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           Home >  Regions  > Northland  :

Highlights north of Auckland - Part 1 - Auckland to Paihia
an interview with Roger Murdoch

Dorothy -- 10/09/2007

When asked what aspects of North Auckland made him recommend the area to the Russley Probus club, the organiser, Roger Murdoch, found many reasons for his choice based on a reconnaissance tour with his wife Mary. The beautiful scenery, especially the long indented coastline with many inviting little bays and beaches, added to the pleasure of travelling and stopovers. The benign climate makes travel in the area pleasant for much of the year. The area has been described as the cradle of New Zealand's early settlement, and is full of historic sites and interesting museums. I strongly recommend visiting the Treaty House at Waitangi, Pompallier House, Christ Church and the Museum at Russell, the Mission House at Waimate North, Mission (Kemp) House and Stone Store at Kerikeri, and Cape Reinga, a place of cultural importance to Maori. Kauri and kauri gum are really important in the history and crafts of the west coast. We included visits to a number of small places and found the people friendly and welcoming. Those interested in art and craft - woodwork, pottery and painting - will find plenty of interest at the Matakohe Kauri Museum, and at Matakana, Kerikeri, Omapere and Doubtless Bay.

Roger and Mary Murdoch in the foreground

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How many days were booked in the Probus trip?
The 12-day tour itself was planned around stopovers at Orewa (2 nights) and Paihia, Taipa and Omapere (3 nights each). Thus, we were able to move through Northland at a rather leisurely pace, catching many of the off-the-beaten-track highlights.

Could you give us an outline of the programme and the highlights?

Saturday, 1 April
The programme included travel to Orewa and time to explore its lovely beach, boutique shops and supermarkets.

Sunday, 2 April
Weather conditions caused cancellation of the Tiritiri Matangi visit

We planned to travel by coach to Gulf Harbour on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and take Kawau Kat Cruises'launch for the 30 minute trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island Sanctuary. Guides from the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi were to lead our walk.

The only real disappointment of the whole tour was that the day on Tiritiri Matangi Island Sanctuary was cancelled because of adverse weather conditions. We had been looking forward so much to meeting Barbara and Ray Walter, the island's rangers, the Friends of Tiritiri guides, and of course the rare fauna, but these remain for some future visit.

The trip to the island is not often cancelled so I do recommend tourists to include a visit to the island in their itinerary. The launch departs at 9.20am and the return trip leaves the island at 3.30pm. The island has limited facilities and shelter, but does have a small gift shop. No food is available (although tea/coffee will be supplied), so visitors need to take across their own lunch and refreshments for the day.

How did you fill the gap in the programme caused by the cancellation of the trip to the island?
The compensation for the Tiritiri cancellation was that it enabled us to spend more time in the lovely village of Puhoi, meeting Jenny Schollum, resplendent in Bohemian costume, Norm the local yarn spinner, locals in the iconic old pub, and folk at the beautifully sited Art of Cheese caf¨¦ and shop. We also had a more leisurely time in the Matakana area, visiting the popular Morris and James pottery, and taking a little time out in the delightful village of Warkworth.

Jenny Schollum in Bohemian costume

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On our return to Orewa we were impressed by the variety of places where we could eat our evening meal ranging from Muldoon's Irish Bar to excellent fish 'n chips from Kippers. There is a good selection of ethnic restaurants in the village, including Japanese, Moroccan, Thai, Chinese and Indian.

Monday, 3 April
We travelled to Warkworth and the fast-growing Matakana area, with its booming wineries, caf¨¦s, plant nurseries and craft activities. There was just time for a brief visit to the small settlement of Waipu founded by Scottish immigrants who had earlier tried life in Nova Scotia and Australia.

There was plenty of choice for lunch in Whangarei in the Town Basin caf¨¦/shopping precinct and there was time for a visit to the well-known Clapham's Clock Museum. This collection which is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere has over 1200 clocks on display.

Whangarei town basin

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In the middle of the afternoon we boarded the coach and went on to Paihia where we had booked accommodation for three nights. On the way we called in Kawakawa which has become a popular stopping place since the opening in 1998 of the famous Hundertwasser toilets - an inspired choice by the tourism promoters in the town.

Hundertwasser toilets

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Which of the well-known tourist activities were on your programme in Paihia?
We did the "tourist" things, such as the iconic Cream Trip in the Bay of Islands, a morning at the wonderful Waitangi Treaty House, and a visit to Russell.

Tuesday, 4 April
This was a day of visits to historic sites.

We travelled by coach to adjacent Waitangi to spend the morning on a leisurely walk around the Treaty House, the beautiful carved meeting house, the waka (Maori canoe), the museum and the grounds.

The Treaty House was largely prefabricated in Australia and constructed in 1833 to be the home for James Busby who was the British official in the Bay of Islands. Many local Maori chiefs came here on 6 February 1940 to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Treaty House is the centre for the Waitangi Day celebrations on 6 February each year.

The Treaty House

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The carved interior of the meeting house at Waitangi

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The waka

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In the afternoon we took the ferry across to Russell to visit Christ Church, Pompallier House and the Museum in this lovely cradle of New Zealand settlement.

An optional 60-minute minibus tour with a commentary is available, visiting places of historic interest and Flagstaff Hill.

This early settlement was originally known as Kororareka and had a bad reputation for lawlessness - 'the hell hole of the Pacific'. From 1833 there were attempts to impose British law, and finally in 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. Following the signing of the Treaty Lieutenant Governor William Hobson bought land close to Koror reka to establish the colony's first capital. It was called Russell after the British Prime Minister of the time. The capital was moved south to Auckland in 1841, and Koror reka was renamed Russell.

Hone Heke and the flagstaff
Hone Heke was one of the most influential chiefs and was the first to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. However he became unhappy with British authority when his revenue from the whaling ships was being diverted to the Crown and that his land sales were overseen by the Government Commission. In 1844, he led opposition to British rule by chopping down their flagpole, the most significant symbol of authority. Despite new poles and more guards, Hone Heke chopped the pole down three more times! In 1845 he and his men attacked and captured the town.

If you do the half hour walk up Flagstaff Hill you will find a modern flagpole, but more importantly you will be rewarded by a magnificent view.

Christ Church
This Anglican church was built in 1836 and is the oldest church in New Zealand. Two famous people contributed to the building fund - Samuel Marsden, the first missionary to come to New Zealand in 1814, and Charles Darwin who came ashore when the Beagle anchored in the Bay of Islands in 1835.

The church was damaged when Russell was sacked in 1845 and bullet and cannonball holes can still be seen in the woodwork.

Christ Church at Russell

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Pompallier House
This was originally built in 1841-2 as part of an extensive mission complex set up in 1838 by Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier, the first Roman Catholic bishop in the Pacific. It was built of clay and ash and was the printery where Catholic texts were printed in Maori. After Russell was sacked in 1845 the mission moved to Auckland.

Bishop Pompallier

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The printery is the only surviving building and was restored to its original French Lyonnaise style in the 1990s. It is the only building of its type in the country.

Pompallier House

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Wednesday, 5 April
At 10.00am we left on the Fullers' all day Cream Trip Supercruise out to Cape Brett. The boat is a comfortable, air-conditioned catamaran, which follows the original cream trip, and includes the famous Hole in the Rock and an extended visit to Urupukapuka Island. We either took our own lunch or bought lunch on the island.

The Hole in the Rock

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Photos for this article were supplied by three members of the tour party - Ted Pryor, Roy Service and Frank Thomas.

Part 2 and Part 3 of this interview will cover the rest of the Northland trip.

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