Our armchair travels have taken us through Australia and now we’re going to hop on over to New Zealand. After all if we can travel sitting in an armchair enjoying information about different countries then it is really simple to just move from one place to another. New Zealand consists of two islands – North Island and South Island.
Our first stop is Paihai. This is the main tourist town in the Bay of Islands in the far north of the North Island. Nearby are the historical towns of Russel and Kerikeri. Paihai is a great start from which to explore the Bay of Islands. There are many different things to see and to do.
Take the time to explore the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is New Zealand’s most significant historic site. It was here that on February 6, 1840, the first 43 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown. When visiting the ground you can have a guided tour and cultural performance as well as seeing the new Museum of Waitangi.
The Treaty House was built in 1832 and is now preserved as a memorial and museum that offers different displays among the a copy of the treaty. Across the lawn you can see the meeting house that was completed in 1940. Fine carvings represent the major Maori tribes. Near the cove visitors can see the 35m war canoe.
Impressive St. Paul’s Church was constructed of Kawakawa stone in 1925. It was built on the site of New Zealand’s first church, a simple bulrush hut dating from 1823. You can see native birds in the stained glass above the altar – the kotare (kingfisher) represents Jesus. The parson bird and wood pigeon portray the personalities of the Williams brothers, who set up the mission station here.
Visitors love having an adventure cruising to the “hole in the rock” at the tip of Cape Brett. Here you can experience the sight of dolphins and sea kayak tours. From here to the west of Paihia is Haruru, an impressive waterfall. There’s a boardwalk for strolling. The famous hole in the rock is on Motukokako Island. Maori legend has it that local warriors used to paddle through the hole in their canoes before they headed off to do battle. Keep an eye out for the bottlenose dolphins.
To relax on the beach or walk to the top of the island for spectacular views stop off at Urupukapuka Island.
For the daring parasailing adventures are available from Pahia on a specialized parasail boat. You can go soaring up to 1200 feet and choose to fly solo or share the experience with friends. High above the tranquil blue waters you can have fantastic 360-degree views. It will be quite breathtaking as the boat accelerates, the parasail lifts you off of the launching deck and up and away into the air.
Just think of what fun and excitement it can be to go swimming with dolphins. Special cruises give you the chance to get into the water and swim with these wonderful animals in their natural environment. The dolphins are playful and really enjoy the company.
For more adventures there is skydiving over the Bay of Islands. You can experience 144 islands from the air. You’ll be jumping at an altitude of 12,000 or 16,000 and free-falling at 200 kilometers per hour.
While you are on the North Island take the time to explore Russell. The importance of it in New Zealand history is that it was the country’s first sea port. The town’s streets still have their original layout and names from 1843 and visitors can still see many of the historic buildings.
Walking about the streets you can see the Catholic Mission “Pompallier”. This is New Zealand’s oldest surviving Roman Catholic building. At one time it was used as a printery, tannery and storehouse for the French Marist mission. Today this is a working museum.
The oldest existing church in New Zealand is Christ Church. This church still has musket ball holes from the New Zealand Land Wars.
At one time Russell was known as “the hell hole of the Pacific” because it was a destination for sailors, whalers and traders when they took shore leave. Today it is a popular holiday town with lots of shops, restaurants and various accommodations.
At the wharf you can get a boat to go game fishing for marlin, tuna, broad bill and sharks. You can swim at nearby Long Beach and take the many Bay of Islands daily cruises.