We left Auckland with our first Kiwi Experience bus heading north to the Bay of Islands. Our first stop en route to Paihia was Whangarei Falls, 85-foot (26m) waterfall surrounded by native bush. Sadly we didn’t have time to see the falls up close as we’d only stopped for ten minutes for a quick bathroom break.
Whilst accommodation is guaranteed with the Kiwi bus, we had already pre-booked our own accommodation to ensure that we had a double room. We stayed at the Aarangi Tui Motel and were lucky enough to be upgraded to one of their two-bedroom family suites. It was like having our own two bedroom apartment as not only did we have two double bedrooms but we also had a fully equipped kitchen and dining room and a comfortable lounge area. The motel was also within walking distance of the supermarket so we could easily stock up on food for our stay.
Included as part of our trip to the Bay of Islands was a tour going up to Cape Reinga, which we will talk about in a separate post. We took advantage of the discount provided through the Kiwi bus and booked ourselves onto the Cream Trip and also planned to hop on the ferry and visit the neighbouring island of Russell.
The Cream Trip follows the old milk delivery route around the islands but also encompasses a visit to the Hole in The Rock and Cape Brett Lighthouse, a stop for lunch on Urupukapuka Island and an opportunity to swim with bottlenose dolphins.
We were lucky enough to find a pod of dolphins but sadly as they had some babies with them we weren’t allowed to get in the water with them. They swam really close to the boat and we were able to look down and watch them play in the wake of the boat. Being so close and to be able to see them looking back with genuine interest was a wonderful experience.
As we were unable to swim with the dolphins we were offered the opportunity to try boom netting instead. What’s boom netting I hear you ask. Well, dear reader, it’s certainly not an experience we would like to repeat that’s for sure! Basically the crew lowered what would best be described as a large fishing net off the side of the boat. We then jumped into the net and swam to one side and grabbed hold. The captain then “drove” the boat back and forth, the idea being that we would be dragged around the wake of the boat in the confines of the net. Unfortunately the captain only seemed to drive very fast in one direction meaning we were both pinned to the back of the net, with the water covering us, almost drowning at one point. It literally took all of our strength to pull ourselves as high as we could up the net but the faster the boat went the more the net dragged, pulling us with it. We’re pretty sure this only happened as there were a number of girls at the front of the net, desperately trying to keep their bikinis in place. After the experience we both got back on the boat with rope burns and net shaped bruises all over our arms and legs. Suffice to say now we’ve done this, we won’t be doing it again!
We also took the fast ferry across to the island of Russell. Sadly we didn’t have much time to explore but we did visit Christ Church, which is New Zealand’s oldest church, and there is still visible evidence of musket fire from the Battle of Kororareka in 1845. We also stopped for a quick bite to eat at the Duke of Marlborough, which holds New Zealand’s oldest liquor licence. We would have liked to walk over to the beach on the other side of the island but sadly we had to get the ferry back so we could catch our bus back from Paihia to Auckland.
We had a lovely time in Paihia and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. We would have liked to have had time to visit the Haruru Falls but at least we have an excuse to go back.
Be sure to check out our video here, if you haven’t already, to see lots of footage of the gorgeous dolphins as well as us walking around both Paihia and Russell.