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New Zealand's Bay Of Islands
- Rich In History And Marine Life

Kate Methven - 1/8/98

Swim with the dolphins or watch the whales at play in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. A great holiday spot all the year round.

Why not take a break in New Zealand's Bay of Islands?
An area rich in history and marine life.

I decided I needed a mid-winter break so what better place to visit than the Bay of Islands in the winterless north? Average daily temperatures range from 26.8 C/80 F in summer to 16 C/61 F in winter. In fact for the four days when I was there in June it was around 16-17 C with lovely blue skies and sunshine - a great choice for a reasonable price.

Historical Background
A Maori settlement

Russell was an established settlement of the Maori people long before the arrival of Captain Cook and the sailing ship 'Endeavour' in 1769. Its Maori name was Kororareka which comes from a legend about a wounded Maori chief who asked for penguin and on tasting the broth said, 'Ka reka ko korora' (how sweet is the penguin).

The whalers
From the early 1800s South Sea Whalers found Kororareka an ideal port to collect provisions, The town grew as more and more ships landed there but soon it gained a reputation as a lawless and bawdy port, earning the nickname 'Hellhole of the Pacific'. Deserting seamen, runaway convicts, grog sellers and prostitutes all made their homes there. The whalers bartered muskets for food and this encouraged the local Maori Chief Hongi Hika and the northern Maori to instigate local inter-tribal warfare.

The missionaries
After the whalers the missionaries arrived. The first mission station was set up by the Reverend Samuel Marsden in 1815. In 1819, at the invitation of the Maori Chief Hongi Hika, he established the second mission station at Kerikeri. The first Roman Catholic mission was set up by Bishop Pompallier in Russell in 1839.

First British Official Resident
James Busby arrived in Paihia in 1833 as the official British Resident sent out from England. He was expected to protect the traders and settlers, prevent outrages against Maori, capture convicts, and encourage the Maori chiefs to keep order.

Busby settled with his wife and children in a house built at Waitangi from a wooden frame shipped over from Sydney. At this time there were around 1000 settlers in the Bay.

First British Governor
On 29 January 1840 Captain William Hobson arrived having been appointed the Lt Governor of New Zealand. His job was to make a treaty with the Maori chiefs. Busby's position as British Resident ceased, but he continued to assist Hobson and he also prepared the English draft of the Treaty of Waitangi for Hobson's consideration.

The Treaty of Waitangi
The Treaty was signed on February 6, 1840, outside the home of James Busby by forty six Maori chiefs and later over 450 Maori leaders around the country added their mark to the agreement.

The Treaty House
Busby's house, now known as the Treaty House is open to the public daily. In 1844, only four years later, Hone Heke, together with another chief Kawiti, showed their displeasure by chopping down the British flagstaff at Maiki Hill in Russell. Skirmishes between the Maori and Europeans have continued in various forms. Today the Government is currently working on the settlement of land claims and fishing rights which have been disputed since the original Treaty.

Places to Visit and Tours
Paihia is the main centre for tourists to the Bay. There is an abundance of accommodation to suit all tastes and the Tourist Information Centre on the Waterfront has details of tours and cruises available.

Exploring places full of history
Waitangi National Reserve

Just a few kilometres north of the town is the historic Waitangi National Reserve. If you are interested in history, this is the ideal place to visit. Start your tour at the Visitor Centre where you can view a video outlining the events surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Treaty House
The Treaty House.

You can then walk around the extensive grounds visiting the Treaty House, the Maori Meeting House and the Maori War Canoe.

The Maori Meeting House
The Maori Meeting House.

The Treaty House, one of New Zealand's oldest surviving buildings, fell into disrepair after the Busby family left in the 1870s. It was not until 1932, when Lord Bledisloe bought the house and grounds and gifted it to the nation, that it was restored and rebuilt to its present standard.

If you have time you can take a stroll around the reserve which includes recreational areas, tidal estuary, mangrove forest, open coastline and native bush. It's a most enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

Another enjoyable day can be spent at Russell. Since the early 1900s Russell has become a quiet historic town- its earlier reputation forgotten. Today it has a population of around 1000 people who are mainly employed in the tourist industry, fishing, oyster farming or cottage crafts.

