BAY OF ISLANDS EXPLORER – TWO DAY TOUR
“History and culture woven with dramatic scenery”
Clustered in a natural harbour of clear, azure water, nearly 150 islands, and countless coves and beaches make up the Bay of Islands. Modern New Zealand was born here when Maori and European settlers signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Eexperience the contrast of New Zealand’s varied scenery from the picture postcard beaches and islands of the east, to the rugged and dramatic natural beauty of the west. Our small group tour gives you a unique and personal experience of these special places.
Bay of Islands Tour
We head north across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge following the state highway 1 along the eastern branch of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway through picturesque townships and farmland, pausing for photos and a leg stretch beside the spectacular 23m cascade of the Whangarei Falls.
Continuing north to the small town of Kawakawa which has found fame through its extraordinary public toilets designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser an Austrian Artist and Architect who settled here in his later years.
Soon after, we arrive at the crystal-blue waters of the Bay of Islands, where we take a short ferry ride from Opua to Okiato and continue on to Russell.
Rich in historic fact and bawdy fiction, Russell is a typical colonial settlement. Originally known as Kororareka, it was frequented by whaling and sealing ships and became known as the ‘Hellhole of the Pacific’ for its lawlessness and vices: grog, gambling and women. Today’s peaceful, pretty town, nestled between a sparkling bay and a stunning white-sand swimming beach – belies its infamous past.
During a brief but interesting tour of the town you’ll discover where Catholic missionaries produced New Zealand’s first printed texts, the beautiful Christ’s Church still scarred by musket balls, the country’s first licensed hotel and the flagstaff that was famously felled four times by Maori chief Hone Heke.
“Discover the Bay” Cruise
After a leisurely break for lunch, we take a 4-hour Discover The Bay cruise in a high-speed catamaran among the bay’s beautiful islands including Motukokako and Urupukapuka and on to the Cape Brett lighthouse. Conditions permitting, we’ll also pass through the dramatic Hole in the Rock. Dolphins are sighted on most cruises and often frolic alongside the boat. So pack your swimming gear, because subject to the skipper’s approval, at additional cost, you may even have the opportunity to swim with these incredible animals.
Paihia and Waitangi
You’ll leave the catamaran in Paihia, where your guide will point out the town’s many bars, cafes and restaurants before checking you in to your beach side hotel for the night.
Following a leisurely breakfast we begin day two with a visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Modern New Zealand was born here in 1840, at the signing of a treaty between Maori and the British Crown. Today this is New Zealand’s pre-eminent historical site, of picturesque formal gardens, an intricately carved Maori meetinghouse, one of the world’s largest Maori war canoes and the original Treaty House. You’ll join a local Maori guide as they reveal unique insights into this special, sacred place. Afterwards, you’re free to explore further or simply relax in the beautiful grounds.
From Waitangi we cross from the east coast to the west through rolling farmland to Opononi and the dramatic Hokianga Harbour. We stop beside the memorial to ‘Opo the friendly dolphin’ to pick up lunch (we highly recommend the fish & chips). This is eaten al fresco; on the beach or in the shade of a pohutukawa tree whilst contemplating the awe-inspiring views of the Tasman Sea and the 300m high sand dunes.
From Opononi we ascend to the Waipoua Forest. Mature Kauri rainforests once covered a million hectares of New Zealand’s north, but today only 7,500 hectares remain. Just minutes from the road is the ancient Kauri tree ‘Tane Mahuta’, the imposing Lord of the Forest. Kauri trees are among the world’s mightiest trees, growing to over 50 m tall, with trunk girths up to 16 metres (52 feet), and living for over 2,000 years. Tane Mahuta is New Zealands largest known living Kauri tree with a trunk girth of 13.77 metres (45 feet). Its age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years.
The winding road descends from Waipoua to the plains around Dargaville. Later, we skirt the northern limits of the beautiful Kaipara, the third massive harbour to once service Auckland. And at the foot of the Brynderwyn Hills we close the loop as we rejoin state highway 1 and travel south for Auckland where we say Haere Ra – until next time.
Bay of Islands Tour – Highlights
- Twin Coast Discovery Highway
- Whangarei Falls
- Okiato, NZ’s first capital
- Russell & Long Beach
- Flagstaff Historic Reserve
- Hole in the Rock
- Cape Brett
- Dolphin View
- Paihia, town and beaches
- Waitangi Treaty Grounds
- Hokianga harbour and dunes
- Waipoua Forest
- Tane Mahuta ancient Kauri tree
Operates: Daily except 25th & 26th December and 4th – 6th February
Price: $889 per person, twin share accommodation (single supplement $80)
Children 3-12 years: $395
All prices in New Zealand dollars
Times: Central Auckland pick-up approximately 8am and return 7pm the next day