If you’re ever in New Zealand and you’re looking for a must-see place head up to the north of the North Island to Paihia and the Bay of Islands. It is a stunning place with a wealth of activities on offer. Due to the enforced high tax on various activities you may need to choose carefully.
One thing I absolutely recommend is a night on board The Rock which is a converted small car ferry with 2 decks. The bottom deck is a bar, sitting area, and where you’ll spend your waking hours. Upstairs are dorms and private rooms.
The crew are lovely, very friendly and welcoming. We stayed for a day and a night and it’s one of my fondest memories of New Zealand. I learned how to fish, caught myself a couple of nippers, went kayaking under the stars, found a wild starfish, and ate sea urchin roe. There’s no pressure to do any of this, just friendly encouragement. If you’d rather relax on deck and try and catch a glimpse of dolphins you’re free to do that :). The staff are really knowledgeable and full of energy.
On the topic of the kayaking under the stars: we were able to go out in small groups for about 20 minutes supervised by one of the crew. Everything was so calm, I discovered a new way to relax. Lie back on the kayak and close your eyes with only the sound of crickets and the water around you in your ears. One of the main reasons for us to go out on kayaks at night is the presence of bioluminescent algae in the water. When aggravated by moving your hand in the water it simply begins to glow. It’s incredible, and obviously a lot of fun to start splashing around. No matter how old you are.
During the next day we set sail for a nearby island for a short hike to the top and an hour of free time. Wow, it was worth it. The view was breathtaking as the island stretches out into the sea. A beach has formed on one side – where we had moored – and more rocky and wild on the other. One of my favourite spots. Take plenty of water though because as one woman found out, heat stroke is not fun.
I and a few others spent our free time out on the kayaks, but others relaxed on the beach or went for further walks. After around an hour it was time to get back on the boat and have lunch. I was part of a bigger tour but there were a couple of families on board as well as a newlywed couple. I’d say the boat sleeps about 30 minutes maximum. If you don’t want to stay overnight they offer trips out just for the day.
This trip is throughly recommended. I went in January, at the height of summer. I’m sure it’s beautiful all year round.
When you’re done, make sure you check out the Maori history, particularly at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a very important site both historically and culturally for both the Maori people and modern day New Zealand.