Three days in the Bay of Islands

In the week between Auckland Anniversary Weekend and Waitangi Day, Hayden, Amelie and I headed away for a few glorious days in the Bay of Islands! Yes, it was only a few weeks ago that we wrapped up our Christmas break but hey, holidays are important…

We actually usually take this week off when we can. It’s a nice way to ease into the new year back at work, knowing you have another holiday just around the corner, and the weather is usually really good in early February. The two public holidays on either end mean you can take four days off, but get a ten day break. It works out well for Aucklanders (and we Northlanders as well…I’m used to thinking about Auckland Anniversary Day but it’s actually Northland Anniversary Day as well, thankfully)!

During the week, we took off up to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand’s Far North for a short stint in Russell. It felt kind of appropriate, being in between Northland Anniversary Day and Waitangi Day (Russell was the first capital of New Zealand) but we were mostly there for this…

I mean. Spectacular, right?

One of the advantages of living in Mangawhai is how close the Bay of Islands is. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive from our home, including the car ferry across to Russell, but on the way up we stopped in Whananaki for a walk and some lunch. My family used to go camping in Whananaki every year and I’ve been wanting to see if it’s as beautiful as I remember for a long time now! We didn’t go to where we actually used to camp, but I remembered the ‘main road’ (tongue firmly in cheek) from childhood trips to the shop for ice cream. I’m glad to say it’s still a very special little place.

We stopped there for about an hour or so – enough time to walk across the Southern Hemisphere’s longest footbridge and back again (it was built to enable students from Whananaki South to get to school in Whananaki North – before it was installed a teacher used to row them back and forth!) and eat lunch at the Whananaki General Store, site of many an ice cream back in the day. Oh, and also for Amelie to have a quick play on the playground of course. The only constants in life are death, taxes, and Amelie finding a playground everywhere she goes. Still, we were in no rush and it wasn’t too bad a spot to hang out in while she played!

Even with the detour we were in Russell with a whole lot of day still left to enjoy. We were staying in the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, right on the waterfront. It’s been refreshing rascals and reprobates since 1827, which is a really long time for New Zealand! It was renovated a few years ago and is really cool. Amelie approved (well, we all did really)!

Russell isn’t a big town but it’s absolutely beautiful, and just full of character. It reminded Hayden and me a bit of some of the New England beaches we used to enjoy going to when we lived in the States, particularly around the Cape. While we were there we ate at the Duke of Marlborough and Hōne’s Garden, and we got breakfast repeatedly from Hell Hole. All of these places were so great!

On our one full day in Russell we took a boat out to Urapukapuka Island for a day of beaching, kayaking, a couple of short walks to check out the incredible views, and just general relaxing. It was the nicest. I don’t even know what to say about it! It’s just such a beautiful, relaxed place. And it surely must be some sort of rule that if you go to the Bay of Islands you go out boating, right?!

We absolutely loved Russell, so much so that we found ourselves looking quite seriously in real estate windows (we do this everywhere we go, but we don’t always do it seriously). But as I said to Hayden, moving to one’s holiday house means one no longer has a holiday house…surely we need to fix that?!

I am totally joking about that; we won’t be buying a place in Russell anytime soon, sad to say. But we loved it and we’ll definitely be back for many more visits. After all, it’s only a couple of hours away!

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