A Day Out To The First Capital Of New Zealand

Today was another fairly busy day as we went off for another little explore of the Bay of Islands area with Ben and Kelly before heading off by ourselves for a bit. It was nice to be shown a couple of places that we might not have necessarily seen otherwise and I really enjoyed getting to go off and have a proper look.

Haruru Falls
Haruru Falls

After waking up at about 9am and having showers, we piled back into the car and set off following them in the car in front bound for Paihia, the main tourist town of the Bay of Islands. We’d been through it on the way to Kerikeri and I had really wanted to get off and have a little look around because it really did look like a nice little Scottish border town. Everybody seemed to be smiling and looking for their next adventure, just enjoying being there and eating some of the tasty looking fish and chips. So, I was really looking forward to having the chance to have a little look around there and see what the place had to offer. Firstly, however, we were taken to Haruru Falls, a lovely place with a waterfall not too far away. With it being summer, it wasn’t quite as fast flowing as we anticipated but it was still lovely to see. I particularly liked a crafty seagull who thought was hiding at the bottom waiting for fish and other tasty nibbles to drop down and ended up just watching him for a while. I don’t know what it is about seagulls but they fascinate me and I really could just stare at them going about all day. I think it must be how cheeky they are and the fact they have attitude! I think I’d have liked to have seen a little more of the area as opposed to just the waterfall as not only does it seem like a lovely little place, it has quite a lot of history too. When we got back I looked it up and discovered that it was the first river port in New Zealand so it would have been nice to have seen a bit more about that but never mind. It was really great to see the waterfall and we’ll just have to revisit it in the future.

Lookout point
Lookout point

Our next stop was a lookout point where we were able to see Paihia tucked away, Russell, New Zealand’s first capital, across the shimmering water and Waitangi with it’s famous treaty flag. The Treaty of Waitangi was an agreement between around 500 Maori Chiefs and the British Monarchy in 1840. Following the signing, the country of New Zealand became a British colony and so it really is an important part of NZ history. The view was really beautiful to look at and with it not being a particular well known little area, also very quiet which was lovely. Ok, I say quiet, the cicadas were ridiculously loud, screeching away in the trees but you can’t count nature noises as being actual noises can you. It’s more of a lovely bonus feature as opposed to a pain and even though I ended up having to cover up my ears as they were beginning the throb a bit, it was nice to feel like we were in a very natural place.  We even got to see one up close which was pretty cool though it did bring back some bad memories of one getting tangled in my hair in Spain…..

On the ferry
On the ferry

A quick drive and a little look at the Paihia pier later, we said our goodbyes to Ben and Kelly for the day and then continued our day out. Of course that involved nipping into the tourist information centre to get some leaflets for the rest of our time in New Zealand, that just goes without saying.  My shoes had decided to really rub my toes (despite having never done so before) so I carefully hobbled back towards the car, picking up some yummy picnic snacks on the way, before settling down for the next part of our day out. It was all very exciting. There’s not much that compares to the feeling of going off to explore new places and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it!

Codie on the ferry
Codie on the ferry

Following a little drive down the road and once we’d finally found the ferry port, we lined up and drove onboard, ready for the little crossing. It was a lot shorter than I expected it to be but to be honest, most ferry crossings are!

When we arrived, our first port of call was somewhere nice to eat our lunch and so after a very short drive, we found ourselves at a little beach just past the town and parked up there for a while. It was lovely to be able to just sit back and relax, watching the seagulls flying low over the golden sand and the boats bobbing around straight ahead. It didn’t take long for us to completely demolish our lunch and so we decided to have a look at the historic Flag Staff Hill. Erected in 1858 and a symbol of the conflict between the British and Maori people, it seemed like the perfect place for us to really see the Bay of Islands. I was so glad that we didn’t have to walk up the hill as it was so, so steep! By the time we’d have reached the top I reckon we’d have just spent the next 30 minutes just trying to breathe instead of appreciating the incredible views and they were really worth appreciating.As it was a very clear day, you could see so far across the bay and all the little boat bobbing about below.

Flagstaff
Flagstaff

It really was breathtaking however there were quite a few people about so it wasn’t as relaxing as I’d have liked. I think that’s the same with most places nowadays, they’re often full of people visiting for the same reasons we do and whilst that’s good, it means they’re often overcrowded. Whitehaven Beach springs to mind when I think of this as it was a lovely place to visit if not a bit loud due to the helicopters constantly flying overhead and the dozens of boats dropping people off.

