stream, where we experienced the thrills and spills of sand surfing!
Nothing sets the heart racing in this tour until one gathers enough stamina to clamber up the sand dunes only to surf all the way down to the edge!
Our coach driver provided us an informative commentary throughout our tour as we journeyed to the top of New Zealand, stopping for a bite to eat in Taipa Beach along the way.
Fullers GreatSights: Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Tour is a full day tour recommended for people of all ages.
For bookings, please visit http://www.dolphincruises.co.nz/bay-of-islands-tours/cape-reinga-ninety-mile-beach/ and www.visitboi.co.nz/
Jewel in the Bay
Affectionately known as ‘Jewel of the Bay of the Islands,’ it is easy to see why Paihia means ‘good here’ in Māori, for this is an excellent base to explore the Bay in all its glory and the town itself is a lively and colourful place full of warm-hearted people.
Hence, staying at The Scenic Hotel Bay of Islands, would be an apt accommodation for any traveller to Paihia.
100% New Zealand owned and operated, the hotel is set at international standards with a genuine sense of Kiwi hospitality, welcoming guests ranging from business and corporate visitors to families, groups and individuals.
The Scenic Hotel Bay of Islands is one of the most naturesque hotels, with rooms surrounded by lush greenery and island-inspired beauty, as though one is amongst a rainforest but with all the creature comforts!
To experience this slice of Kiwi heaven within the accommodation, please visit http://scenichotelgroup.co.nz/ and www.visitboi.co.nz/
Dinner with a Difference
Our short stay in Paihia was well spent at Charlotte’s Kitchen, a newly established restaurant and bar not so easy to find, but located right at the end of the pier where its eye-catching logo and friendly staff instantly draw in people.
Given its idyllic location near the ocean, the beautiful view of the Bay is just an understatement, for one’s dining experience is heightened either by the colours of the setting sun or by the twinkling lights at night.
Remembering Charlotte Badger
The restaurant’s unique name is in remembrance of Charlotte Badger, a criminal from the UK and allegedly the first European woman to settle in New Zealand, who was known for her passion, strength and daring conquests.
The interiors of the restaurant are also noticeable, a blend where modernity meets style, yet cosy at the same time.
Charlotte’s Kitchen is different from other restaurants, for it believes that meals are to be shared, the way that families and loved ones eat and share meals at home.
Hence, if food is a reason to bring people closer together, then this place would certainly create that ambience.
It is recommended to make a booking. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available. Please visit http://www.charlotteskitchen.co.nz/ and www.visitboi.co.nz/
Russell, the peaceful town
Taking the car ferry via Opua ferry terminal from Paihia, we headed to Russell, a now peaceful law-abiding town that was once notoriously known as “Hell Hole of the Pacific,” given the bad reputation it had for being a lawless trading centre full of drunken whalers, prostitutes and escaped convicts from Australia.
Place of Many Firsts
We strolled to several of these iconic locations, now a part of Russell’s unique heritage and were surprised to learn about the many firsts (and oldest) sites in New Zealand.
The first permanent European settlement and seaport, along with being the country’s first Capital.
In terms of infrastructure, Russell proudly holds Christs’ Anglican Church as the oldest surviving church, The Duke of Marlborough Hotel as the oldest licensed hotel, bar and restaurant, and Pompallier House as the oldest industrial building and licensed pub in New Zealand!
Big Little Town
Interestingly, Russell generates its own water supply by totally depending on its rain, which is why the water tastes different yet pleasant from what we are used to in big cities.
The town holds many expensive holiday homes of which 60% are owned by wealthy people residing overseas.
New Zealand’s most expensive rental accommodation, called ‘Eagles Nest’ is also based in this ‘big little town.’
The Duke of Marlborough Hotel
Keeping up with the historical theme, a perfect way to wrap up one’s sightseeing in Russell is to dine at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, a heritage hotel, bar and restaurant located just a few metres away from the site of the Mini Tour.
The restaurant’s intriguing name was coined in the 1830s by Johnny Johnston, a convict turned ‘good man’ who was regarded highly by the local Māori people.
The Duke of Marlborough at the time was the world’s wealthiest man, and Johnny’s decision to give the hotel this new name sought to bring sophistication and opulence to the so-called “Hell Hole of the Pacific.”
Awards and Citations
A recipient of many awards, the restaurant menu offers the best of locally sourced seasonal produce, presenting a new take on classic favourites, including a range of vegetarian and gluten-free options. To make a booking, please visit http://theduke.co.nz/ and www.visitboi.co.nz/
The Bay and Beyond
The Bay of Islands is a magnificent wonder of beauty, history and culture in one place.
Beginning our journey in Paihia, travelling up North to Cape Reinga and wrapping our tour in Russell, we visited some of the oldest sites and learnt about the earliest days of colonisation.
This little part of Aotearoa triggered the birth of our nation, and the locals are proud of this fact, showcasing this region and sharing their legacy with other New Zealanders and the rest of the world.
We encourage our readers to visit the Bay of Islands and experience paradise for themselves!
Indian Newslink travelled with assistance from the Bay of Islands Marketing Group.
Please visit www.visitboi.co.nz for more information.
(Pictures by Ratna Venkat)