Russell, The Bay of Islands – The Birthplace of New Zealand

So Monday was the first day on the wonderful Kiwi bus….and I’ve met some brilliant people 🙂 I decided to get the bus north to Paihia and Russell, the Bay of Islands first then come back to Auckland and head south. The Bay of Islands is absolutely beautiful – I’m starting to see New Zealand at its best now. The colours are so vivid, it’s blown me away. I thought there couldn’t possibly be a place greener than England but New Zealand definitely is. The green is greener somehow and the sky is an incredible blue.

Paihia

Paihia is quite a touristy town but still quite pretty and a fabulous base for exploring. We are staying at Pipi Patch which is a hostel but seems more like a holiday lodge, it’s so chilled (and turns into the party spot at night). We went for a walk up the hill behind the town and the views were stunning. It’s been just about warm enough to sunbathe too – but it’s true that the sun is definitely more intense here than at home. We had a BBQ the first night which was a great way to meet more people. Everyone is great and they’re not all 18-21 which I was slightly worried about…

Near Cape Reinga

If anything, I’m enjoying being older as with it comes wisdom, far more confidence than when I travelled when I was younger and a sense of inner peace. Also just the fact that I don’t feel the need to do what everyone else does all the time and am entirely happy doing what I want when I want. It’s great!

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga and a Boardwalk Fit for a Queen

I’m glad I chose to have 3 nights here as it has given me a nice amount of time to really take in the islands and enjoy the scenery. We did a trip up to Cape Reinga which is the most northerly point of New Zealand and is considered the jumping off point for souls on the journey to their spiritual homeland. The day we went it was warm and muggy but very misty which made the whole place feel very ethereal and living up to its reputation even more. Standing on the very tip looking out over the Pacific knowing there is nothing between here and Chile made you feel pretty small! On the way we stopped at a forest boardwalk which had been built for the queen – 390m of Boardwalk that cost £500k – that she never walked on.

Urupukapuka

New Zealand has so many different species of trees. At first glance the landscape looks very like Scotland or the Lake District…..but then you look at the trees and they are so different to what we see at home. It feels very tropical in many ways-apparently 87% of species are unique to New Zealand. We drove through some forests with some of the oldest trees in the world. Some of the Kauri trees are up to 45,000 years old and a staircase has been made out of one of the largest pulled from a swamp which took 3 weeks to carve out. Also, New Zealand has no native land mammals. But a lot of birds only found here. I’m yet to see a kiwi!

Urupukapuka

Russell, The Hellhole of the Pacific

On Wednesday we did a boat trip round the Bay of Islands which was fab. Such a good way to see them. We saw gannets dive bombing for food, the smallest species of penguin, caves and the owner of Sky TV’s hideaway – entirely glass and wood on 11 different levels with their own wharf and beach. Although interestingly, private beaches don’t exist in New Zealand – all the beaches are accessible to the public even if the land beyond it isn’t. A very good rule I think. We had a brief stop at Russell which used to be known as the hellhole of the Pacific – it was the site of the first British settlement and was where sailors used to get drunk and visit brothels. There was a huge fire which burnt everything except the pub! These days it’s a pretty little coastal town with some huge holiday homes up on the hillside.

Urupukapuka

We docked at Urupukapuka island which is the largest and it was beautiful. We had 6 hours on the island so we hiked for 7 miles and had two different beaches entirely to ourselves. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose a boat load of people. It was stunning – such vivid colours and even the scenery changes constantly – you’re walking over farmland one minute then through a forest.

That night we met a group of Auckland policemen on a fishing competition! Apparently they do it every year and give the fish to the local schools in Auckland. It was interesting hearing their views on the UK and the world generally. They are definitely going to vote for a flag without the Union Jack on. I don’t blame them. They were laughing at the guys drinking wine with us questioning why they weren’t drinking beer – and it came out that they never ever drink wine as it’s just not manly. Even though they really like it and it’s some of the best in the world. But they can’t because they’re men. They wouldn’t even drink it at home. Ridiculous! I told them they need to shift a gear and embrace slightly less manly things. They all agreed they’re too manly and a change needs to come. That’s where British men are so much better and one step ahead! Ha.

Paradise Bay

Freshers Week Shenanigans

Thursday we got the bus back to Auckland after some of the best scrambled eggs for breakfast I’d ever had and a little read on the beach. Apparently one in four Aucklanders have a boat. And also it’s the most expensive city in the world to park (relative to the average salary). There was a pub crawl going on that night that we signed up for but it was like freshers week (eating dry weetabix, stuffing as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible etc) and I felt ancient….even the 24 year olds felt old! I’ve done all that far too many times before. So we stayed for 2 bars and then let the 18 year olds get on with it….and felt nice and fresh for the early bus to Hot Water Beach the next day 🙂

Bay of Islands

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Lake Dunstan, New Zealand

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2 Replies to “Russell, The Bay of Islands – The Birthplace of New Zealand”

  1. Hey Louise, stumbled across your website when looking at information about my next trip to New Zealand. I was interested to read about Paihia, as not heard much about it. Looking at the photos it seems very picturesque, but not your comments about age! You don’t look old to me, would you say it more for young travellers in that case? What are the most beautiful areas?

    1. Hi Chris,

      The Bay of Islands is absolutely beautiful, the colours were stunning. Haha, I think I was just worried everybody would be under 25 but I was happy that I was wrong! I was 34 at the time. It was a real mix of ages – I was travelling on the Kiwi Experience bus (which was absolutely amazing) which was always bound to attract a younger crowd.

      I loved all of New Zealand to be honest! I didn’t find the cities particularly appealing but all the smaller towns and countryside was stunning. My blog covers the areas I went to which was most of the two islands except the very far south and east side of the South Island. I can’t wait to go back!

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