Our next stop in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, was a trip into the Kerikeri inlet as far as our draft allowed. From the anchorage we could take the dinghy about 3km up the winding inlet to the final navigable point at “The Stone Store”, a grand building which dates back to 1830 and is now a museum and gift shop.
The river dries out at low tide in many places, but there is a buoyed channel to follow where the water is deep enough. From the landing place at The Stone Store there are a few hiking trails and many waterfalls to see on the way, and it was also just a couple of km walk to the lovely town of Kerikeri, the largest town in Northland. This is a productive area with numerous farm shops selling their produce. Local oranges, potatoes, strawberries and lettuces are in plentiful supply. Our favourite was The Old Packhouse with great produce and a nice cafe.
We spent nearly a week in this area, our daily commutes along the river at different states of the tide gave us regular sightings of Harriers circling above and Royal Spoonbills either rummaging in the muddy flats or settling in their tree at high tide.
Just outside the inlet is another wonderful stopover at Oihi Bay where there is an interesting walk through Rangihoua heritage park. It’s the site of the first mission settlement and the first Christian service in New Zealand held by Samuel Marsden on Christmas Day 1814.
After a few days of waterfalls it was time for a change of pace and scenery, with a car rental to visit the oldest living Kauri trees in New Zealand at the Waipuoa Kauri Forest on the West Coast.
With the wind swinging to the southern quadrant for a week or two we took the opportunity for a cracking beam reach sail out of the Bay of Islands and headed north to Whangaroa. On the way we stopped at a beautiful narrow cove called Whanaihe Bay so that we could walk the nearby Mahinepua Peninsula hike.
It was lucky that we came across a farmer on our way along a winding track from the cove, as we discovered we were on private land and it wasn’t a hiking trail! After a chat about farming he very kindly gave us permission to carry on and even gave us directions.
To work off our Christmas dinner we decided to hike to the top of The Dukes Nose rock which stands proud over the anchorage.
By the time we had almost reached the rock face I had just about talked myself out of getting to the top, I’m not really good with heights and knew I would be way out of my comfort zone. But by the time we got to the difficult bit there were three young ladies waiting at the bottom, they had decided it was too tough for them. That immediately spurred me on, so I followed Jez up the rock face clinging on to the pole for dear life. It wasn’t long before one of the girls decided it couldn’t be that bad, after all we were probably twice her age, and followed us up.
Going down was a little scarier as it wasn’t easy to see the footholds and of course it meant looking down. But with Jez guiding my feet as well as his own we got to the bottom safely and I was reminded of several leg muscles I had long forgotten about. To loosen things up we continued on the Stream track for another 2 hour walk until the tide was high enough for us to relaunch the dinghy without dragging it across the mud bank. What a tiring day!
The dramatic rock formations around Whangaroa harbour are remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted 20 million years ago. So for our final ‘high’ of the year we anchored off Whangaroa marina to hike to the top of St Paul’s Rock, named in the 19th Century as it resembled the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The trail to St. Paul’s rock was steep and a bit of a scramble in places, with the last short leg of rock work aided by chains. What an amazing view of the bay and another wonderful lunch stop.
As we look back over another year of long periods at sea and exploring far away places, we feel so lucky to have had such wonderful opportunities and Joy to take great care of us. Wishing you all a very happy and healthy New Year!