We returned from Canada mid January after a wonderful Christmas and New Year. It was cold back home but well worth visiting friends and family.
We had left our boat at Marsden Cove Marina while we were away and were happy to come back and get her ready to explore New Zealand. Getting JOALEA ready to explore involved a few maintenance items. We needed new chain and also had a transformer built to accommodate 220V power as our boat is a 110V. This is all part of getting JOALEA ready to travel in Europe as most countries don’t have American power standards. As always these things always take longer than expected and we ended up finally leaving the marina on Feb 12th.
Travelling South East, our first stop was Great Barrier Island, 47.2nm from Marsden Cove. We spent a little over 2 weeks anchoring in several Bays. It was very pretty with few boats around. The busiest was Port Fitzroy where they have a little store and a ferry dock that takes people around the islands. We had to make the required stop at Smokehouse Bay where there is a working smokehouse on shore and an open bath with hot water…it isn’t the Hilton!
The island had some fantastic hikes (New Zealanders call them tracks), well marked and well maintained.
From Great Barrier Island we made our way North back to the Bay of Islands where we first made land fall last year November on our passage from Fiji. The Bay of Islands is an area on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is one of the most popular fishing, sailing and tourist destinations in NZ.
We stopped at several islands with anchorages that JOALEA could anchor without hitting bottom. Having a deep keel of 7’6″ does limit where we can go when dealing with huge tides. We stopped at Maunganui Bay, Deep Water Cove, Parekura Bay, Opunga Cove (Orakawa Bay), Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island and Roberston Island (Motuarohia). Roberston Island is where Captain Cook made his first landing in New Zealand in 1769. He was responsible for extensively charting both North and South Island of NZ and gave the Bay of Islands its present name.
There were many hiking trails on almost all of the islands with beautiful vantage points overseeing the Bay of Islands.
A little history. It is believed that New Zealand was first discovered about 1000 years ago by the great Polynesian navigator Kupe who sailed from his homeland ‘Hawaiki’ (not Hawaii) the Society Islands, Samoa, and possibly Tahiti. Kupe named the islands ‘Aotearoa’ Land of the Long White Cloud. He returned to Hawaiki and left instruction on how to get there.
About 400 years later the Maori arrived back in Aotearoa and began to populate the North Island. The Dutchman Abel Tasman landed in 1642 and charted part of the coastline and named it Staten land, believing it was part of Australia. When his mistake was discovered the country was renamed Nieuw Zeeland. Although Abel was the first European to visit the country it was the British who made New Zealand part of their empire.
There were many wars with the Maori and invading settlers. Finally in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and Maori, establishing British law in NZ. The building where the treaty was signed has been preserved and is a popular tourist attraction.
Throughout NZ there are many Maori historic sites as well as little towns with old colonial era buildings. Most of all there are a lot and I mean a lot of cows and sheep.
After sailing the Bay of Islands we returned to the Bay of Islands Marina in Opua and decided we were now going to do some land travelling. We bought a couple of cheap bikes, hired a car for several weeks and drove the whole of the North Island.
It would take pages of writing to detail all that we saw but the highlights are worth noting. We drove to the west coast and up to Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga about 210 km by road to the furthest point of NZ, then down the center of the island. The next day we made our way up the East Coast all the way up to Kaitaia.
New Zealand roads are very winding no matter where you go. You look at a map and ‘Oh yeah, that will only take a couple of hours’, well triple the time to arrive. The roads are all well paved and speed limit seems to be 100 km/hr even on these zigzag roads. I think it was the first time I felt motion sickness in a car!
Beautiful green pastures with rolling hills and many cows and sheep throughout the island. We went on a lot of Cycle trails which were amazing. In fact right in Opua is the start of the Twin Coast Cycleway, cycling from the Bay of Islands to the Hokianga Harbour which is on the West Coast. We took the trail as far as Kawakawa as it’s 20km return back to the marina.
Another stop on our way South of Auckland which couldn’t be missed, was The Shire. Home of the Hobbiton movie set where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies were filmed. It was really cool and I now feel I need to see all of the trilogies again.
We spent several days in Rotorua a region of many lakes, geothermal hot spots and amazing bike trails. Continuing south we headed towards the Hawks Bay region, known as the agricultural and wineries region of New Zealand. We stayed in Napier which is a unique Art Deco styled city that was restored after the 1931 earthquake. We did some cycling trails and visited several wineries which were nice. The weather unfortunately wasn’t great for a few days as New Zealand was hit with cyclone Debbie that dropped a lot of rain and there was a lot of flooding in certain regions.
From Napier we went across the island to Palmerston North where we were delightfully surprised. Our hotel was centrally located and again we did more cycling although some of the trails showed the aftermath of the flooding in the region. After Palmerston we decided to not visit the South Island and returned to Opua to sail a bit more before preparing to leave JOALEA to go on our next adventure.
We are very excited to fly to Sydney Australia to join the Sea Princess that will travel to places we wanted to see but decided we wouldn’t sail to. We will be 45 days at sea arriving in Lisbon Portugal in July where all of our kids will be there this summer. This sea journey will not involve 24 hour around the clock watches, boat maintenance, cooking or cleaning 🙂
Stay tuned and as they say….pictures tell a thousand stories.