The first day of our real New Zealand adventure had finally arrived! Our Kiwi Experience tickets were ready for action and we were off. In case anybody is unaware, the Kiwi Experience is a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. You select where you would like to go, purchase your ticket and essentially have the freedom to go around and around New Zealand. If that is what your heart desires. The overall ‘experience’ was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, so for now I shall just share the basics!
Our first excursion took us up to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. Paihia is located near the top of the North Island, though you can go even further up and surf the sand dunes of Cape Reinga if that sort of thing takes your fancy. The Kiwi Experience does offer a Cape Reinga day trip but we decided to save our penny’s and thoroughly explore Paihia.
On our first day we walked to Haruru Falls, which actually means ‘big noise’. You can drive there from Paihia, or if you’re slightly moronic (as we were) you can follow the road signs by foot for a very unpleasant walk.
Fortunately, we found the actual walking track on the way back which was a very different, gorgeous journey! The route will take you along the river, under a canopy of trees and even over a raised boardwalk. It was simply stunning in the dappled sunlight and I would highly recommend it!
The falls themselves are pretty impressive and you can wander around the top of them – though I’m sure that UK Health & Safety regulations would frown upon it!
We definitely visited at the right time of year, as we spotted a traditional Maori Waka Boat and watched as the gentlemen on board trained for an upcoming festival.
The weather was still pretty good the following day so we decided to venture over to Russell… Despite having no idea what we might find! In order to get there, you have to catch the ferry, which is easy to find as the port is miniscule. The ferry departs every 10 minutes or so and is $12 return for an adult – pretty darn good if you ask me!
The journey is super quick, especially if you take the express ferry (which is still just $12). I can guarantee that once you hop off on the other side you won’t be disappointed. Russell is an incredibly picturesque, quaint little island. It was in fact the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand; and it holds a lot of history.
We wandered over to the town museum which is tiny but packed full of information and relics. They also have a really cute gift shop where we bought mini Kiwi birds for our relatives (obviously a must). Because of it’s size, the museum didn’t take long to walk around, but it’s worth a visit nonetheless.
Next, we went for a wander around the charming shops and houses, before circling back to walk along the water and take in the views. It’s tricky to describe how delightful Russell is, and far easier to show it – hence the many photos. With only around 800 residents, it’s a simple, quiet lifestyle that is filled with character and beauty.
To end a lovely day I would advise you do as we did: Pull up a chair out on the porch of New Zealand’s oldest licensed hotel, The Duke of Marlborough. Continue to admire the unspoilt views whilst you sip away on a glass of vino. Perfection.
If you’re heading over to the North Island I would definitely recommend spending a few days up in the Bay of Islands. It was our first real glimpse into the beauty that New Zealand is famous for. Though there was so much more to come, we found Russell to be totally unique.