Towns in the Bay of Islands


Last Updated on May 14, 2021 by Amy

This post is about the towns on the mainland that we visited around the Bay of Islands.  Check out our post about the islands in the Bay of Islands that we visited!


After leaving Moturua Island, we followed Kyle and Shelley on Blowin Bubbles (or did they follow us?) over to Kerikeri.  The wind was calm, but using our genoa gave us another knot around the Black Rocks, a volcanic rock formation here in the Bay of Islands.

We had a boat project to be done in Kerikeri, and spent most of the day exploring.  We anchored in Opito Bay, just east of the Kerikeri Cruising Club.  There are many moorings in the bay, so we really anchored out in the open, but the holding was good.  Traffic was ok – we were waked a few times, but not too bad.  It is quite a way into Kerikeri itself from the KCC, so we had some logistics to figure out.  Our project was getting the ripped strap on our dinghy fixed, and Tim from Northland Sea Safety was able to meet us at the Kerikeri Cruising Club with a trailer to haul Little Dipper out and get her to his shop in Kerikeri.  Thankfully, he also offered us a ride into town!

Tim dropped us off at the Stone Store in Kerikeri.  We waited about 10 minutes for Kyle and Shelley to motor up from the anchorage.  While it’s possible to get Starry Horizons up into Kerikeri (we think) we opted to leave her in the wide open space of Opito Bay.  Also, we could have driven LD into Kerikeri but then we would have had to figure out some way to lift the engine off and lift her UP the dock ramp and onto the trailer – no thank you!

The Stone Store is the start of the Kerikeri River Walk, which takes about an hour and follows the Kerikeri River up passed Wharepoke Falls, an old hydro-electric station, and up to Rainbow Falls.

The Stone Store.
Cute little cafe next to the Stone Store.
The grounds have beautiful flower gardens.
The first step in the walk is over the pedestrian bridge.
Wharepoke Falls.
Lots of fungi to play with.
Moss and lichen abound – it’s very damp.
Tiny red mushrooms.
The typical New Zealand fern.
David and Kyle among the trees.
Shelley at Rainbow Falls.
This little guy was pretty brave, considering the DOC classifies rabbits as a pest for eradication.
The Kerikeri River.

From the falls, it’s fastest to walk back along the trail for about 30 minutes until you see the overpass and take that up and into town.  A short 15 minute walk away is the Cobleston Mall, where there are several good restaurants.  We sat outside and ordered a well-deserved lunch – Kyle and Shelley ordered from the Thai place and David and I had Indian.

A quick stop to New World got us ice cream bars (yay!) and then Little Dipper was ready to go.  Tim picked us up at the New World and delivered us back to KCC.

It was the best kind of day – spending it with friends, getting out and physical, AND getting a project taken care of!

We were glad to have spent the time outside because the next day, Tuesday, April 4th, the remnants of Cyclone Debbie washed over New Zealand and we had an entire day of a heavy downpour.  Fortunately, the holding in Opito Bay is very good, and while we moved around the anchor a lot, we were anchored so far out we had tons of room.


Wednesday we and BB picked up anchor and headed to the Bay of Islands Marina in Opua.  We were both eyeing the weather forecast and it looked like there might be a window to head north starting Friday.  We got our paperwork filed with Customs; four pages filled out and filed.  Now when we are ready it’s just a phone call and a hypothetically quick visit with a customs agent.

The window disappeared though…there was still a lot of tropical activity in the South Pacific to track.  We ended up spending three nights in the marina.  As you may remember from our posts in November, there’s not much in Opua.  It’s a huge marina, and there are several marine shops – everything from canvas to outboards to a general chandlery.  David got some more boat projects done and I got 4 loads of laundry washed!  There is also a car here for cruisers to borrow, so with Shelley and Laurie (from S/V Moonraker), I went into Paihia for groceries.  On Friday I woke up not feeling super great.  I had a bit of a sore throat.  It was, though, the perfect opportunity to sit quietly and read two books BB lent me – An Embarrassment of Mangoes and The Spice Necklace.  They are both lovely books by cruisers, writing about their time in the Caribbean meeting local people and eating locals foods.

A calm night in the marina. This time of night (10 pm) is called the Blue Hour!


To get out of the marina (for the sake of our wallet), we moved on Saturday to Paihai.  The holding is good but it is not a protected anchorage.  We roll less than monohulls, so we just decided to tolerate the swells instead of having to move later.  We wanted to be near Waitangi Treaty Grounds to get some native culture!  In retrospect, it’s better to anchor west of Motumaire Island (-35.274608, 174.090903).

Sunday evening we attended the Waitangi Treaty Grounds Hangi and Concert.  We took Little Dipper the one NM over to Waitangi and tied up to the public dock.  I don’t think we were supposed to leave the boat unattended, but we tucked it away to the side and didn’t get in trouble (that we know of!).  From there, it’s just a 15-minute walk.  We arrived at 4 pm which gave us about an hour to tour the museum.  We could have used more time!  The museum focused strictly on relationships between the Maori and foreigners.  We’d already learned a lot at the Te Papa museum in Wellington and the Auckland Museum.

