Another Stop on Memory Lane…The Bay of Islands, New Zealand Adventuriety

Scott and I spent a night in Bay of Islands on our honeymoon and have three vivid memories from our visit which is amazing to me because we have no pictures to jog these memories.  The first memory involves a one man catamaran and some uncooperative wind.  You have to remember that  Bay of Islands is absolutely beautiful and pristine and it’s mostly about the water.  The  subtropical group of over 150  undeveloped islands on the North Island of New Zealand is home to a few tiny towns in the area with low key accommodations and stunning scenery.   Scott and I arrived there the first time knowing not where we were, but he realized immediately that his genetic love for sailing might be shared with his new wife in this beautiful land.  So, we rented a very small catamaran and took to the high seas (not really, just the bay) to have a little sail.  The wind quickly blew us off shore and out into the bay.  The sky was gloomy, the air chilly, and the one man catamaran straining under the weight of two, sloshed salty, cold water over us at regular intervals.  I was a new wife and absolutely determined to be a good sport, but as I am beginning to realize seventeen plus years later, we are who we are, and my good attitude struggled like the little catamaran.  Meanwhile, Scott was valiantly trying to save his sweet bride from Poseidon and the watery depths below.  He tacked and tacked and we made it slowly back to shore.  I was cold, wet and hungry and he was elated.  I did not understand this.  It had taken five minutes for us to be blown out into the middle of the bay and the rest of the hour to get back to shore on the little engine that could.  We were never in danger at any time, it was just a lot of ducking the mast, being splashed with cold water and cooled a few more degrees by the wind and he was so happy.  We still laugh about the catamaran ride, he says that he was so happy because he felt like he saved me.  He got me back to shore even though the wind was against us.  I hope he can always do that.


We took a ride on the ferry across the bay to Russell to view the sailboat race and hike to Flagstaff hill.


There were all kinds of sailboats in the bay.


I can’t convince Grant to wear a hat as hard as I try so this sign seemed to be a message from someone on my side and not just a ploy to sell hats.


Sailboats decorated the bay like little toy boats in a giant’s bathtub.


We didn’t spot a Kiwi…


…but we did see two Western Weka chicks and their mother in the dense underbrush.  Like the Kiwi, Weka are flightless birds and threatened by dogs and cats.


This is Flagstaff Hill where the British flew the Union Jack flag after signing the Treaty of Waitangi in February, 1840.  Today, most consider this treaty the founding document of New Zealand as a nation.  In 1844, amid Māori frustrations about their new status as a British Dominion, the flag was cut down for the first time.  Over the next two years it was cut down three more times until Hone Heke and Te Ruki Kawiti,  Māori chiefs, and the British Government reached a peaceful agreement.  Another flag was not flown until 1858, with the flag being named Whakakotahitanga, “being at one with the Queen.”  It was erected by Te Ruki Kawiti’s son.


The view from Flagstaff Hill is worth the twenty minutes of steep hiking (you can drive up too).


There were many people watching the sailboats from the hill.


My favorite spectators.


Back down the hill and a walk through the tiny town, Russell, the original capital of New Zealand.


Ashley and Scott jumped off of the pier of a few times before we boarded the ferry back to Paihia and our next adventure, paddle boarding.


We went for a paddle boarding tour with Bay of Islands Cruise and Kayak.  Our hostess Lesley, at Bay of Islands Holiday Apartments and Campervan Park recommended this tour and it did not disappoint any of us for a few reasons which I will explain later.  Both of these businesses are just the kind of small businesses you want to support and they are a big part of what makes the town of Paihia feel so welcoming.  Our guide, Taylor,and his wife grew up in the area, spent some time traveling and working in tourism, and then returned to raise their family and create a business that offers enjoyment of water sports and adventure to everyone and I mean everyone.  Taylor told us that he’d had a tiny baby (with parents of course) on his boat as well as a woman in her nineties and he thinks that the worst thing is to feel like you can’t do something because you can’t keep up.  So, he and his wife came up with a way to make crazies like Scott and the kids happy, while simultaneously  taking the “me’s” of the world along and anyone else who may have some restriction or doubt about doing something like paddle boarding into a waterfall.  The pontoon boat is always lurking like a silent helicopter parent to pick you and your gear up when you’ve had enough or need a rest, and Taylor and his sidekick are so cool about everything.  It is stress free adventure.  Hmmmm….that might be an oxymoron.


Forever ready to do anything involving water.

IMG_0494We rode the boat most of the way up the Haruru  River and paddled on our boards the last kilometer to the raging Haruru (meaning big noise) Waterfall, where the the real fun began, paddling into the waterfall.  I just stayed back and enjoyed watching and the fact that someone else was in charge.  It is turbulent near the falls and so you get on your knees for greater stability.  We were a small group, the four of us being the only people on paddle boards.  There was another guide watching over a handful of kayakers.  Our guide stayed mostly with the Scott and kids watching over them and their attempts to master the waterfall, but like a great host, he would come and over and chat with me hanging out in calmer waters.  That is until Ashley decided she was ready to go under on her feet.

IMG_0508She did fine and stayed on her feet.  It was Scott, of course who fell off, and discovered his life vest was not cinched quite tightly enough, but everyone, even the kayakers took their turns in the water, and everyone seemed to have a great time going back for more.IMG_0535

The river was wide and very brown with all of the rain, but calm and paddling was easy as soon as we were away from the waterfall.  Ashley is in the water because she was trying to jump up and down on her board and lost her balance.


The banks of the river were lined with Mangroves and we stopped to explore a little bit.


We paddled the entire way back to the boat dock (about 4 km) with the kids having some kind paddle board war.  They kept trying to knock each other off the board and had a wonderful time falling in the water over and over and our guide was so patient and amused by it.  He told me he has a little sister.  No more explanation needed.

IMG_8310 IMG_8315

I’m not sure who won the paddle board war but I beat them to the dock…


…with time to rescue a kayak that slipped off of the boat.  Scott asked me a few days after our kayak adventure, “You know what the best thing about the paddle boarding adventure was?”  I never know what he’s going say so it was no surprise when he came out with, “You didn’t say anything.”  He told me he was sure I was going to freak out and he was just waiting for me to say something to the kids about the waterfall.  I really wasn’t worried.  They had life jackets on and were being watched by someone who knew the river and waterfall well, but I’m happy that he was surprised.  It made me think about some of my first blogs and my goal of saying less.  I guess I should renew that vow or at least be aware of it, I think there may be something to that saying, “less is more.”  It was the best kind of adventure, we were all happy.


This is our cute cabin at Bay of Islands Holiday Apartments and Campervan Park.  I wish we would have scheduled more time in the area because there is so much to see and do (even if it doesn’t seem like it when you are planning your trip) and if you get tired of doing, it is so peaceful and beautiful that just sitting on the beach or at a pretty picnic table is great too.

And what about the other memories that went along with our catamaran ride the first time we were here?  We purchased matching jackets from a place called The Cabbage Tree (we went back this time in case our jackets were there) for our sail because it was cold.  They were nautical, navy blue and we really like them and wore them constantly and annoyingly (matching after all) until in the few months after we returned home, we lost them somewhere and lost them together.  We searched and searched but never found them.  We do have pictures of us in them or I would think we had dreamed them up.  And the last memory was of the delicious salmon dinner we shared after Scott saved me our perilous adventure.  We always talk about how if only we could figure out how to make salmon like it was prepared in New Zealand.  Good memories then and now we have even more from the Bay of Islands.


  1. You are a great partner.

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