Royal Visitors to The Land of the Long White Cloud

November and early December were very changeable months weather-wise, it is still Spring in New Zealand and although we have had some wonderful sunny days at 25 degrees C it can get quite chilly at night when it drops below 20 (that’s a teeth-chattering temp for us tropical softies).  A few blustery storms have come and gone and we have ducked and dived, tucking ourselves into some protected anchorages. The Kiwi’s however are much hardier folk, swimming in the sea regardless of the weather with just swimwear and no wetsuits. We didn’t even do that in Tonga!

With Prince Charles and Camilla visiting Northland, we took the opportunity to join the crowd at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and welcome them to New Zealand. Afterall it was free entry and although we have been before we rather fancied wandering around the beautiful grounds a second time.


It was great to watch groups of local kids practicing their tribal dances before the Prince arrived



The cloak worn by Prince Charles was a gift to Queen Victoria from Chief Reihana Taukawau during a visit to England in 1863.  It has now been loaned back to New Zealand for display in the museum.

 With so many trails to hike, we have been out walking most days and quite often all day. Our longest trail so far was the 21km coastal loop from Russell to Paihia which involved two ferry rides. We left the boat anchored off Paihia and caught the ferry to Russell, then joined the trail which goes through ancient forests and across boardwalks in the mangrove swamps ending up at the Okiato car ferry.   Here the ferry took us the short distance across the bay to Opua, where we joined the 12km coastal trail back to Paihia.


This huge fig tree on The Strand at Russell was planted in 1870 and stands outside the town’s first police station.


A Town in Bloom – Russell’s high street is lined with these beautiful Jacaranda trees


A ‘living wall’ outside a local restaurant




A view of Russell from Flagstaff Hill


A friendly flightless bird called a Weka



Catching the ferry to Opua


Opua Marina


We have also been back out to the islands in the Bay, exploring new anchorages and islands and revisiting the wonderful island of Urupukapuka to walk more of its trails. The looped hikes on this island take you through farmland, woods, across cliffs and along beaches. They even have a bird-watching hide to view an inner lagoon where we spotted some brown teal, also known as Pateke, which are apparently recovering from threat having been reintroduced into predator-free islands such as this one. As we watched the teal a swamp harrier landed on the far side of the lagoon and stomped around in the water before hopping into the long grass.  We think he may have been eating a fish that he’d caught.


The Tui belongs to the honeyeater family



Otaio Bay, Urupukapuka Island







This is a friendly North Island Robin, their numbers had declined on the mainland due to deforestation and predators such as stoats and possums. But their numbers are improving here on the islands thanks to ‘Project Island Song’.



A rather scruffy Swamp Harrier hunts over our heads


We also made use of the protection in a small anchorage called Awaawaroa Bay on Moturua Island when a north-westerly set in for a couple of days.  From here we could dinghy to the next bay to get onto the island trail and stretch our legs.


Project Island Song is doing a great job of reintroducing native plants and birds to the islands and eradicating pests such as stoats, rats, mice and plague skink which are small lizards.




A New Zealand Dotterel



A cute little song bird called a Tomtit flits about in the forest. He seems a little out of proportion, with a large head on a tiny body.

And last but certainly not least, we have spotted this bird on both islands and even watched a parent feed its fledgling on a branch.  But they have been rather shy, and are quick movers, so we haven’t managed to get a photo until now.


This beautiful North Island Saddleback was quite happy to be photographed, even stopped to pose several times. They are a striking black songbird with fleshy red wattles at the base of the bill and a burnt orange stripe across its back and under its tail.



We haven’t managed to catch sight of a Kiwi yet (the feathered variety), although they are on many of these islands and in controlled areas on the mainland.  They are a nocturnal bird so I guess we need to stay out a little later next time.

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2 Responses to Royal Visitors to The Land of the Long White Cloud

  1. florence1924 says:

    Stunning photos Susie! amazing shots of the Saddleback! What an amazing adventure you are having! I love the trees too, especially the Jacaranda and the fig tree! Beautiful! xxxxxxxx


    • Susie says:

      Thank you, wasn’t I lucky with the Saddleback! And to pose in amongst the colourful flowers on the Flax plant! I have also just discovered that the other red flowering tree I photographed is known as their Christmas Tree, presumably because it flowers at Christmas. Spring is certainly very colourful here! Xx


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