The adventure beginsâ€¦ in the Bay of Islands!
Bright and early in the morning I am awoken by my excitement about heading up to the Bay of Islands. A short walk from Nomads is the Stray New Zealand office, where my guide for the day picked me up, Muesli! All the driver guides have funny names that coincide with a funny story that happened when they first started with Stray. Youâ€™ll just have to join in on a Stray trip to find out what they all mean.
The drive up the Bay of Islands is extremely picturesque â€“ I would best describe it as driving through a postcardâ€¦ over and over again! Along the way to Paihia, often called the â€˜gateway to the Bayâ€™, the driver makes sure to point out the points of interest across the vast landscapes. Make sure you look closelyâ€¦ because you may see a sheep or two along the drive;)
We arrived in Paihia in the early afternoon, giving us time to settle into the hostel (Base Bay of Island), walk along the beautiful Bay harbour and grab a bite in the hostel bar. Base Bay of Islands has a nice tiki bar sort of feel to it â€“ it has a very welcoming atmosphere to it and the staff strive to make you feel right at home.
There are various beautiful walks and treks to do while staying in Paihia. Depending on the amount of time you have, you can choose between coastal walks that take up to 3 hours, to shorter walks along the boardwalk, which could take you about an hour. Whichever you choose, you will be blown away by your surroundings!
A trip to the Bay of Islands with Stray is perfect for those who have a couple extra days spare in Auckland and want the chance to experience the magic of Northern New Zealand.
Day Trip with AwesomeNZ to Cape Reinga (via 90 Mile Beach)
It was early mornings start for our group headed up to the Northern most point of New Zealandâ€¦ Cape Reinga!
At 7am, our Great Sights â€“ AwesomeNZ driver guide (an ex Stray driver) greeted us outside of the hostel with a beaming smile! After everyone jumped onboard, we were on our way to Cape Reinga! Shortly into the drive, we had the chance to stop at the â€œTop Bakery in NZâ€ (pun intended) to grab morning tea, and lunch for the day! The drive up to Cape Reinga is quite beautiful. Our driver ensured to point out all the hot spots, and points of interest to us along the drive â€“ to keep us awake after an early morning wake up 😉
Some of the main highlights from the day were driving on 90 Mile Beach with the bus! You can actually drive directly on the beachâ€¦ but you need to be careful to not hit the soft sand â€¦ you may get stuck! One sign that we found on the drive that I found quite humorous wasâ€¦ â€œDANGER, Drive fasterâ€¦â€ to ensure you donâ€™t get stuck in the sand!
90 Mile Beach
Another highlight of this trip was the Te Paki Sand Dunes where we had the chance to participate in some rapid speed sand boarding. The final main highlight was the journey to Cape Reinga.
To give you some background info, The Te Paki Sand Dunes are some of the biggest sand dunes in New Zealand! Depending on your bravery level you can choose between small dunes, to massive sand dunes! It is such an exhilarating feeling as you are flying down the dunes, feeling the wind in your hair! Out of all the sand boarding experience I have had (Rainbow Beach, Kangaroo Island), this experience takes the top spot! Having a GoPro handy to capture some of those moments also is a plus!
Cape Reinga is the pointy part of the North Island that oversees the gathering place where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans meet. Legend holds it that it is believed to be the departure point for Maori souls leaving NZ and going back to their spiritual homeland.
When we arrived at Cape Reinga, we were given some time to explore our way down the coastal boardwalk, which eventually brought you to the Cape Reinga lighthouse. Looking out from the lighthouse, you can see the sea go on for miles.
Cape Reinga LighthouseÂ
My day on the Cape Reinga, via 90 Mile Beach Adventure with AwesomeNZ blew my expectations. I highly recommend for those with those couple extra days in Auckland at the beginning or end of your Stray New Zealand adventure, a short trip up to the Bay of Islands will not disappoint!
Hole in the Rock â€“ Dolphin Cruise
Our day in the bay couldnâ€™t of been better. We departed from the pier in Paihia shortly after 9 oâ€™clock, and from there we began our half day cruise through the 144 islands.
The Great Sights cruise boat held over 220 passengers, had 3 viewing decks, and a cafÃ©/bar on board. My group decided to take a spot on the main platform at the front to get a full panoramic view of the Bay.
While cruising, we had the chance to take some scenic shots of the various islands, ships in the harbour as well asâ€¦ the dolphins!
One highlight of the Hole in the Rock cruise for me was seeing the dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water directly underneath the boat. There must have been over 10 dolphins that found interest in us, and put on a little water show! It was incredible to see the dolphins jump out of the water simultaneously, and swim at speeds that keep up with the speed of our boat. In addition to being able to view the dolphins on board, you can also choose to experience a more personal wildlife encounter and you can swim with the dolphins as well!
Another highlight of this trip was cruising out to the end of the peninsula (Motukokako Island) to see the Hole in Rock. At one point of the cruise the water got a bit choppy and led to a very fun and bumpy ride! You need to hold on tight! When we made it to the Hole in the Rock, we had the chance to look out on the horizon and see for miles. The view was spectacular and with bright, clear skies, we couldnâ€™t of asked for a better day for pictures!
On the way back to Paihia, we stopped at a beautiful island called Urupukapuka, for a little wander. As we cruised in, the first thought that came to my mind â€¦are we in the Caribbean? Crystal clear waters drew us into the beach, and the grass on the hills was perfectly green. We were given just around an hour to make our way to the look out point, which gives an amazing panoramic view of all the Islands.
Urupukapuka lookout to the Bay of Islands
We made our way back to Paihia pier in perfect time for Stray to pick us up at our hostel and head back down to Auckland! The Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise was an amazing experience and opportunity to see the Bay of Islands from the water. There is nothing better than feeling the wind in your hair as you cruise along one of the most beautiful parts of the country!
Until next adventure,
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