The Bay of Island's is a Historic and Maritime Park that is packed full of attractions. Explore historic Kerikeri then head to Paihia and the famous treaty grounds at Waitangi. Take the ferry across to Russell and take a walk around this charming historic town before catching one of the many
cruises out into the Bay of Islands.
St James Church, Kerikeri.
The trip starts on Kerikeri Road near the old Stone Store.
Kerikeri is the site of the fortified Kororipo pa used by Hongi Hika, the greatly feared Nga Puhi chief who led war parties in the early 1800s, as far south as the Cook Strait. The earthworks and other features of the pa are still visible and can be reached on a short 30 minute walking trail around the site. Assured by Hongi that they would be welcome, early missionaries from the English Church Missionary Society led by the Rev. Samuel Marsden decided to make the Kerikeri Basin the site of their second mission station, which was established in 1821. Today both the Mission Station and the old Stone Store nearby still look out over the waters of the Kerikeri inlet and are among the oldest buildings in New Zealand. Just across the road you can take a stroll around Rewa's village, a full-size reconstruction of a typical pre-European Maori settlement (kainga) which were usually built close to kumara fields or other sources of food. Each sub-tribe usually built a pa (fortified village) on a hilltop or some other easily defended location. In times of peace, most of the tribe would live in kainga, but in times of danger the people would abandon the kainga and move to the pa. Set on the hill above the inlet and the Stone Store, you will find St James Church with its picturesque churchyard, built in 1878 on the site of New Zealand’s first chapel that was opened by Rev. Henry Williams in 1824. Further up the road is the main township which is renowned for its handcrafts and cottage industries. There are numerous orchards in the area with many art studios and potteries tucked in amongst the gardens and trees giving the town its unique character.
Built for the Rev. John Butler in 1822 by missionary carpenters and Maori sawyers, the Kerikeri Mission House, also known as Kemp House, features a hipped roof and symmetrical façade. Today this building with its simple Georgian design, overlooking the Kerikeri Inlet, is the oldest wooden home in New Zealand. The garden was first dug in 1820 and has been kept in cultivation ever since, recalling the days when it provided food for the early missionaries and later the Kemp family who lived there after the mission station closed in 1848.
THE STONE STORE
Built between 1832 and 1836 by an ex-convict stonemason from New South Wales, the Stone Store is the oldest stone building in New Zealand. It was originally intended to house supplies for the New Zealand Mission, including large quantities of wheat from the mission farm at Te Waimate, but after the wheat crop failed, the building was leased as a kauri gum trading store. From 1929 onwards was used by the Kemp family as a general store and still sells general goods today as well as featuring numerous artefacts and other historic items in a series of displays. From Stone Store Basin in Kerikeri, you can board the SS Eliza Hobson, one of these early steam vessels and take a cruise down the Kerikeri Inlet. The first of the steamers arrived in New Zealand in 1840, the same year the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The Northern Steamship Company was established in 1881 by Captain McGregor and several other steamship owners. Over the next century the company grew to the point where it was operating 120 steamships, serving most of the North Island’s ports.
Drive south on Kerikeri Road 5.4 km, turn left onto SH10 and drive 6.8 km to Puketona Road. Turn left and drive 9.1 km on Puketona Road. Turn left onto Haruru Falls Road. The carpark is 0.4 km on the right just across the bridge.
Haruru means ‘loud noise’ and a Maori legend tells of a taniwha (water monster) that lives below the falls in the lagoon. The falls are visible from the road but for a closer look you can drive across the bridge and take the walking track from the carpark to get a closer view. The track continues along the river and estuary to an interesting boardwalk through a mangrove swamp which takes about 20 minutes each way. In the early 1800s there were dozens of Maori settlements along the river.
Maori Meeting House, Waitangi.
Return to Puketona Road, tirn left and continue east 3.6 km. Turn left onto Te Karuwha Parade and continue 1 km onto Tau Henare Drive. The carpark is 0.1 km on the right.
One of New Zealand’s most famous historic buildings, the Treaty House was assembled on site from timber that was pre-cut in Sydney. The Georgian-style home of James Busby, appointed British Resident in 1833, was to become the stage for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Eventually purchased in 1932 by Lord Bledisloe, the house and 400 ha of land were presented to the nation and are now part of a historic reserve. The interior of the treaty house has been fully restored to its former glory and included sections that have been cut-away to reveal views of its construction. A network of paths leads through the expansive grounds to a magnificent Maori meeting house, featuring elaborate carvings from tribes throughout the country and an informative audio visual display. You can also see Ngatoki-matawhaorua, a 37m long Maori war canoe that was built for the 1940 centenary of the signing of the treaty. The coastal walkway, which runs along the edge of the grounds features distinctive black pillow lava rock formations, created when the lava erupted underwater, fracturing into hexagonal shapes.
Relics, Shipwreck Museum, Paihia.
