Bay of Islands Road Trip
Who’s up for a road trip? I had the weekend off so Andrew and I decided to plan a trip to the Bay of Islands. The Bay of Islands is an area about 2-3 hours north of Auckland known for, you guessed it, islands. It’s a touristy locale with lots of beautiful beaches, some neat towns and a booming water sport industry. On a budget, our plan was to camp and check out the Paihia area on Saturday, then head on over to Russell across the bay. We found a third, an Australian who works with Andrew and is an avid camper, to join us and, last minute, picked up another Aussie who was happy to check out a bit more of the country where he lives and works.
All packed up and ready to go, we hit the highway and drove up north Saturday morning. We stopped a while down the road at the subtropical quarry gardens and I snapped a couple of beautiful and cool looking flowers. Of course, the best part of the gardens was the smell. It was just so sweet and pleasant. I wish we could do scratch and sniff on the computer!
Arriving in Paihia around lunchtime, we hit up Shippey’s, a highly recommended fish and chips place. I must say, meatiest, tastiest fish I’ve ever had! I had the hapuka (groper) and Andrew signed up for the bluenose. Both phenomenal!
The fish and chips shop was right next to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where back in 1840, a treaty was signed between the British Crown and the Maori people. A first step to cooperation amongst the two people. Of course, neither the Maori or the British stuck to the treaty and there have been many struggles between the two people since, it was the first in a long process towards diplomacy and co-existence on New Zealand.
Afterwards, we drove on up to the Fat Pig Vineyards to taste some wine. The Fat Pig Vineyard has a residential friendly pig, a pet I happen to be fond of, and also makes a port, something Andrew really enjoys. The vineyard made a fantastic pinot gris and we really enjoyed the stop, even picking up a bottle of port. On our way out, we decided to stop at another vineyard, because, well, why not? The area is and was known for their fruit and is an up and coming wine industry. We proceeded to Cottle Hill Winery where we sampled some wine grown by two Californians. They processed their own wine and the property was very reminiscent of a California ranch. We tried a white port, which was new to me, and the others sampled some grappas, liquor made from grapes as well. But why stop there? We also turned back and went to Marsden Estate. By far my favorite, they actually processed a lot of the grapes from the area for the other vineyards as well, including Fat Pig. Andrew, being the designated driver, kindly sipped a few of my wines which he had not tasted before but sat this one out. There were two reds, the Chambourin and Pinotage which we’d never tried before. I was a big fan of the Pinotage, a dry savory red and the Chambourcin was nice too. Fun wine fact of the day, Portugal patented port, so that a fortified bottle of wine could only be called port if it was made in a certain part of Portugal. Unfortunately, or fortunately for New Zealand, they did not list New Zealand as part of the patent, probably thinking including Australia covered both countries, so some savvy New Zealander took out a patent on it instead. Therefore, if you’re in the mood for a sweet port, you could hop on over to either Portugal or New Zealand.
All wined out, we headed back to Piahia and checked into the Beachside Holiday Park, a very nice campground right off the water. We’d booked earlier in the week and were fortunate enough to get sites one and two, set right on the water and a bit secluded from the rest of the grounds. We set up our tents, one for Andrew and me and the other for our friends and got settled in a bit. Andrew and I brought a tent, but one of the barriers for many of our friends is that most of our and their camping equipment is abroad at home. I happen to work in a camping store, so I was able to pick up a few extra things, but we’re still in need of a few things, like a sleeping mat. We really need a sleeping mat; priority number one before our next endeavor. Our friends borrowed a tent from a local kiwi this time, as most kiwi are fairly generous with their willingness to loan things out. The campground had kitchen and BBQ facilities, kayaks, decent showers and restrooms as well as free wifi. What more could you really ask for? Well, they also had an herb garden that you could help yourself too and about 10 recycling bins, which meant throwing away things took a few minutes to sort, but you felt better about it afterwards.
For dinner, we went back into downtown and dug into Jimmy Jacks Rib Shack. Originally based in Iowa, there isn’t a whole lot of traditional US BBQ in New Zealand and it was a nice change of pace. Andrew and I promptly got messy, while our friends used knives and forks. Silly kids. We wandered around some at the beach and went back the grounds for some intense card game playing and tucked in for the night early after a long day.