|After packing the car we finally set off to explore the north island. We crossed over Auckland Bridge and it was glorious to see it in all its splendour, the coastline with all the boats out front. Even just a few miles out of Auckland we were being met with lovely rolling green hills, beaches, bays and rugged islands in the distance as we headed up the scenic route via Warkworth. We then continued past Leigh to Pakiri which we believe to be one of the best beaches we have seen on our travels.
After munching on a yummy ice cream we set off again and stopped at Waipu to visit the House of Memories, a town that was settled by 900 Scottish settlers in 1853. A nice little stop over but we had to get to Russell before the days end. We went the scenic route rather than take the ferry and on the very windy road it took over an hour longer than we expected but the sights were worth it if you have the time. When we came into Russell it was still twilight and it was gorgeous. Russell was established as the first British settlement in NZ and is used as one of the hubs to visit the Bay of Islands. Russell has a very relaxed feel about it, similar to Martha's Vineyard in the USA as its waterfront is lined with stately colonial buildings and large trees.
The main attraction in this area are the 150 or so islands that makeup the Bay of Islands, which are set in crystal clear turquoise waters. Around 10am we boarded our jet boat for the "island escape" tour to Urupukapuka island. On arrival at Otehei Bay we walked up to the lookout point, climbing up past the sheep to the grassy knoll at the top of the hill and got to look out at all the islands below which were amazing and reminded us of the south of England coast, Wales and Scotland but with sunshine! After wandering around to take in further walks and scenery we then made our way back down to the bay to head out in a kayak for a little paddle around the islands close to us before heading back to shore and then the boat back to Russell.
Early the next morning we visited the local museum and one of NZ's oldest church's built in 1847 and completed our visit at the look out over the town.