Destination Discovery: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
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Destination Discovery: Bay of Islands, New Zealand

In 1840, The Waitangi Treaty was signed between the British and the Maori in New Zealand's Bay of Islands.

The northern coast of New Zealand’s North Island is a popular fishing, sailing and tourist destination. It is also home to The Bay of Islands, one of New Zealand’s most historic sites.   

Captain Cook sailed the HMS Endeavour into the Bay of Islands in 1769. Eventually a British Colony was established here, where Maori tribes had previously cleared the land.    

The Bay of Islands contains more than 140 small islands and crags.  

A Historic Treaty  

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds overlook the Bay of Islands.   

Here, on February 6, 1840, The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between the Maori Chiefs and British Crown.  

Today the Treaty Grounds are part of a 1000-acre Waitangi National Trust estate, which was gifted to New Zealand by Lord and Lady Bledisloe in 1932.  

An Ideal Place to Visit by Cruise Ship  

Holland America's Volendam is anchored in the Bay of Islands near the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

 The Waitangi Treaty grounds are about a three hour drive by car from Auckland.  The Bay of Islands is also reached by cruise ship.  We visited in late January via Holland America Line’s ms Volendam on a 14-Day New Zealand Discovery cruise.      

A Hike along the Coast   

The ship anchored in the Bay of Islands between Paihia and Russell, with the ships’ tenders  delivering guests to the central Waitangi pier.  From here, we walked to the Treaty Grounds, and followed a Coast Trail near the water for a spectacular view of the bay.   

The Waitangi Treaty grounds have a resort hotel and a golf course, among other amenities. The Waitangi National Trust estate is also home to an 18-hole Golf Course, Waitangi Bowling Club and Bay of Islands Yacht Club.   

After our coastal hike, we took a bus into the nearest town, Paihia (pronounced pie hee uh).  Paihia was established in 1823 by Reverend Henry Williams.  Today it is home to tourist shops, restaurants and hotels.   

A Ferry Ride to Russell   

From Paihia, we took the public ferry to Russell (on busy days, a number of vessels become public ferries); ours was called “The Happy Ferry”.   


With its beautiful harbor and white picket fences, it’s hard to imagine Russell’s violent past.    

Rum and women were top priority for visiting sailors, who had often spent months at sea. Fights, abduction, murder and no law enforcement made it a fearful place. It’s reputation strengthened by such names as “The devil’s playground” and “The Hell Hole of the Pacific”.     

 A Sense of Humor in Russell   

One of Russell’s famous landmarks is the Christ Church, New Zealand’s oldest church.  The tombstones in the cemetery convey some of the difficult history.   

Walking around Russell, we could see that the locals do not take themselves too seriously, by the sign posted on another local church.     

The Best Fish & Chips   

After tendering, hiking and a ferry ride followed by a walk around Russell, we were hungry.   

 We found a place called, “The Pub”.  Or perhaps,  its official name is  like the sign, “The Pub, ’round the corner”?  We are not sure.   

 What we do know it that The Pub has fabulous fish and chips, served with a fresh salad and a large selection of New Zealand beers.  

 Having tested many fish & chips in a variety of  British Empire outposts, Mr. Jones pronounced, “These are the best fish & chips I’ve ever eaten.”  

Of course, we might have just been really hungry.  Or under a “spell” from Russell’s charm.  

You’ll have to check out the Pub “˜round the corner, and let us know what you think.   

We enjoy discovering new places, especially those with friendly locals and good pubs.    

What’s your favorite destination discovery? Please share in comments. 


Enjoying the coastal trail at the Waitangi Treaty grounds.



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  • Jo June 5, 2012, 4:05 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Bay of Islands. Russell is definitely a favourite place of mine – it’s home.
    For more photos & stories of the Bay of Islands:

  • Janis June 5, 2012, 10:50 am

    Jo, thanks for your comment. You have beautiful photos on your website and you are lucky to live in such a wonderful place in the world.

  • Villa in Sant Josep De Sa Talaia July 25, 2012, 2:45 am

    Amazing destination.. New Zealand is a beautiful destination for vacations. I am planning to explore New Zealand with my family. I am very excited about this trip. Thanks.. 🙂