Gateway to the Bay of Islands

After our unforgettable adventure on the high on the R Tucker Thompson, we needed to get our JWalking land loving legs back in action. Ten minutes exploring the shops of Paihia was enough for us. Not that there is anything wrong with the shops in Paihia but what could we possibly need? Apart from a bear keyring, now christened “Bay Bear” to add to my country collection of bears clinging precariously to my backpack and a cap for Jonno. With the weather getting hotter and hotter as summer approaches, he relented and bought a cap. I am not sure how much he will wear it but at least it is in reserve and stop him getting a fried brain. We tucked into a pizza in the Pizza Shack to celebrate.

Bay Bear: The latest member of the JWalking travel team

Waitangi and Haruru

North of Paihia on the edge of Te Ti Bay you can “Experience the Day that Changed History“. This is how the literature about the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds is worded. In a nutshell it is where the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand was signed in 1835, then five years later the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the indigenous Māori. Controversy is rife surrounding the whole thing. The documents were drawn up by European settlers without any legal background and then translated into a Māori version. These versions differed so there was no consensus as to what was actually being agreed. Broadly from the British point of view it made New Zealand a British colony and gave Queen Victoria’s government sole right to purchase land. It also gave Britain sovereignty over New Zealand and the right to govern.  Māori believed they conceded the right of governance in return for protection but without giving up their authority to manage their own affairs. There was also some debate whether some Māori chiefs opposed to the Treaty actually signed it and to what extent the British have contravened the Treaty over the years. So the controversy rumbles on and the Public Holiday of Waitangi Day, 6th February, most celebrate the day but protesters also use it as a chance to vent their feelings of frustration and injustice.

$40 (about £20) gives you admission the grounds, entry to the museum, an introductory film, a 50 minute guided tour, a Māori cultural performance, access historic buildings, see the world’s largest war canoe and complete bush walks with views over the Bay of Islands.

A short drive, or one hour mangrove swamp boardwalk track, from Waitangi are the Haruru Falls. These are a horse shoe shaped set of falls on the Waitangi River. They are around 5 metres high and the water thundering over them gives them their name Haruru (“big noise”). At one time there were over 100 Māori settlements along the river but all that is in view nowadays is a few houses, a campsite and the kayakers.

Heading South 

When travelling we don’t always have the luxury of a car, so when we do we take every opportunity to add in a few detours we do. Heading south to our next overnight stop we planned a bit of a loop off the main State Highway. The first stop was Ruapekapeka Pā (Pā meaning village or defensive settlement). It was a 5km drive down an incredibly rough unmade road. It was the site of the last battle between the Colonial government and the Māori in 1845. Lots of display boards gave details of the battle and the area is sacred to Māori.

The Māori defences were well thought out to repel the British troops and trenches protected them against cannon and gunfire. How the British dragged their cannons 12 miles over this mountainous terrain is a mystery but the two week battled resulted in Māori warriors leaving the Pā. It seems that they were not fleeing the British but retreating to the bush where they would have a distinct advantage to lay a trap for the British who were less experienced fighting in these conditions. The British didn’t pursue them seeing it as “suicidal”. I think we will call it a draw! On a plaque just as we were leaving the site I was interested to read that the British were so impressed with the Māori defences that military engineers from Britain twice surveyed the site and built a scale model for educational purposes.

Back on a solid road again we headed for our next stop, Sandy Bay. When we arrived it was buzzing with surfers who must have been timing the tides because half an hour later there was no one in the sea. A short walk along the beach we came to my dream house. Tucked in the trees overlooking the bay. Perfect!

That just left two more stops on our loop. The first of which was Matapouri Bay. This was a long sandy horse shoe beach with a couple of tracks leading off of it to other secluded inaccessible beaches. Having decided that the tide was going out, we waded through knee high seaweed and over some fairly sharp rocks to access the very different Pebble Beach. I managed to split my little toe open at one point and left a trail of blood behind me as we headed to the track. It didn’t look too bad so I took the natural approach and let the salt water work it’s magic. Hard to believe that these beaches were only about 200 metres from each other.

After an hour or so gazing out to sea on the rocky and dramatic Pebble Beach, we headed back with a little niggly thought of whether or not we had the judged the tides right. Relief, we did and managed to get back to the car without the need to wade through seaweed and risk more foot injuries.

Another half an hour or so driving found us at Tutukaka Marina. This marina was well set up for the summer crowds which, thankfully, had yet to arrive. It was the perfect place to stop to admire the boats and have an ice cream. We even splashed out on some vintage/retro postcards – my new passion for when we have a wall again to put them on.

The final part of the journey was down to Ruakaka on Bream Bay. We found our lovely airbnb on the top of the only hill in the area which gave us views right over Bream Bay. This was our stop for a couple of nights before returning to the metropolis that is Auckland. It was dawning on us that our Northland roadtrip was nearly at an end.

18/11 – 20/11/2017


  1. Lovely post, Joanna, funny to be reading this about our homeland as I sit here catching up on things while dinner is being cooked for us at the beginning of another housesit in Spain. This time it’s a repeat for a family and dog we love spending time with, enjoy the NZ summer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes we have swapped over! Must admit we enjoy this end of the world more at the moment so there is no fear of us not enjoying Spain 😃


  2. Hahahahaha! It looks like that photo of Jon with cap was taken in a US Correctional Facility! Bin it Ringo. Loving the blog Jo. Everything looks absolutely fantastic, Is that house for sale?

    Liked by 1 person

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