We set out north of Auckland for a three hour road trip to the Bay of Islands. This is a coastal region in the northern tip of New Zealand. We stopped for a lunch break by pulling off the side of the road to utilize our French Market groceries. We made peanut butter and plum jam sandwiches on fresh sourdough bread with a side of peaches.
Bellies full, we set back out on our route. Driving through New Zealand is one spectacular view after another full of green rolling hills, cow pastures, sheeps, and water views. An interesting note, public restrooms are very easy to come across and very clean. They even have signage like street signs that say toilets!
We arrived in Pahia town which is bustling with tourists. It has a laid back beach vibe a a nice assortment of coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and hostels. The beach in town is not the nicest but it is a great jumping off point if you have a car.
We checked into the Haka Lodge which is one of the nicer hostels we have stayed in, mainly because of the common area. The common room and kitchen are huge with views overlooking the bay. We couldn’t get a private room so we did a 4 bunk share. The downside to this hostel is that the rooms are tiny, luckily we spent very little time in there.
The receptionists at the lodge were very helpful and understood our desire to have a local experience during our stay. That evening, per their direction, we took a 45 min walk along the beach and through the golf course that lead us to a bench overlooking the bay. Naturally, the large grassy knoll begged us to play on it.
That evening, we avoided the main strip and had dinner at Al Frescos. We split the seafood chowder and both thought it was the best chowder either of us had ever had. The dinners were less impressive but overall it was a nice night out!
We had one full day to spend in the Bay of Islands. They offer a variety of options to experience the islands via boat, plane, and helicopter excursions but we opted out of doing any of them. We personally thought the sailboating option to the Hole in the Rock sounded amazing but in our 5 month journey ahead we just didn’t think this was a location and attraction to splurge on.
Instead, we used our full day in town to hike to Rainbow Falls, followed by relaxing at a local beach. The hike and beach were about 30 mins from Pahia town so you need a car. The hike took about two hours and is a beginner level walk. Unfortunately, the water was too cold for us wimps, so we didn’t go in.
The most idyllic cafe is at the base of this hike which is so beautifully landscaped. We popped in for an ice cream cone.
The beach at Matauri Bay was wonderful. The water was crisp but refreshing because the New Zealnd sun is strong! We had 50 sunblock on and Liz still got sun rash. Word to the wise, be generous and reapply! We made peanut butter and jam sandwiches for our beach picnic and relaxed for a few hours. The setting has a Northern California feel to it, the beach was turquoise and clear and behind us were forest trees and rolling hills.
We picked up a bottle of wine at the corner liquor store and headed back to our hostel. We sat in the common kitchen, overlooking the bay and enjoyed our bottle of wine while we blogged and caught up on life connected to wifi. Our appetites got the best of us so we quickly went below the hostel to pick up kebabs that were reccomended.
The kebab pita was filling and delicious except it was too spicy for Liz’s taste buds. The empathetic owner gave her a scoop of ice cream afterwards to ease the pain!
Liz was pretty pumped to get two ice creams in one day!
The next morning, we went to the Maori Treaty Grounds Museum. It’s $40 NZD but had rave reviews on Trip Advisor. The museum is worth the price if you like cultural history, but we suggest skipping the guided tour.
Maori (pronounced Mari) are the indigenous people of New Zealand, Polynesians who migrated from Asia circa 1350. This museum tours the treaty grounds, explains the settlement history, and how European explorers first discovered the Maori people. There was some turmoil between the French explorers so the Maori people ultimately allied with the English. The Maori signed a treaty with them on the very grounds of that museum to become a sovereign nation.
It was time to back on the right side of the car and drive to the Coromandel Penninsula.