Return southeast to Marsden Road and drive 1.6 km through Paihia. The shipwreck Museum is on the right in the old sailing ship and on the left along the waterfront at Paihia you will find booking offices for the many boat trips around the Bay of Islands.
The site of a missionary station founded in 1825 by Henry Williams, Paihia is now a thriving resort town packed with cafes and a diverse range of tourist attractions. From the Paihia wharf you can catch the ferry across the harbour to visit Russell, take the famous Hole in the Rock trip out to Cape Brett or the celebrated Cream Trip which visits many of the islands in the area. Te Ti Beach is a popular place to swim and along on its northern end you can see the marae where Maori chiefs conferred before signing the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Just before the Waitangi River bridge is the Tui, a historic vessel that has been converted into a shipwreck museum featuring numerous treasures recovered by renowned diver Kelly Tarlton.
THE HELL HOLE OF THE PACIFIC
Today Russell is a thriving tourist town and a centre for big-game fishing boats operating in the Bay of Islands, but it didn’t always have a peaceful atmosphere. Originally named Kororareka, Russell was known as the ‘Hell Hole of the Pacific’ in the early 1800s, at a time when drunken whalers ran wild in the town. This lawless town had grown to become an important centre of trade between the Maori and Europeans and a resupply port for the whaling and sealing ships. In January 1840, at the Christ Church in Kororareka, Governor Hobson read a Proclaimation, which was the first reading of what was to become the Treaty of Waitangi. Because of its bad reputation, Hobson was reluctant to choose Kororareka as the capital when the Colony of New Zealand was founded later that year. The original Russell, sited at Okaito near the ferry landing, briefly became the capital, but was later burned down and abandoned during the northern wars a few years later. Kororareka eventually became known as Russell and although it was at the centre of the flagstaff wars in the 1840s, present day Russell has retained its historic buildings to become one of the most picturesque towns in the North Island. The oldest surviving church in the country, Christ Church built in 1836, can still be seen complete with bullet holes, on Baker Street. The flagpole on Flagstaff Hill is the fifth erected on the site after the Nga Puhe chief Hone Heke cut down the four earlier flagstaffs.
The Strand, Russell.
5russelL via opua
Continue south from Paihia 1.3 km on Seaview Road and 3.4 km on Paihia Road before turning left onto Franklin Street and driving 0.8 km down to the ferry wharf at Opua. The passenger and vehicular ferry crosses to Okaito, eliminating the need to take the longer 42 km road route to Russell around the southern end of the harbour. From Okaito it is 3.9 km on Aucks Road to the Russell Whakapara Road. Turn left and drive 2.9 km onto Hope Avenue, continue 0.6 km and turn left onto Florence Avenue. Continue 0.2 km and turn right onto Matauwhi Road, continue 0.4 km and turn left onto Robertson Street, drive 0.1 km. From here you can park on any of a number of roads near the Russell Waterfront.
The best way to get around Russell is on foot. Take a walk along the Strand on Russell's waterfront and visit the numerous old historic buildings that give this seaside town so much of its charm. The Russell Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts from those early days including an impressive scale model of Captain Cook’s ship the Endeavour. Also of interest is an American built whaleboat, harpoons and cannon balls from the Battle of Kororareka in 1845 when the flagpole was cut down for the fourth time, following which Hone Heke sacked the town. The inhabitants fled in British warships which then shelled and destroyed most of the houses.
On the waterfront you can see the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. This charming hotel on ‘The Strand’, holds the oldest liquor license in the country. Originally the customs house, the police station dates back to 1870 and at the southern end of the town overlooking the harbour is Pompallier House. This elegant rammed-earth building was part of a French Roman Catholic Mission established by Jean Baptiste Pompallier in 1841. The house had been fully restored to its original condition and includes the original printing press used to produce Maori-language religious texts.
The lighthouse at Cape Brett.
6HOLE IN THE ROCK
There are a number of boat trips in the Bay of Islands that will take you out to Cape Brett and the picturesque Motukokako Island where you can see the spectacular Hole in the Rock Grand as well as the Cathedral Cave. The most popular trip is on a Fullers catamaran, which will take you out past numerous historic islands and the Cape Brett Lighthouse, before actually taking the vessel through the dramatic Hole in the Rock, weather permitting. Passengers can also swim with the dolphins. If you are short on time and enjoy high speed, the Excitor with its twin 800hp engines will take you there a lot faster. The 90 minute trip on this high speed monohull is even more of a thrill when there is a big ocean swell, especially if you chose to sit in the ‘extreme’ seats at the front. Essentially unchanged since 1927, the Cream Trip will take you on a full day cruise through the Bay of Islands, delivering supplies and mail while passing historic sites including the Marsden Cross and a stop to explore Urupukapuka Island. You can also swim with the dolphin and from Otehei Bay, take a 20 minute ride on the Nautilus Submarine, providing views of snapper, kingfish, trevally, eagle rays and sea urchins in their natural underwater environment. Whales, Seals, Dolphins and Penguins can often be seen on the cruise, which leads out to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock.