It was the last week of September when it was time for me to start my first proper New Zealand Adventure to the North of the North Island. This area is also know as Northland Region and subregion Bay of Islands.
Once I have booked my hop-on-hop-of bus pass with Stray (Patch Pass) and my accommodation with Haka Lodge Paihia, (use this link for a discount on your next booking of any accommodation) I was ready to go.
Our journey started with an early pick up in Auckland and had first stop at Parry Kauri Park.
We have stopped here to observe the Kauri trees which are some of the oldest and largest trees in the world. Those trees are also inspiration behind the movies like Jurassic Park (insects trapped in tree juice) and Avatar (Maori believed that souls of the dead traveled through trees as a cleansing process).
We arrived in Paihia, which is a good base point when staying in the Bay of Islands, in the early afternoon hours.
After booking into a hostel, a group of people from the bus decided to catch a ferry to Russell - the first capital city of New Zealand.
Russell or Kororareka in Maori (which means Sweet Penguin and is rumored to get it's name because the local chief at the time thought penguins tasted deliciously) was the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand.
Kororareka developed quickly, but so did it's bad reputation due to no laws, prospering prostitution and excessive drinking of the residents - thus the name of Hell Hole of the Pacific.
Nowadays, Russell is regarded as small (only around 800 people live there (excluding tourists)) and romantic picturesque seaside town.
When going to Russell, there are four things you should not skip: Flagstaff Hill Walk, the first church in New Zealand, the oldest licensed pub in New Zealand, and ice cream on the beach.
Flagstaff Hill Walk takes approximately 30 minutes one way and it takes you to the top of the hill from where you have a beautiful view on the bay area.
Christ Church was opened in 1836 and is thus the oldest church in New Zealand. Musket ball holes can still be seen on the weatherboards as the church was caught in the crossfire in 1845.
Duke of Marlborough Hotel is New Zealand's first licensed hotel. When New Zealand became a colony in 1840, all hotels selling alcohol had to have a license. The first one was granted to the owner of the Duke and can to this day be seen inside the hotel.
After a hike and short sightseeing of the town we treated ourselves to some delicious Kapiti ice cream before we have caught a ferry back to the Paihia.
If you are looking for free wifi in Paihia - just make your way to the local library where you get free wifi outside of the library.
I have completed my first day in the North with a dinner at Sauce, which is a cozy pizza/pasta place where you can design your own pizza. And remember - just because you can it doesn't mean you should. I've learned the hard way. (Meaning, I wished I would order something more ordinary than what I did.)
The next day would take me to Cape Reinga which is the Northern est part of New Zealand accessible to public.
You can find more information about Russell on this official website.