Welcome back! For those just joining, this is part 2 of my New Zealand Farewell Tour. I recommend starting at part 1!
After spending the night in Whangarei, I drove North to the small town of Russell. As you can see from the Google Maps shot above, taking Russell Rd over the hills is a bit of a squiggly experience. To be honest, I found little about the drive to recommend it: it was slow going and full of switchbacks, blind curves, and extremely poor roads. By the time I got to Russell, I was in dire need of a break.
Thankfully, the town of Russell provided precisely the respite I was after. Although it’s a very historically significant town (it’s the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand and its role in Euro-Maori relations was key in the development of the Treaty of Waitangi), it is a sleepy spot with fewer than 1000 residents. At this point in my trip, this was exactly my speed.
I took some time wandering around Russell, an exploration endeavor which can easily be completed on foot in less than an hour. One of my very few regrets in Russell is that I didn’t spend more time at this old church drinking in the serenity of this historic spot. It almost felt like I would be trespassing, though, so I chose to move on.
Russell’s sole school is, in fact, on Baker St, a fact I took much delight in.
Russell is unsurprisingly home to a vibrant waterfront and marina.
I spent much time on and around the waterfront, enjoying the lovely late Spring day.
Normally I’d have been tempted to do more exploring, but the drive up was quite enough adventure. I was also acutely aware that my day’s journey had not yet ended. Russell was my lunch spot, not my final destination for the day.
Nonetheless, this rock outcropping looks like it would be a lovely spot to venture out to.
All in all, I had a delightful time in Russell. I found myself quite reinvigorated and ready to start the next leg of my journey!
I also found something which, at the time, nearly brought me to my knees in thankfulness: a car ferry. A quick drive down to Okiato led me to a quite cheap car ferry which took me over to Opua. From there it was a mere doddle over to my final destination for the day: Paihia.
Thanks to this car ferry saving me time, energy, and perhaps my life, I had time for an unplanned stop: Haruru Falls, outside of Paihia!
Haruru Falls are just a short drive away from Paihia, a location which we shall visit anon. They’re right off the motorway, so no real need to do a lot of hiking to get there.
The accurately-named Haruru Falls Rd. goes right over the Waitangi River.
This river flows slightly down from the bridged crossing. There’s a convenient carpark on the North bank of the river for those wishing to access the falls and / or the Waitangi Track.
The river reaches a dropoff point just several meters from the bridge, creating these spectacular, if somewhat small, waterfalls.
These falls are a nice sight, and will take less than an hour of your time if you are already in Paihia!
The Waitangi River broadens somewhat after the falls and meanders off to the town of Haruru, from which the falls draw their name.
The small town of Paihia is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, but in November the tourist season hadn’t yet entered full swing. Fine by me; I got some nice weather without having to battle intense crowds!
(Haere Mai means Welcome in Te Reo, the Maori language).
I arrived as the sun was getting low in the sky. I ate dinner at this restaurant at the end of the pier, giving a fantastic view of Te Ti bay.
The area around Paihia and Russell is called the Bay of Islands, for reasons that become apparent when looking at a map or nautical chart. It is an incredibly beautiful area, and after dinner I took a walk and got some fantastic views. This time of year it seems like it takes ages for the sun to set!
Paihia has some nice statues and sculptures, including this one of what I guess is a swordfish. I really love this shot!
Once I was showing this photo to a friend, and he thought I had actually caught a swordfish leaping from the water! I wish :)
Eventually, the sun did fully set. I walked back to my hotel (pretty much everything is walking distance in Paihia). This day, November 23, happened to be Thanksgiving Day in the US. I spent some time sending messages of goodwill to people that I love and making sure I let my friends and family know I was, and am, thankful for them.
It was a good way to end what, despite a harrowing drive, was a good day. I need to end more days letting loved ones know how thankful I am for them.
If you have read this far, I’m thankful for you too! Join me next time as I make it to the tippy-top of the North Island!