Our two week road trip of Northland was almost at an end and it had been so much better than we could ever have imagined. Our quest of visiting places that we’d missed on our first trip was proving very successful.
The Parrot’s Nest, or Ruakaka
We’d found a beautiful Airbnb on the top of a hill overlooking the town of Ruakaka (from the Maori meaning ‘Parrots Nest’ apparently). Our hosts, Owen and Jenny, had made us so welcome in a private unit to the side of their home. With access up an incredibly steep drive and virtually no neighbours it was really quiet and private and perfect for a couple of days.
No time to sit around lazing though as we set off to visit the town of Waipu a few miles south. First though we just had to find a beach didn’t we? It had been hours since we had paddled.
Ruakaka Beach on Bream Bay
A brief tour around Ruakaka and the quaintly named One Tree Point before parking up on the east coast again. Just another incredibly beautiful sandy beach with spectacular views out to the Pacific. I think we’re getting a little beach-crazy but we just love to kick off our sandals (or Jandals as the crazy Kiwis call them) and just wander along all of these fabulous places. We just can’t get enough.
Och Aye the Noo, it’s Waipu
A few miles south of Ruakaka on State Highway 1, the only highway, is the historic town of Waipu. A lovely little town with a fascinating story. In 1817 a Presbyterian minister called Norman McLeod decided to leave the harsh environment of Northern Scotland and take his family and followers across the Atlantic Ocean to Nova Scotia. Settling in Pictou he helped build a thriving community but harsh living conditions convinced him to move south to St Anns on Cape Breton Island in 1820. His followers came with him but were soon joined by boatloads of other Scots from the Hebrides and mainland Scotland. The community thrived and grew but incredibly bad weather and poor harvests forced him to once again move on and Australia was the destination.
You can imagine the hardships encountered by home-made ships sailing from the east coast of Canada across the world to Australia but they made it to Adelaide in 1852. Unfortunately the city was in the middle of a goldrush and McLeod’s followers hated the atmosphere of greed and violence and he decided to move on again. In 1853 he set off with 150 followers aboard the gazelle schooner and sailed to North Island New Zealand. The area around the Waipu river became their permanent home and within 6 years nearly 900 Scottish settlers had arrived.
So the town of Waipu has Scottish roots interwoven throughout with Norman McLeod being it’s most famous ancestor and arguably it’s father-figure. Every New Year they hold a Highland Games event and the whole town has an incredibly fascinating Scottish feel. We had to visit the Waipu Museum, dedicated to McLeods settlers, and were enthralled by the heroic stories of how 900 Scots travelled thousands of miles to recreate their own society. Fascinating.
The town had real character with strategically placed information boards everywhere containing stories and photos of local heroes from World War 1 and 2. Lots of low-level boardwalks past independent shops and bars gave it a uniquely interesting feel. A brief stop for coffee and a bun in the very cool Salt and Pepper cafe and it was time to get back to the beach.
Beautiful Waipu Cove
Sorry to keep banging on about lovely beaches and soft sand but this was another beautiful location. A walk, a paddle, a picnic, a long bush walk along the cliffs, more paddling, and some lazing around. Couldn’t be better.
Back in our Airbnb in Ruakaka the day finished with us watching the sunset over the mountains with our hosts. Seemed like the perfect end to a wonderful day.
The Final Leg
With a little sadness we set off down the crazily steep drive and started south back to Auckland to finish our road trip. Probably around a 3 hour drive so we decided we could spare an hour or so to take a brief diversion to a famously named town. Omaha Beach. Not the ‘Saving Private Ryan‘ beach thank goodness but a classy little community town with a nice coastline for our final beach walk of Northland (Top Five Film by the way).
Arriving in Auckland a few hours later we returned to Olive’s Airbnb for the night before returning the car to Apex Car Rentals and getting to the airport for our flight across to the east coast town of Gisborne. Our Air New Zealand flight was only an hour on a small 50 seater so before we knew it we were waiting at Gisborne airport for our next host to pick us up. It gives us a real buzz, when we’re meeting someone that we haven’t actually ever met before. Quiet exciting.
This is the furthest east we have ever been and is the first city on earth to see the sunrise every day so quite an interesting place. Our host, Miriam, gave us a brief tour to get our bearings before settling us in to her amazing home. We’ll tell you a lot more about her place next time but let’s just say it’s up there with the best Airbnb‘s we have EVER stayed in.
A wander round town for a quick explore finished with us sitting on the beach with a huge portion of Captain Morgans fish’n chips watching the sunset. This could turn out to be a brilliant stay.
21/11 – 23/11/2017