Ferries leave from Paihia every hour in the winter months (more frequently in summer) and the trip over takes around fifteen minutes. There are a number of things to do and places to visit.

If you are not keen on walking why not take a minibus tour which leaves from the Russell Wharf and visits some of the places more difficult to visit on foot - Maiki Hill where the flagstaff was cut down four timesby Honi Heke is a bit of a climb if you are short of puff !!

For those who like to do their own thing first visit the Visitors Centre along the waterfront. It is also the headquarters of the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park which looks after more than 50 reserves in the area. The building was previously the site of Russell's post office and courthouse from 1875-1969. At the centre pick up a leaflet on local heritage trails and then you can work out what you want to visit and how to get there.

Don't forget to see Christ Church - the oldest existing church in New Zealand, built in 1836 and still showing some of the old musket ball holes from the early wars.

Christ Church, Russell, built in 1836, the oldest existing church in New
Christ Church, Russell, built in 1836, the oldest existing church in New Zealand.

Pompallier House is just further along from the information centre. Built in 1942, it was used as a printery of the Roman Catholic Mission and later a tannery and private home.

For lunch, why not pop into the Duke of Marlborough also on the waterfront. This is the fourth hotel on the same site (earlier ones were burnt down) It holds New Zealand's number 1 licence dated August 1827. They serve wonderful fish meals so fresh and tasty - it just melts in your mouth!

The old Stone Store 1836 built 
		next to Kemp House
The old Stone Store 1836 built next to Kemp House The church in the background is St James Church (1878) built on the site of the original church erected by the first missionaries.
The Stone Store

Kerikeri is about 20 kilometres from Pahia by road. If you haven't got your own transport a local company offers half day coach tours. The morning tour visits the Stone Store which, apart from a few short periods, has been operating for over 150 years. The Stone Store was completed in 1836 and replaced a former wooden store. It was opened and operated by the missionaries and sent goods and rations to other far flung stations throughout the North Island. It has just been undergoing extensive renovations and is due to re-open in November this year (1998).

Kemp House and Maori village
Next door to the store is Kemp House built for the Rev. John Butler in 1822 after the Rev. Samuel Marsden established his second mission station in Kerikeri in 1819. The tour also takes you to a reconstructed Maori village and the Waitangi Treaty House. In the afternoon you are taken to many of the craft workshops in the area - lots of good ideas for presents and souvenirs of good quality.

Outdoor activities
The Bay of Islands is the finest Maritime Park in New Zealand with 144 islands, secluded bays and an abundance of marine life. There is much to offer visitors all the year round. From sailing, fishing, snorkelling, swimming to golfing walking, eating out - it's all there.

Swim with the dolphins
Why not take a swim with the dolphins ? This is the ultimate marine mammal experience. You are taken out by fast catamaran which has been purpose built for dolphin and whale watching.

Underwater cameras provide unique viewing of the marine life which is displayed on a large T.V. monitor. Wet suits, snorkels and fins are supplied when and if you are ready to get into the water - and when you return you can hop into a hot shower !! The trip takes around four hours and leaves twice daily in summer and morning only in winter. It could be your experience of a lifetime!!

The Cream Trip
For those of us who are not so adventurous a leisurely cruise could be a good alternative. The Cream Trip meanders in and out of many of the smaller bays, calling on locals and delivering their stores and Royal Mail as it has done for over 100 years. The trip passes many different points of historical interest relating to both early European and Maori settlement. You may also see seals, dolphins and sometimes whales, as well as bird and fish life. The trip takes about five hours and I can personally recommend it, especially as this is one of the few official Royal Mail runs by boat left in New Zealand.

A choice of ways to get there
Air New Zealand operates flights to the Bay of Islands daily with connecting flights from all other major centres. If you prefer to take a coach tour many operators have tours of different lengths to many different places - just make sure you choose one that includes the Bay of Islands. Some operators have one, two or three day tours from Auckland just to the area. You can also take an express coach from Auckland - the Northliner or Intercity and do your own thing when you arrive. If you don't mind driving why not hire a car or campervan? The Bay of Islands is only three hours drive north from Auckland and then you will have your own transport for getting around.

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