Our time in New Zealand is fast coming to a close, but we had just enough time to spend a couple of days in Northland to view the Bay of Islands and discover the site of the Waitangi Treaty
We found a lovely private owned campsite at Sandspit about an hours drive through Auckland, it was perched right on the edge of the water and had great facilities and was a perfect introduction to the Northland bays and islands, including free kayaking. We also had a beautiful clear night, not so good for stargazing with a full moon, but good for moonrise pictures.
From here we headed to Goat Island just up the coast and were prepared for some snorkelling until the guide on our glass bottom boattrip informed us of the sea temperature (was a chilly and unseasonable 18 degrees) and the tendency of the snapper in the bay to have the occasional nibble at the ears and noses of divers. The boat trip is well worth the $25 trip fee as you are given an interesting inslight in th Goat Island Marine reserve management and inhabitants. We also managed to spot a small shark through the glass during our trip which was a hidden bonus.
You will find many Goat (and chicken and hen islands for that matter) Islands around New Zealand as they derive their names from the sailors of old who would drop off live meat on the islands to graze while they sailed along. They returned months later and picked it up on their way back ensuring they had fresh chewy meat for the journey home.
After a lunch stop of Mangawhai Heads admiring the views we headed further up the coast, a quick ride off the main highway and you are rewarded with one of the most spectacular beaches we have seen on this trip at Pakiri . The beach stretches for miles and as a result is nearly deserted. The sky was full of blooming white clouds that day and as they passed th sun you got some beautiful shade and sunspot effects on the white sandy beach.
From there we travelled up the coast to what would be our final DOC campsite of the journey at Whananaki North on Otamure Bay. This is a 27Km trek off the main highway but is well worth the trip. The site is quite large by DOC standards offering about 100 camping spots but you are right on the shoreline with a beautiful private beach to entice you with reasonably warm water (it is shallow and on a relatively secluded cove). We sat on the beach with just a few other campers and watched the sun go down behind us on a lovely warm night, a truly magical experience.
The weather was holding firm and we awoke next morning to bright sunshine and blue skies. We made the 27Km journey back inland and headed for Waitangi. Before we reached here we made a breakfast stop at Kawakawa a small township which serves as the gateway to the Bay of Islands. The other reason for the stop was to view the famous hundertwasser toilets. Now you never knew that a set of public toilets could be so interesting did you. Well these are designed by the famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser to give him his full name. An interesting charachter and these public toilets serve as the last building to be desidnegd by him before he left this mortal earth. The town has taken his design to heart and you will find murals and street art and sculpture dedicated to the theme. Well worth pee pee stop.
So then it was on to our most Northerly destination of our trip Waitangi. We would have loved to have continued further but time would not allow.