Bay of Islands
Travel to the Bay of Islands and youíll visit one the North Islandís most accessible and diversified holiday destinations. Part of a larger region known as Northland, it covers the region north of Auckland up to Cape Reigna at the top of the country.
While in Paihia, our recommended hotel is the Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands.
The nearby historic city of Russell, which can be reached by driving or the more popular ferry, was the first capital of New Zealand. Even though it has a rather sordid history, today it is a very quaint small town of lovely old houses, a peaceful walk along the tree-lined seafront, some gorgeous nearby beaches, restaurants, cafes and lots of kitchy stores. Christ Church, the oldest wooden church in NZ, is worth a stop not only for the sanctuary itself but the adjacent cemetery with its famous memorials. For a panoramic view over the islands, itís worth the short climb up Flagstaff Hill.
Russell and Tutukaka are very popular game-fishing hot spots for yellowfish tuna, sharks, kingfish and billfish. There are also some great golf courses around this area, as well the start for the trek out to the Cape Brett Lighthouse.
From Russell, you can take sailing trips or swim with the dolphins. Itís also possible to dive the wreck of the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior, or discover the beautiful fish in the Poor Knights Islands. Or perhaps you would like to just snooze under one of the Pohutukawa trees on the beautiful beaches of Doubtless Bay.
The nearby town of Waitangi was where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 06 February 1840. This is the founding document for New Zealand as it is today, and was signed in a spacious park on what is now the Treaty Grounds. A short walk from the Visitorís Center at the Waitangi National Trust Center is the Maori war canoe, Ngatoki Matawhaoroa. This is a replica of the large kauri canoe in which the Polynesian voyager, Kupe, is said to have discovered New Zealand.
Travel further up the East Coast and you reach Kerikeri, also an important place for early history, but today has become popular for itsí arts and crafts stores. Not only is it the citrus fruit center of the north, but it is also the site for Kauri Cliffs, a private, luxury resort as well as one of the more challenging golf courses on the North Island.
Cape Reinga is the northern most part of the North Island, and is a beautiful long drive next to the gorgeous Ninety Mile Beach. This is Northlandís most sensational waterís edge experience Ė where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea join. If time is of the essence, you can still take a one-day fly/drive excursion up to the Cape.
The drive down the West Coast of the Northland region is less populated, and more rugged. Near the north cape is Waipoua Forest, home to the largest kauri tree in the country, Tane Mahuta or Lord of the Forest.
So follow the Heritage Trail around Northland to discover the history or the Twin Coast Art Trail for wonderful galleries and arts and crafts. Or just explore along the coasts while enjoying beautiful scenery, gourmet food, fine wine and numerous accommodations and luxury lodges. The choices are endless.