New Zealand / Travel

Bay of Islands: Escaping the City

We’ve now been in New Zealand for almost two months, and I’ve only published one post – the shame! We’ve been busy meeting new people, catching up with friends, getting jobs, and finding a lovely kiwi family to stay with. We’re now all settled in Napier, and will be here until after Christmas, but before I get to that I need to get on with filling in the gaps of the North Island so far.

While we were waiting for our tax numbers to come through, we decided to leave Auckland and head north. We’d heard that the Bay of Islands was really beautiful so we thought that our journey of the North Island could begin there. Instead of traveling three hours north straight to Paihia, we decided to stop on the way in Whangerei for a few days, to spend some time in the New Zealand countryside. From there we headed up to the beachside town of Paihia and while we were there we took a ferry across the bay to the small, upmarket town of Russell. It was a nice break from busy city life, and nice to finally see some of the picturesque landscapes that New Zealand is so famous for.

Whangerei
Just a couple of hours north of Auckland is the town of Whangerei. The bus dropped us off in the centre of the town and then we were picked up by David, the co-owner of the lodge we were staying at. We didn’t yet have John the car, so we were relying on public transport and lifts. The Little Earth Lodge is out of the town in the middle of some beautiful countryside. Our few days at the LEL was a tranquil break from the big city. Polly, the other owner, would collect eggs in the morning from her chickens which we could eat for breakfast and they also had two miniature ponies and a friendly dog called Mutty.

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There were two main things to do when staying at the lodge which didn’t involve driving down to the beaches or back into the town. The first thing was a forty five minute walk to Whangerei Falls through a forest of Kauri trees. The weather was much nicer than in Auckland and it was a lovely spring day. The walk was quiet and really enjoyable, and the waterfalls were pretty cool. We stopped at the base of the waterfalls for lunch and some good photos. On the walk back we played in the stream and watched ducks fighting. It was such a nice day and so much more enjoyable than lots of what we did in Auckland. It was a sign of things to come in New Zealand, and we were looking forward to more days like that one.

The second good thing to do was to visit the Abbey Caves, which were a really short walk from the end of David and Polly’s back garden. We climbed over their garden fence and walked through some woods and a field to get to the caves, which we were told would contain a fair few glow worms. Polly lent us some caving shoes (a bit like Crocs, but nicer and less frumpy), a helmet and a head torch for the expedition. The chilly water in the three caves was frequently up to our shins and in parts came right up to our thighs. It was a claustrophobic, dark and slippery experience, but one I’d recommend, and we can now add caving to our list of things we’ve done on our travels! After a couple of days in Whangerei it was time to continue further up north to Paihia.

Paihia and Russell
We took the bus another hour north to Paihia in the Bay of Islands, and our arrival was our first taste of summer. The bus dropped us off by the beach, and we walked along the seafront to our hostel. The day we arrived it was Toby and my anniversary, so we asked at the hostel for a recommendation for a nice place for lunch. We ended up in a South American cafe (called El Cafe), where we indulged in a big lunch and some yummy iced frappe smoothie things. On the walls were colourful pictures of South America’s towns and cities, many of which were familiar. We then walked down to join Grace on the beach, and read our books in the sun.

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The following day we hired kayaks from a hut on the beach and paddled out into the bay. There are small islands all around, so at the advice of the kayak man, we went to one of the closer islands and set up camp for the afternoon. The island had a couple of people on it when we arrived, but we soon had the whole place to ourselves to have lunch, a couple of beers and a nice wander around. The sun was strong, so we slapped on some sun cream and sunbathed for the first time! It was a nice relaxing day (apart from the paddle back, which was tougher as we had to go against the wind).

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Our final day of our mini holiday in the Northland was spent visiting the town of Russell. It’s a quaint old town (old for New Zealand, anyway), with a little wooden church, a traditional fish ‘n’ chips shop and a couple of pubs. There wasn’t much to do apart from wander around, but the sun was shining, so we had lunch, people watched for a while, and then took the ferry back to Paihia. If we were traveling with more money I think we would’ve stayed in a hotel in Russell and then got the ferry across to Paihia for a day instead, but Russell was a bit posh for us!

The following day we took the bus back down to Auckland. Our week out of the big city was great, and once we had John the car, we would see there was a lot more where that came from.

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