There are not many place left in the world these days where you can board a steam train AND go down the main street of the town. Not only that, this town's main street is also State Highway 1!
The Kawakawa trains run every day of school holidays and public holidays and the weekends for the rest of the year.
These trains are also the fore runner of the Cream Trip in the Bay of Islands. Originally cream was collected from the islands and taken to the port of Opua where is was loaded onto the trains and taken to be processed.
In the 1970's the trains would meet the cruise trips at the Opua wharf and take them to Kawakawa.
Ultimately the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway is working at getting the line restored all the way back to the Port of Opua in the Bay of Islands.
They have a steam train called Gabriel and a Diesel train called Fredrick. Check out the website for the schedule to see what train will be running on what day.
So what are you waiting for!?! All Aboard!
View a video of the train going down main street
When visiting the Bay of Islands area we had to make at least one cruise to see at least a couple of the 144 islands. We decided to make the "Cape Brett Hole-in-the-Rock Cruise" with Fullers, leaving in the morning from Paihia for a halfday cruise.
Fullers vessel is a nice catamaran, but if you want to sit outside on the deck be sure to board early. We made a stop in Russell before leaving to the Bay. The journey continues along beautiful bays and islands, surrounded by crystal clear sea. Some of them are inhabited; must be like a fairy tale to live here. But it is also exiting to see the 'fight' between sun and clouds in the middle of these amazing scenery.
We didn't see the 'promised' dolphins, just a Gannet colony on Bird Rock.
Motukokako Island is the island with the hole in the rock. Although the waves were pretty high the skipper succeeded to manoeuvre his 'huge' boat through the 'small' hole. Further on we met schools of fishes, among them blue coloured ones (maomao fish ??). On the other side of the island we also entered a sea cave.
On the way back there is a long stop on an island called Urupukapuka. Here you can make a (extra) trip with a kind of submarine. We decide to have a lunch in the café on the island and to walk around and to enjoy the lovely scenery.
To be honest: we found this stop a kind of a tourist trap. It takes too much time, the coffee was bad and expensive.
The most famous kauri’s of New Zealand can be found in the Waipoua Forest Park (see tip about Tane Mahuta), but there are a lot of alternative walks to see these impressive trees.
One of the most easiest accessible walks is the so called Manginangina Kauri Walk in the Puketi Forest. The forest can be reached from the Bay of Islands through an unsealed road from Waipapa along SH 10.
The loop track starts at a small car park Waiare Road, just north of the Puketi recreation Area. It is a 350 metres long loop track on a boardwalk (will take about 15 minutes), which shows a lot of mature kauri’s and other native trees.
Russell was once the capital of New Zealand.
Nowadays a quiet nice historical town, situated just ten minutes by ferry from Paihia. It has some old buildings and a couple of nice museums. Russell Museum (former Captain Cook Memorial Museum), Clendon Cottage, Christ Church (oldest church of New Zealand) and Pompallier House built by French missionaries for printing works, nowadays it is in its original state and you can see how printing was done in the old days.
Russell is starting point for boat tours and dolphin watching/swimming.
On 'the other side of the hill' is Long Beach for swimming. On the way to this beach some stunning views over the peninsula and the Bay of Islands.
From Flagstaff Hill you will have a great view over some of the 150 islands of the Bay of Islands.
But perhaps nicest thing to do is just stroll around along the Strand with old pohutukawa’s or having a tea or coffee in one of the outdoor café’s.
Urupukapuka Island is a great place to relax after a morning of Dolphin watching. Arriving at Otehei Bay the white sand and blue water meets you. You just want to jump off the wharf into the sea for a swim.
Urupukapuka Island is reasonably small and has many walking routes to follow all offering spectacular coastal scenery.
If you feel the need to be more adventurous then find a small beach with no visible access. Find a rough path and bush crash your way down a steep incline, through someones tent ground and on to a beach.
Or stay at Otehei Bay and enjoy a cold beer on the beach.
Walk around on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and see all the historical objects with your own eyes.
It is surrounded by nice gardens. Enjoy the view from the lawns over the Bay of Islands.
The Waitangi Visitor Centre has a café and a shop with some very interesting and unique souvenirs.
The Treaty House was home of James Busby, first British resident of New Zealand.
It is one of the oldest buildings in the country.
Nowadays it is a little museum where you can find out facts about the Treaty.
The Bay of Islands is a beautiful island studded harbour formed from drowned river valleys. Paihia is the main town for tourists, though Kerikeri is actually the commercial centre. Russell is an historic town that used to be the capital of New Zealand. Waitangi is where modern New Zealand was born and is mostly a historical reserve. You can read more about the Bay of Islands in my pages devoted to that place as well as my Russell and Paihia pages. I had a holiday with IcemanNZL and some other friends up there in Jan 2004, so check IcemanNZL's pages too for more info. My last holiday there was January 2006.
The Bay of Islands is now a centre for big game fishing, having been made famous by American writer Zane Grey who fished here.
It is now also a centre for cruises of the area, which is the site of some of the earliest Europen settlements. There is also a lot of Maori history in the area.
Haruru Falls is the site of an ancient maori canoe landing site on the Waitangi River.
Here the river cascades over the lold ava flows.
Ther is a bushwalk nearby and a walk to the Waitangi treaty house
The Bay of Islands enjoys a sub-tropical climate. Much of the Bay’s hundreds of miles of coastline remain unspoiled, an aquatic paradise, a truly amazing playground teeming with wildlife and natural wonders.
The area is rich in history, being favoured for pre-European Maori settlement, the site of some of New Zealand’s earliest European settlement and of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of our modern nation.
Activities and attractions galore. Boat trips, dive trips, fishing trips, historically and culturally significant, check out the first Capital of NZ or just spend time lazing on one of the many beautiful beaches.
It is possible to take a cruise of the Bay of Islands from Paihia.
The one we took navigated through the turbulent waters of the hole in the rock pictured here.
No room for error on this one!!
Paihia was the site of New Zealnd's first church which was built from reeds. Its stone rplacement, the church of St Paul is still used for worship to this day.
Paihia was an early missionary centre.
it is now well known as a holiday town, and perhaps as the capital of the Bay of Islands. Ther is also lots of fishing in the area.
Ngatokimatawhaorua: the Maori war canoe has been made out of three kauri trees and is 35 metres long. The canoe can accommodate 120 warriors.