Bay of Islands
One of the country's most popular destinations, the Bay of Islands is an archipelago of more than 140 captivating and unique islands; among the most dramatic is Motu Kōkako or Piercy Island, through whose “hole in the rock” small ships can actually pass. The Bay of Islands is also where European settlers first arrived and where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, marking the birth of New Zealand both as a nation and as a British colony.
By Erin Levi
Below the Surface
In 1985, French intelligence agents bombed and sank the Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace’s flagship vessel, in the Auckland harbor. Today the shipwreck lives in Matauri Bay north of the Bay of Islands and is home to a diverse set of subtropical marine species. Not far is a dive spot that Jacques Cousteau rated among the top 10 in the world—the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve. With crystal clear 70-degree waters, huge schools of fish, colorful plant life, and the world’s largest sea cave, it’s an exciting place to get your PADI scuba certificate. Diving in New Zealand is not just recreational; it’s often the way locals catch their kaimoana (seafood) such as crayfish and sea urchin. If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited to dinner.
By Guy Needham, AFAR Local Expert
Visiting Cape Reinga - which means 'underworld' in the native Mauri language - is the most northern point of New Zealand and is where Mauri people believed the spirit of the dead departed into the underworld.
The Bay of Islands is reported to have the second bluest sky in the world (Rio De Janeiro being the first) and I believe it! It is a sailing mecca, where "Yachties" from Aukland house their vessels. It has a rich Mauri history and marks the place where Europeans first settled. Organic produce is available in the town of Keri Keri at Organic Gourmet, which is owned by New York transplants, Vito and Madelaine. Or settle on fishing for your own mussels - delicious! Don't forget to hug Tane Mahuta - the largest Kauri tree standing today. Men made ships out of these trees because of the sizeable volume, not height. They are known to be the most ancient of trees, dating back to the jurassic period.