The Bay of Islands is an area on the north island of New Zealand. One hundred and forty four islands are in this area along peninsulas and inlets. Arriving here around lunch time we pulled up to the harbour and were greeted by mobs of cruise ship drop offs for the day. The entire town was swarming with people buying souvenirs, clothing and food.
There are so many things to do and see here that the entire time was a whirlwind. Our first stop was Haruru Falls. This is a beautiful waterfall that is literally steps from the parking lot. After seeing so many beautiful waterfalls this was at the bottom of the list. Not because it wasn’t beauitufl, it was the least surrounded by trees. Just next tot he waterfall was the street with traffic going by and houses close by. That’s the only reason this one scored last.
We were lucky enough to be in town for the Opua Regatta festival. One of the activities was the dog swimming races. This was one of my highlights of the Bay of Islands. The races were broken up into three categories; little, medium and large dogs. There were also dog and owner races. The dogs were taken out to a dock about 100 meters from the shore. At the horn, the owners threw the dogs off of the dock and they all started swimming. All of the participents were house dogs and I doubt there was any training before the race. Some dogs swam back to the dock while some swam sideways. The small dogs were let out of the boat just a few feet from the shore. In the end, Wiggles won the small dog races and Reload won the large dog races. I wasn’t sure the name of the medium dog winner.
You could see hear the stress of the owners screaming happy calls at their dogs to get them to swim straight ahead. One lady gave her dog a stick before dropping him off the dock, he delivered it right to her on the shore.
The first day we took a ferry boat to Russell. This is still on the mainland but it would take an hour and a half to drive to this area. Ferry boats run every five minutes ($12/car), and the ride is only five minutes to the shoreline. We drove up the coast to Oke Bay on a recommendation by the hotel owner’s son in law. This bay is at the end of the coastline. After a 45 minute long windy drive we arrived at Oke Bay. After scrambling rocks along the coastline we realized the beach area was wet and packed with dried up seaweed loaded with sandflies. Yes it was beautiful but our plans to spend the day there weren’t happening. Instead we drove into town and had lunch at the famous Duke of Marlborough hotel. This place has been recommended to us by several people. We’ve been hearing about the Duke of Marlborough since our trip to Australia. Anyway, it was nice but completely overrated.
Since we are visting the Bay of Islands, it would make sense to see some islands. We booked a ferry boat to Urupukapuka island. This is the largest of all the islands at 533 acres. Maori people place a high cultural significance on this island and it’s written in Māori mythology stories. There are over 100 islands here and most of them are uninhabited and some are atolls. Most of them have sandy coastlines and were filled with trees. Seeing all of this open space and land free of humans reminds me how big the world really is. After living in the city and seeing America’s coastlines built up to the teeth, this scenery is like being in a dream. During the ride to the Urapukapuka a group of dolphins got in front of the boat causing the captain to stop the engine for a few minutes. The captain told us they were riding the boat’s bow wave. They were huge and swimming like torpedos above and under the water. Speaking of the captain, when he turned himself around on his stool to talk to us, we noticed he wasn’t wearing any underwear under his shorts. With one foot on the footrest and the other on the floor, he ended up exposing his balls to all of us while he was speaking. No one said a word to him about it either.
We got off the ferry at Otehei Bay and stayed a few hours before going back. This is a secluded bay with one small hotel (private cabins) and one restaurant for the tourist coming in by boat and hotel guest. There are several trails to walk on the island, some taking up to five hours to finish. We chose to pack our lunch and just chill on the white sand beach. Forcing ourselves to get into the ocean, we were glad we got the most out of the beach. The locals claim the water is warm, Doug says it’s brisk, I say it’s cold. Thankfully this is a bay and there weren’t any waves.
Another beautiful beach we stopped to admire was Long Beach. The beach is long and wild with large mountains on each side. This side of New Zealand has such a beautiful coastline, it’s hard to keep up with all of the beaches. Tapeka Point is another beautiful bay with large rocks protruding from the sand. During low tide rocks with tons of oysters attached are exposed. On the way to our next overnight stay in Matakana we stopped in Waipu and stretched our legs at Langs Beach. This is a residential peaceful area with the sweeping beach along the shoreline.
The apartment we stayed in was really unique. The owners turned a barn turned into a beautiful apartment on an upscale farm with green hills, trees and mountains surrounding the house. It was a real special experience to be able to live within the hills of New Zealand on a farm.
Right outside the door were baby cows grazing on grass in a large open field of green farmland. They didn’t want to be bothered by people but I did try to make a connection. They just walked away and didn’t look back. The owners of the barn/apartment lived in a large house further down the driveway.
There was a note on the table that read “a little white dog may visit, his name is Elvis. He is a Jack Russell terrier. If he annoys you, please text us and I will come get him. Please don’t feed him”. As a huge animal lover I couldn’t wait to see him. The first night we were there he showed up at door right after the sun went down. He was so cute and small (a little over weight). I opened the door and let him in and he seemed happy to see us. As soon as he came in, he went straight to the kitchen table where Doug was sitting and got into an upright begging position. I lured him outside (with a little tiny piece of cheese) and that’s when things took a bad turn. He snarled at me every time I said hi and even snapped at the window.
The next day he came back to visit and he ended up chilling out with us for hours. As long as I didn’t try to touch him, he loved hanging around. Once I got next to him he started snarling and giving me the warning signs to back off. The third night he stopped by when I was grilling outside. He chilled for an hour and then took off. We had an understanding and it was nice having him around. I found out from the owner he is around twelve and was given to them from a previous owner because his kids terrorized Elvis. Just like adults, he has a story of why and how he turned into a grouchy old man. The spiritual lesson from Elvis is, some things that hurt us in the past have formed how we trust others today.
Tāwharanui Regional Park is a sanctuary that integrates recreation, conservation and farming activities. The park has free open access to the sea, forest, pasture, dunes and wetlands. No dogs or cats are allowed in the park and it’s fenced in. The park is free of non-native pests where native birds can thrive. There is a fence that separates the land from the mainland. This protects the park from rodents and other animals that are harmful to the native birds.
Wainui beach was a short drive through the countryside that leads to another pristine coastline. After this stop we were on our way to our next destination in New Zealand – a small town named Raglan.