Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Campsite at Sandspit

Vivian Bay on Kawau Island

A view from the boat

Bon Accord Harbour; Kawau Island

First view of the Mansion House

The Mansion House

Matakari Falls

Anchor Bay

The trig in the distance

A view from the trig

Omaha Beach

Sylvia’s Comments

After a lively night in the pub, so lively that Jeff left his camera behind, we woke to mixed weather. You may have thought I was going to say we had sore heads! We walked around to the harbour, Jeff collected his camera and we booked our tickets for the Kawau mail boat run. This run, reputed to be the largest mail run by water in the Southern Hemisphere, goes out to the island on a daily basis. I am not sure on what they base this on, as it certainly was much shorter than the mail boat run we travelled on at Havelock. Jeff thought it was probably based on amount of mail carried on the boat in the high season.

After the mail run is completed passengers are left at the Mansion House for a look around the museum and grounds, returning on the 4.30pm boat. We were offered a choice of return sailing times of 1.30pm or 4.30pm, we asked for advice as to the better option and the captain of the boat informed us that at this time of the year the café is not open and it can start to get a bit cold from 3.30pm onwards. There are a number of nice walking tracks around the Mansion House, but as it was a mixed day we decided to heed their advice and return on the earlier boat.

Being the hardy souls we are we got up on to the upper deck, dried off a couple of seats and sat down ready for our sail. As our captain passed us on the way to the wheelhouse he suggested that when the rain starts we sit under the canopy at the rear of the wheel house to shelter. Good advice as we had hardly left the river area when the rain came down and we hot footed it across the deck for cover. Our first stop was at Vivian Bay close to the top of the island where the captain told us that a new pier had been built to service the twenty land sections that had been created, and selling at £800,000 each. One section had been sold and planning permission was being sought to build a house at a cost of £8,000,000 (no I have not made a mistake with the zeros). Quite a number of passengers departed the boat here and we watched as boxes of supplies were unloaded as well as plenty of luggage. It looked as if they were going to enjoy an away from it all holiday, perhaps it was a group of teachers as today is the start of the two week school holidays. During the winter only six families live in this bay but this number rises to 2,000 in the summer when all the homes are opened up.

At our next stop, North Cove, more passengers departed, along with another big supply of groceries. As the captain was watching the unloading process he shouted out “only staying for the night”. I made the comment that living out here on the island you would certainly get your value of the £5 delivery fee that Tesco charge when you shop on line. From here we sailed around to Bon Accord Harbour where several deliveries are made. This large harbour has two arms to it and the boat sailed around to the entrance of one of the arms, negotiating its way past many yachts and motor boats moored in the bay. Some of the deliveries have to go to a specially built pontoon as the mail boat is too large to get in. One delivery we made was six kegs of beer to the yacht club, so it could be a good night in there tonight. At the other side of the harbour is a large camp, gifted by a family for the children of NZ. School parties come here for the children to be taught water skills.

As we sailed into the Harbour we passed the smelting area for the copper mine that was on the island in 1884, later we would sail past the mine site itself, where over 200 miners and their families lived and worked ,to extract copper from under the sea. The mine was never profitable as the seams had to go out quite a way under the sea, so it was closed in 1855. We made a stop in Mansion House Bay where a number of Department of Conservation workers left to start work in the gardens of the Mansion House, we would be returning here after all the mail and supplies have been delivered. We were now the only passengers left on the boat so we were invited into the wheel house to continue our trip. Our final stop was at South Bay where a large quantity of plumbing supplies were off loaded, somebody is going to be busy in the next few weeks.

We now returned to Mansion House Bay and it was time for us to get off. Kawau Island is roughly 2,000 hectares and is covered in native bush. The local Ngaputi Tribe abandoned the island after the musket wars in the 1830’s, and then the miners moved in. Mansion House was built for the mine manager, Captain Ninnis in 1845. In 1862 Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, bought the island paying £3,700. He then set about creating a stately house in the English Georgian style, with an estate containing exotic plantings and some wild animals. After he sold the island there was a succession of owners before it was converted to a boarding house for over 67 years. The government bought the island in 1967, when the Mansion House was leased to Dominion Breweries to be run as a hotel, which caused many problems in the area and had a bad reputation. From 1977 the government developed a plan for the whole island which included renovating the Mansion House. As you sail into the harbour, the bay is dominated by this lovely house, apart from the balustrades it is now returned to what it would have looked like when Sir George owned it.

