We purposely saved our trip to the Bay of Islands in the Northland until last weekend which was double public holiday (woo)! We worked extra hours at work and set off at 12pm on Thursday, our first stop was in Whangarei which is 2 hours past Auckland. We arrived at our backpackers ‘Little Earth Lodge’ at 8.30pm!! It is a very very long drive it was only 570km but the windy roads in New Zealand make the travel times longer. Little Earth Lodge was lovely it was a farm style backpackers that was really homely and welcoming and David who owned the lodge stayed up especially so we didn’t miss check in (thanks David).
On Friday we planned to go to Cape Reinga which is the very top of NZ this was another 4 hours’ drive (like we hadn’t done enough driving already) but we knew if we didn’t we would regret it. We set off driving up the coast and the first stop on our list was the famous Mangonui Fish and Chip shop! It didn’t disappoint we sat eating fish, chips and the best salt and pepper squid I have ever had looking out at the sea. A definite highlight of this stop off (apart from the squid) was getting a picture of what I think is a Shag (keep it clean) reading the fish and chip menu!
As we drove for another couple of hours (I won’t bore you with the details) we were getting bored and tired we started to see signs for sand board hire, as we travelled further you could see some huge sand dunes that came in line with the mountains. It was pretty spectacular, it was a nice surprise really as I usually know everything about where we are going about a year in advance (I’m not joking, I’m a planner). These are the Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, we drove down to the dunes hired some sand boards and set off on the long walk up the dunes –seriously it was a trek! They were even bigger than they looked and it was so hot, after about 10 steps I told Chris I saw a mirage and he said I was being dramatic (not at all like me). Every step we took was like taking 3 back as you slipped back down again. When we got to the top we sat on the boards and whizzed down the dunes it was fun and really worth the stop off (although I’m still finding sand now).
Cape Reinga was only another 30 minutes and when we got there it didn’t disappoint it was beautiful. There isn’t much at Cape Reinga but that’s what makes it special, there is a small light house and a sign and nothing else. The most amazing thing we saw there was the meeting of the Tasman and Pacific Oceans you can see the green Tasman meeting the dark blue Pacific pretty special. This place is very spiritual as the Maoris believe it is where spirits leave the islands after death.
The plan on the way back to Paihia (we were staying in a different place that night) was to go to 90 mile beach which is actually 55 miles long (not as catchy though). The beach is actually classed as a State Highway so at low tide you can drive all the way down the beach. When we arrived we parked up to see what the ‘road’ conditions were like, Chris being a man was expressing his certainty that Hugh the Fiesta would be fine driving on the beach, and as we turned the corner a people carrier was stuck in the sand and the frantic family were trying to get it out before the tide came in. The beach was nice but it added a bit of excitement watching the car get towed out by a legend who drove up and down the beach all day charging people to get them out of the sand (excellent career move).
We were staying at a place called Mousetrap in Paihia (where the main bay of Islands are) I was a little dubious of the name but it was a great quirky little place and it was a bit of a crazy layout it sort of reminded me of the game mousetrap (amazing game). After our trip to Cape Reinga and all the driving we didn’t want to cook so we headed to a restaurant called 35 degrees south it was lovely and it had a big aquarium in the middle. I tried to make a puffer fish angry by swearing at it (classy) but it didn’t work (I was really surprised).
The next day we had a Bay of Islands boat trip booked (it was weeing it down) we got there and they gave us the option to cancel and come back tomorrow (it was meant to be glorious) so we decided to cancel and do some of the things we had planned for Sunday. We had a trip to Whangerai which turned out to be just lunch in Whangarei as it was raining so much and I sat and ate the best pizza of my life (I know it’s a bold statement but it had -potato, bacon, caramelised onions and sour cream) we were pretty happy with our decision to cancel the trip (gutted for the family who travel 3 hours for that trip).
In the afternoon we headed back to Paihia and went on a visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds this is where the Treaty agreement was signed on 6th February 1840 by the British Crown and various Maori chiefs. It is a really special historical place and it was really interesting to go around the place where such a huge part of history happened.
At around 4.30 we got the 15 minute passenger ferry across to Russell (it was either that or the 1.5 hour drive –no thank you). Russell is the first ever capital of New Zealand and its tiny! We had a little walk around but it was still raining and let’s not kid ourselves the main reason we were there was to have a drink in the oldest pub in New Zealand. The Duke of Marlborough holds the oldest liquor licence in the country, we got a seat in the covered outside area and had a few drinks whilst watching people in the rain (shout out to the old lady who smiled and waved at Chris you made his day).
The next day (Sunday) we went on a boat trip around the Bay of Islands with Fullers Great Sights, now I feel like this boat trip deserves its own blog – so that’s what it shall get (sneak peek we swam with wild dolphins!!!)
After the trip we headed to Auckland for the night and stayed in the poshest backpackers ever called Verandahs. We didn’t do much that night just ate pasta and slept (pretty adventurous). The next day we had to get home it was 5 hours from Auckland so we just had a quick look around and set off home. We plan to go back and see Auckland properly on a weekend where we have more time.
It was an amazing weekend and after so much driving we are so proud (and relived) of Hugh the Fiesta for getting us around like a pro 🙂