Having finally crossed the vast Pacific Ocean, this morning we arrive in Bay of Islands, New Zealand, a country where we visit 7 ports in the next 8 days. It also includes overnight in Auckland.
I spent almost a week in the Bay of Islands on my first trip to sea, way back in 1975, so I have eagerly awaited this port, to see the changes in 45 years. Great start to the day, capturing my first sunrise, as we sailed into the bay.
Today is another private tour visiting Haruku Falls, Kerikeri, Russell and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Read on for lots of photos and a description of this great day of touring.
I opened the curtains when the alarm went off, to find my first sunrise from the balcony. Fortunately the camera was sitting on the desk and ready to go.
With an early start to the day, we again ordered room service breakfast. It really is a splendid experience, sitting on the balcony, eating breakfast while watching the scenery go by.
This is our first experience of taking a private tour at a tender port, so we headed down to the Living Room (Atrium) on Dk 1, as per direction for independent passengers. Yet again, Viking blows Princess out of the water with tender operations. We arrived in the Atrium, ordered a couple pots of tea from the bar and sat on some of the comfy lounge chairs. No tender tickets, no Elite pax pushing and shoving, just peace and quiet. We chatted with the others, then one of the Hotel staff advised we could proceed to the boarding station. We caught the first tender ashore.
We were ashore well before 08:30, which was a little early for our tour meeting time of 09:15. Better early than late. This provided us a few minutes to discover the Paihia wharf area.
- Tour type – Private excursion
- Vendor – Shore Trips and Tours
- Name – Russell and Waitangi Treaty Grounds
- Summary – a full day guided tour of all major attractions around the Bay of Islands with a guided tour of the Treaty Grounds and a cultural performance
We met up with our guide/driver “Joe” at the wharf about 09:00. The 8 of us piled into his mini bus, then set off for Waitangi Wharf to pick up pax from the RCCL ship. We had 8 from our ship and 10 from RCCL. Only about 4 of them were ashore by the stated pick up time, with others arriving on subsequent tenders. We eventually departed about 10:00, giving up on 2 no-shows.
Once under way we headed for Haruru Falls, where Joe took the first exit, driving down a steep hill to the river. He explained a few years ago they experienced 3 feet of rain in 24 hrs, which caused terrible flooding, with the river rising 20+ feet. Everything below the top of the ridge was flooded.
At the Falls, he dropped us at the start of the path, suggesting we walk down to the falls then continue up to the bridge, where he would pick us up.
We all headed down to the falls and back to the van as a group, or so we thought, Joe was about to leave when they advised people in the back were missing. He eventually backed the van up into the parking lot and found the couple sitting on a bench. They didn’t even come over to the van when we parked beside them. Joe had to lower his window and ask them to get aboard the van. OMG???
Our next stops were in Kerikeri, which is about 12 miles from the wharf. Joe advised that Kerikeri is a Maori word for fertile soils, as this area grows many fruits and vegetables. Joe mentioned that he heard Avocados are expensive in North America, stating if they paid $1.50 for 10 avocados they would think it was robbery.
We stopped at the chocolate factory for about 15 minutes. All chocolates are made by hand and they provide free samples. Our next stop was the Kerikeri River.
Built in 1832 to 1836, it is New Zealand’s oldest stone building that is still standing. Built by Missionaries, it is now a tourist store.
Built in 1821/22 it was the Mission house for Missionaries. Now they provide guided tours, but with only 1/2 we didn’t have time for a tour.
Back in the van Joe advised we were bound for Russell, which was New Zealand’s first capital. Rather than taking the passenger only ferry there and back, he was taking us across on the vehicle ferry. It was about a 30 minute drive.
This part of the trip I really appreciated, as Opua Wharf, is where we docked on MV Otaio way back in 1975. They used to run trains right onto the wharf, so our cargo (frozen lambs) was brought to the wharf by train and then we loaded them. As seen above, no more old cargo ships visiting this pier. The ferry takes about 10 minutes and is first come, first served.
On arrival Russell, we first drove over the hill at the back to Long Beach. This is an amazing beach in a semi-circular bay. Since it was a national holiday, I’m surprised the beach wasn’t busier.
Returning to Russell, Joe dropped us off in town, providing a passenger ferry ticket, requesting we catch the 13:00 departure over to Paihia. This provided about 45 mins to explore Russell. Judi and Diane went looking for food, while Dave and I went to the Duke of Marlborough for a liquid lunch. Enjoyed a pleasant pint of Pale Ale.
Judi and Diane stopped at the chippie and also picked up postcards.
The ferry departed on schedule at 13:00, taking about 15 minutes to Paihia. This left us about an hour to explore, before meeting up with Joe at 14:15. Judi fancied an ice cream, so we stopped at one of the shops in town. I then went to explore the beach.
We met up with Joe at 14:15, heading to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for the highlight of the day, a guided tour and cultural performance.
Our guided tour commenced at 14:30, which included audio boxes and complimentary sun screen. Our guide was different, probably more used to conducting tours with school kids. Departing the shop, we walked through a forest on an elevated boardwalk to the war canoe.
It holds about 80 paddlers and can attain a speed of 13 kts
We headed up the hill to the flagpole, which is where the Treaty was signed in 1840.
On completion of the guided tour, we headed to the Treaty House for a cultural performance.
The cultural performance ended at 16:00 and our last tender was at 16:30, so Joe made arrangements for the staff to whisk us out a rear gate, which saved a 10 minute walk back to the entrance. Joe dropped the RCCL pax first, then headed to Paihia, dropping us off at 16:15. Wow, that’s cutting it tight.
Yet another excellent full day tour, catching the first tender off the ship and the last one back. If visiting Bay of Islands, we would definitely recommend this tour.