We did a tour around the house and then sat in the grounds to have our picnic lunch, when it began to rain we sat on the front veranda and developed ideas well above our station, thinking we could have been sitting in our garden, well we can dream. When our boat returned to collect us, the lady acting as caretaker at the house asked us to save her a trip and take the mail bag down for her. So acting as the post mistress for the day we boarded our boat for our return trip to Sandspit. Once back on the mainland we slowly sauntered back to our van and cooked tea.

Tuesday morning we drove the short distance to Matakari, a small town the ladies at the Warkworth tourist office told us to visit. They had said that there was a lovely butchers shop and the cinema was worth visiting. So we found a place to park and walked back to the small cinema complex. Just about to start was the low budget NZ film ‘Second-hand Wedding’ This film was shot on the Kapiti Coast, an area we had visited way back at the beginning of April. Having said it is a low budget film the main stars had all forgone a fee to assist the making of the film, they will be paid from any profits the film may make. So far it is the number one box office hit in NZ and we had heard all good reports on it, so we bought our tickets and ordered a coffee, which will be delivered to us in the cinema, and settled down to watch a really good film. If it does get released in the UK it is worth making the effort to see it, if not you may have to borrow the DVD from us (if the release it on DVD).

The small cinema is part of a new complex that has recently been built, there are a number of nice craft, pottery and clothes shops in the area and a new bistro is opening soon. We followed the boardwalk to the small waterfalls before returning to buy some nice meat in the butchers shop. Then we were on our way once more heading to the Tawharanui Regional Park, another of the Auckland regional parks dotted around the city. This large regional park is the first area to become an open sanctuary created by a predator proof fence. We stopped at the bay before the park and had a late lunch overlooking Kawau Island and were entertained by four people preparing to go scuba diving in the bay.

Once lunch was over we drove through the electronic gate into the park and onto Anchor Bay at the far end of the peninsula. There were a number of walks around the bay and we selected to walk up to the trig, where we hoped we would get some good views over the area and Kawau Island. I don’t know what we were thinking of when we set out as we did not bother to put on our walking boots. Not far into the walk we discovered the path was very muddy so we needed to pick our way along the track very carefully. We followed the trig path signs then we must have missed something along the way because when we got to the next set of sign posts our destination was missing. We recognised the name of the Eco Trail as ending up close to where we had parked, so took this track and soon we were heading uphill, could we be on our way to the trig after all?

We emerged from the bush onto open farm land and discovered more signage for the trig pointing further up the hill. So after a short debate we decided to continue onwards to the trig and it was not long before we found ourselves crossing open farmland where the cattle had churned up the path. If we thought we were on a muddy track before hand we were now on an even worse track, and we had to pick our way round the very wet ground. Eventually we reached the trig and were rewarded with some really wonderful views around the bay and the coastline of Kawau Island. After spending time drinking in these views it was time to make our way back down to the coast and return along the beach and around the rocky headland.

We had wondered about camping in the park but the camp site looked closed so we drove back down the peninsula to the main road and was tempted down the road to Omaha. Why? In 1996 we acted as a Scottish host family to a young American woman for her last school year. Kelly came from Nebraska and on returning home she attended university at Omaha, their state capital. So we thought we would go and check out Omaha NZ so we can tell Kelly all about it, when we attend her wedding in October. It looks like Omaha NZ is on the up as a in place to live. It stretches along a peninsula at the entrance to Whangateau Harbour and Omaha Bay, and a lot of new homes are being erected along the dunes. We parked the van and followed the path down to the dunes and then onto the boardwalk that crossed to the beach. As it was now beginning to get dark we had a quick look and then returned to the van to drive the short distance around the bay to Whangateau where we found a nice camp site right on the beach. Tonight, whilst sitting in our van listening to the Pacific Ocean waves lapping just in front of us,we were able to see the bright lights of Omaha across the bay.

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