Posted by: Richard Marshall | February 17, 2018

New Zealand 2015 Part 2: The North Island

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Lighthouse at Cape Reinga

After our trip in the South Island my parents and I returned to Auckland, but only for a day or so of rest. The whole of my mom’s side of the family came to New Zealand for Christmas and New Year. We all met in Auckland but soon headed up north. The first place we stayed was in Russell, one of New Zealand’s oldest settlements on the Bay of Islands. We stayed slightly out of town where we could hear, but sadly didn’t see, kiwis calling in the bush. The town of Russell itself is a small but beautiful and well-heeled tourist town. It had an attractive waterfront with old colonial buildings where we had a very pleasant meal. The Pompallier Catholic Mission has some of the oldest buildings in the country and was a charming spot for an afternoon tour. Russell was also where we spent Christmas day – the weather was great and we had a barbecue.

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The family getting ready for Christmas

The Bay of Islands is also the site of the Waitangi Treaty grounds, where the British and Maori signed New Zealand’s foundational treaty 1840. It was one of my favourite spots in the North Island as the Treaty House and the Maori Whare were very elegant and faced a wide lawn stretching down to the bay. Although the weather was a bit rainy the view was still beautiful and the place very evocative.

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Whare at Waitangi

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Cloudy view of the Bay of Islands

After Russell we headed even further north to Ahipara. In fact, the distances in Northland were one of the surprises of the trip. A glance at the map makes it seem like just an afterthought after Auckland, but in fact it’s a huge area. It’s also surprisingly poor and remote and many of the farms and small towns seemed quite deprived. Ahipara itself was small and oddly lacking in good places to eat, though the place we stayed was very pleasant. It sits at the bottom end of Ninety Mile Beach, a huge beach that stretches up almost to the top end of the island.

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A few miles of Ninety Mile Beach

From Ahipara we drove to Cape Reinga, the northernmost accessible part of the North Island. (The actual northernmost cape is a few kilometres away but can’t be reached). The Cape has a very pretty lighthouse and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean beyond. It was a beautiful day but with typically fierce New Zealand sun. Some us wandered down the lighthouse or just admired the view.


Cape Reinga

After a couple of nights at Ahipara we drove down the western side of the peninsula back to Auckland. I had to return to Malaysia, so that was the end of the trip for me, though the rest of the family headed up to the Coromandel for a few days. But it was wonderful to have a Christmas and a holiday with the family and to have seen so many spectacular parts of the country.


Dinner with the family



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