Impressed by the stunning views, we decided to have a wander up the hill on the other side of the car park and came across a huge sundial. It was really very pretty and just like the flagstaff, offered almost 360 panoramic views of the bay and the Pacific ocean. What a pretty area we were in. You can really see why people love the Bay of Islands so much; it’s friendly, pretty and there’s lots of wildlife. Talking of wildlife, we got the chance to see another cicada up close as we began making our way back to the car as one flew right passed and landed on a leaf. They’re such weird little creatures and you just can’t stop looking at them though we didn’t have much of a choice as their loud “singing” really starting to hurt our ears. I’d have liked to have stayed longer to see it wandering about but I just don’t think my ear drums would have thanked me!

With the sundial
With the sundial

Back in the car, we headed off for more of a look around the area to see if there was anywhere we could record a quick time-lapse. We went to a little beach and parked up there for a while but there just wasn’t enough going on and I think had we filmed there, the only movement you’d have seen would have been the sea lapping at the shore. Pretty in reality but perhaps a little bit dull on a screen. Rather than heading off straight away, we decided to just sit back and enjoy the view for a bit instead. Well, there was no point hurrying about when we weren’t in any particular rush. We had been hoping to visit some glow worm caves however it had become clear that we’d have just had to literally hop on and hop off Russell rather than enjoying it properly so we decided against it. I would have loved to have gone but I didn’t see any point in ruining a good day out for it.

After a little while spent at that beach watching a gannet soaring through the sky and diving deep into the water below, we turned around and carried on looking for somewhere to film. There were some really nice views and very lovely places but none of them had easily accessible places for us to stop and so we ended up back at our first stop. It made sense really, it had lots of boats, lots of birds and lots of people so we knew visually it would be pretty interesting. Once the camera was set up on a rock, I had a wander about and went to visit two seagulls who were happily eating a bit of fish. Ok well I say eating, they were really just dragging it in and out of the water but they seemed quite pleased with it.

Tasty fish supper
Tasty fish supper

I also got to see a pied oystercatcher and some rather chunky ducks bathing in the little nearby stream before I made my way back across the pebbles to meet Codie. I’d really enjoyed my time on Russell, especially as it isn’t somewhere we’d have even thought about if we hadn’t been told about it, and it had been a great day out. It just shows how important it can (sometimes) be to pay attention to what people tell you as we could have really missed out otherwise.

First capital
At the site of the first capital of New Zealand

Heading back towards the ferry, we passed a little sign saying “Site of the First Capital of New Zealand” and so we decided to turn back around and have a look. It would have been a complete shame and a pain if we’d have visited the area and then not made it to the site so it was lucky we noticed the sign! First established after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the settlement at Okiato remained there until the capital was moved to Auckland in 1841 when it then burnt to the ground. It was pretty cool to think that we were visiting the first proper capital of the country though I was a bit disappointed to discover that there wasn’t really anything there. A patch of grass, admittedly a nice green patch of grass, and a rather deep but overgrown well are all that remain at the site. Nothing hugely spectacular, no house foundations or anything like that but with it burning down to the ground then I suppose you can expect that can you. Besides, it was still very interesting to imagine what had taken place on that very spot, especially as I love history, and so we spent a little bit of time there before eventually catching the ferry once again.

Paihia
Wooden dolphins in Paihia

On the way back to Kerikeri, we decided to stop in Paihia for a while to have one last look around. It was such a friendly and upbeat little place that it just seemed to draw you in and  I really would have loved to have spent more time there. Of course we’d have needed quite a bit of money to have been able to do some of the amazing trips and tours they offered but I think just spending time on the beach by the crystal clear water would have been lovely too. Ah well, we’ll just have to come back again another time! Once we’d filmed a little time-lapse of the pier we continued on our way and stopped off at Haruru Falls to get one there to. With it being quite late and just before the gate was closed, it was a lot quieter than when we’d visited earlier and so a lot nicer to see. It did, however, mean that we had to be as quick as possible so as to ensure we didn’t get locked in the car park for the night! Despite the rush, I really liked being able to see it without people rushing about behind you and stomping about and I was really, very glad we’d gone back. You see things in a completely different light in different circumstances and I think I liked it much more the second time. I have to say that I liked the naughty chickens more though. There were loads of them clucking about looking for food with tiny little chicks and even hid under the car as we tried to leave. I’m not sure whether they were trying to stop us or trying to come with us but either way, I’d have liked a tiny chick friend!

Tiny chicks
Tiny chicks

Finally back at the house and it was time for a tea of pizza and a watch of Big Hero 6 with everyone before we had an early night. I’d really loved getting to see more of the Bay of Islands and was quite shattered by having so much to look at all the time. Tomorrow is our last day in Kerikeri and in the afternoon we’ll be catching the bus back to Auckland. We’re hoping to pay a visit to Rainbow Falls before we go (you can never visit too many waterfalls!) so I just hope the rain holds off for us and we’ll be able to have one last proper look around the town.

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