Friday, October 15, 2010

Holiday Up North - Part 2. Bay of Islands

We only spent one day exploring Auckland and then we decided to explore further north and headed for the Bay of Islands. This area has been described as the birth place of New Zealand as we know it today. It was once a bustling seafaring and political base and is now a very popular tourist destination.
I can thoroughly recommend Beachside camp site. It is located in it own private cove with its own beach and amazing walks directly from the camp site.

We took the ferry in the rain across to the historic town of Russel. It was the first European settlement in New Zealand and the first seaport. The local Maori population were keen to encourage ships to anchor in this area as they were able to trade food and timber. The town soon developed a very bad reputation as there were no laws or any form of real government. So prostitution and liqueur was widely available and the town became known as the "Hell hole of the pacific".

Russel now only has a population of about 820 so is not exactly a large settlement. It is a great place to spend an afternoon wondering round and looking at what remains of the "Hell hole" it once was. The local museum is really interesting and you can look at photos of the first European settlers in this country. Reading some of their dramatic and often tragic stories you have to wonder what prompted them to take the risk and leave their homes to travel to the other side of the world never to return again.

Russel's defences. I am not sure if they are still in working order!

Walking through the swamps looking out for the trolls.

Mangrove swamps only occur in the tropics and sub-tropics so growing up on the south coast of England I have surprisingly never come across them before. They were amazing to walk through and quite beautiful when the tide comes in and submerges them up to halfway.

We took a boat trip around the Bay of Islands which is really the only way to see the area fully. The trip promised to see some wildlife as well as to take us through the famous "Hole in the Rock".

Passing through the Hole in the Rock.

Dolphins are not easy to photograph but they are mesmerising to see in real life.

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