After the museum closed, we were able to walk the grounds.  Our favorite part was the waka, or canoe, named Ngatokimatawhaorua.  Don’t even ask me how to pronounce that.  I’m giving her a nickname – Ngato.

Ngato was built in 1940 to celebrate the centennial of the Waitangi Treaty signing.  She is the largest ceremonial war canoe in the world, and can hold up to 150 people!

There are two buildings on site, the Treaty House and the Carved Meeting House.  The Treaty House was the official residence of the British representative, where the treaty was signed.  The Carved Meeting House was also built for the centennial.  There’s an obvious dichotomy between the European Treaty House and the Maori Carved Meeting House.

A flower from the Treaty House.

At 5:45 pm we made our way to the Whare Waka Cafe, where dinner was to be served.  Tickets include one drink per person, so we settled into the very nice patio with ciders.  Just off the patio is the hangi oven.  The hangi is an underground oven, much like a lovo from Fiji or the luau from Hawaii.  Of course, today’s oven is modernized!

When our evening started up, we received an introduction to the hangi.  The food was pulled out for us to look at, and then place back to keep warm while we had our concert.  The show part of the evening was situated as if we were a Maori tribe coming to visit another tribe.  Maori warriors met us in the woods, and there was much posturing and fearsome posing before we were allowed to pass each of the three gateways.

The Maori traditions are pretty intimidating.  The Maori moves and facial expressions are full of energy.  The Maori channel the war god, and many of their expressions are emphasizing the whites of their eyes and their teeth and tongues.  The women often widen their eyes and thrust out their chins to display their mokos (tattoos on their chins).  Like many Pacific island tattoos, the mokos tell the story of the ancestry of the tattooed person.

We were invited into the Carved Meeting House and a show was performed.  There were sparring matches and poi ball twirling.  The meeting house is a sacred place, and no videography is allowed, but we could take photos!

After the show we were able to meet with the performers outside of the meeting house, to ask questions and take pictures.  Then we went back to the cafe to have our hangi.  Although the meat was a little dry, the meal was really good – lamb, pork, chicken, watercress, kumara, fry bread, mussel salad, and more!  The mussel salad was my favorite – the mussels were perfectly cooked in a sweet juicy dressing.


After our evening at the treaty grounds, we moved over to Russell.  Russell is the original capital of New Zealand and has quite a bit of historic significance.  We anchored near BB again and went ashore to check out the town.  We were anchored off the Russell Boating Club and were able to use their dinghy dock for free.  The town is quaint, just two main streets, one on the beach with restaurants and one in the back with the museum and church.  The Christ Church is the oldest working church in New Zealand and has bullet holes in the facade – a casualty of the Battle of Kororāreka.

Shelley and I posing with giant black taro.
Christ Church.
A collection of totems, modern and traditional.
A giant Morton Bay Fig Tree, with Kyle and David for size.
A wood carving in front of the Russell Museum.
MMMmmm…smoked fish pie for lunch.

The next day Shelley and I took off for the Bay of Islands Loop Walk.  All of the photos are from Shelley.  We walked from the Boating Club to Okiato, which took about 3 hours cause we took a wrong turn!  Most of the trail was marshlands or forest.

In Okiato we met up with our friends from S/V Privateer, Lila and Chris, who had their baby Chance while in New Zealand.  They’ve been housesitting and the view from their place was gorgeous!

The view down over Opua.

From Okiato we took the ferry to Opua which costs only $1 for a pedestrian.  From Opua, we walked to Paihia, a walk that I had done before with Quixotic.    This walk is nicer (and has better signage).  The path goes from beach to beach, and you hike up and over the cliffs to get to the next beach.

In Paihia, we popped on the passenger ferry to Russell, which cost $6.  This is a much more touristy ferry.  And with a stop into Four Square for ice cream bars, we made it home 7 hours after we started!  We walked a total of 20 km.  It was a rough day but I felt very accomplished and the day wasn’t even over yet!

Our friends Marc and Ann from Three Sixty Blue and their guest Abby had arrived in the bay, so all seven of us got together for cocktails!

We had just sat through the remnants of Cyclone Debbie only to find another system approaching – the remnants of Cyclone Cook.  Fortunately, we had very good holding off of the Russell Boating Club, so we sat out two days of nasty weather.

Then the system passed, and low and behold we had our window to sail to Tonga!  We spent one night in the Opua Bay of Islands Marina and did all our last minute stuff to get ready to go, and Saturday morning we cleared out with officials and took off!

Watch the Video:  Our Last Adventures in New Zealand

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Disclaimer:  Some of the activities mentioned in this post were received free of charge or at a discounted rate.  We were psyched to have their support, but this post reflects our honest opinion on the activity.


  1. Your pictures of scenery and the minute pics of plants and the facial expressions depict your journey of varied experiences!

  2. We are so happy that you enjoyed your time in “N/Z’ and the Bay of Islands as you experienced is a great example of the “N/Z” hospitality found throughout both the North & South Islands! Now its Tonga, Fiji & New Caledonia’s turn to dazzle Starry Horizons & her motley crew. You won’t be disappointed!

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