Posted by: annie | July 8, 2010

Bay of Islands

I had a really great road trip (for the most part). On my first day, I drove the Twin Coast Discovery Highway north from the North Shore up to Paihia.  Along the way, I took a few detours to visit some beaches.  I had no idea how long they were going to take, but it didn’t look that far to travel off the highway.  This is when I first encountered the windy, twisty up and down two lane farmland highways that would plague me for the entirety of this road trip and make everything that looked like a reasonable short trip, a much much longer one.  The first day, I loved it.  The beautiful bright green rolling hills of New Zealand’s Northland are stunning and I really enjoyed the drive out to the beaches.  For example:

I stopped off at Pakiri Beach, Mangawhai, Waipu, and Ruakaka.

Ruakaka beach (the 2nd photo) is the site of New Zealand’s only oil refinery.

In the town of Kawakawa, I made the recommended tourist stop at the Hundertwasser Toilets.  They’re public toilets designed by Austrian (later NZ citizen) artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser to attract tourists to this little town.  They’re designed around a tree.

I made it to my destination of Paihia which is the main tourist town of the Bay of Islands in the evening and was happy to find a cute little town.  I found my hotel easily and was very happy with the accommodation.   I was exhausted from the driving and slept well after arranging for my dolphin cruise around the bay for the next day.  The Bay of Islands is best explored by boat and there’s really not much point to driving all the way up there and not going out to explore the islands.

This is the Paihia Wharf. It’s the only pic I took of the town.


Hello dolphins!!!

I saw loads of dolphins on my Bay of Islands cruise. Yay! I made my way right to the front of the boat when we found our first pod.  It was me and all the kids that were on the boat. Luckily, it’s the off season so there weren’t that many people. We had plenty of space to all get a good view.  I’m a huge dolphin dork so I was squealing with delight and clapping my hands when one would come up close to my space on the boat.  I might have been more excitable than the kids 🙂  They’re difficult to take pictures of so I tried for a bit, then decided I’d rather just enjoy my time with them rather than try to take pictures.  I did get a couple.  The first pic is of a mom and her juvenile.  So cute!!! A little further on we cruised right in the middle of a huge pod of dolphins.  They were all around the boat and we were even treated to a jump or two.  (Jen asked what kind of dolphins they were and I figured others would want to know: bottlenose)

The rest of the cruise was quite lovely.  It was a beautiful sunny day so it wasn’t too cold to sit outside on the upper deck and enjoy the views.  I went on the morning cruise which was 4 hours out to the hole in the rock which the tour guide said was the main attraction.  I would argue it was the dolphins.  We had a stop over on one of the islands for a little walk up the hill to get a spectacular scenic view. These are some pics of the Bay of Islands.

Our cruise boat also functioned as the mail boat as these islands are inhabited by what appeared to be very few people. In some cases one home per island.  Like this one:

At the end of the cruise, I got off the boat in Russell which is a little tourist town across the bay from Paihia.  Russell was the first capital city, populated by  ship deserters, whalers, sealers and sailors in the 1800’s.  There were no laws and lots of prostitution.  They called it “the hellhole of the Pacific”.  There wasn’t much to do there, it’s really small.  I had some lunch and caught the ferry back to Paihia.  This is a photo of  the Paihia Wharf and Russell is on the other side of the bay at the end of the rainbow.

The rest of my day was spent at the Treaty of Waitangi grounds.  I’m going to save that for a later post about the historical Maori stuff.  Here’s a preview:



  1. Great Post AM. It looks beautiful! I love the image of you clapping at the sight of the dolphins…awww. Looking forward to hearing more about your Maori experiences. Love ya-Julie
    PS I digging the toilet tree tourist spot. haha

  2. Maryann,

    Nice cliff hanger–left me wanting more!!!

    And, about the toilet tree, so are there just toilets in little buildings around the tree???

    I am so jealous that you got to see the dolphins. I went on a boat tour in Kenya and we didn’t see any!!!

    Keep blogging!!!!


    • Inside the toilets was a pretty standard restroom facility decorated similar to the outside. I took a pic, but it didn’t turn out. Next time you go out for a dolphin cruise, ask the dolphins to come visit you.

  3. yay! dolphins! did you do you dolphin communication that you learned in AZ? also, did you find out what kind of dolphins they were?

    your pics are great–it looks so beautiful up there.

    that is hilarious that some austrian dude decided toilets would be a good tourist attraction. they look cool, but they’re toilets!

    • this is so funny Jen. last night after I finished posting this and was off to bed, I knew you’d ask what kind of dolphins they were. I was going to update it this morning. They were bottlenose.

  4. Hi Mate! What a lovely road trip, I love the pics of the rolling hills and the one of the beach with all the green grass…..doesn’t look real. The Dolphins, oh ya….it’s funny Jen remembered the crazy lady and her dolphin songs. I have been lucky enough to experience the dolphins alongside a boat ride in FL. so fun, you just want to hugh and kiss them.
    Well, I think the windy up and down road was worth it Annmarie…..hope you are feeling better.
    Love, Auntie

  5. The pictures are just beautiful and soon you will find of your time in New Zealand there is still so much to see. It reminds me of our trip all over again. Love mom, miss you
    annmarie, sounds like a good trip with a little one on one with nature. you will have to take us there when we visit. Dad

  6. Loved reading your blog and seeing your pictures. It’s so beautiful there! I’m surprised you didn’t get car sick on the twisty roads.

    • I didn’t get car sick, but I had a pretty good headache at the end of each day of driving 😦

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