Day 4 Tuesday 18 February – Bay of Islands, Overnight cruise

This morning the four of us walked up to the harbour and put our hand luggage in lockers, ready for our overnight cruise on the Ipipiri this afternoon.   We caught a taxi to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which is also referred to as The Birth of the Nation. We took our time, wandering through the grounds and looking at the Treaty House, the Maori Meeting House and the Ceremonial War Canoe.

The Treaty House is next to the spot marked by the flagstaff, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 by Queen Victoria’s representative, William Hobson, who was the only European signatory on the document.  There were several hundred signatures from the tribal leader chiefs from each region on this 40 feet long document.  Maria and Sandy were lucky enough to be able to talk to Emma, who is the great-great-grandddaughter of the Chief of Waitangi, Te Kemara, who signed the treated on behalf of Waitangi.

We also visited the Maori Meeting House, Te Whare Runanga.  We were impressed with the ornate carvings and the decorative weaving on the walls and ceiling.

We walked down the hill to Hobson’s Beach, where Captain William Hobson landed on 5 & 6 February 18409 and walked up to the Treaty Grounds to negotiate the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori chiefs.  Near the shore were several war conoes including the Ngatokimatawhaorua, which is the world’s largest ceremonial conoe, housed in a waka house.  The canoe is 35 metres long and needs a minimum of 76 paddlers to handle it safely on the water.  The canoe is launched every year on 6 February as part of the Waitangi Day celebrations.

The four of us were so pleased that we had decided to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds because we learnt so much about the culture and early days of the settlement.  The grounds were beautiful and well looked after we enjoyed exploring them.

As there was a fine misty shower of rain, we decided to ring the taxi to come and collect us and deliver us back to the harbour, where we had a lovely leisurely lunch.

At 1.00pm we boarded a coach bus that took us to Opua Marina to board the Ipipiri for our overnight cruise through the Bay Islands, which is home to 144 islands. At 150 feet (44 metres), the Ipipiri is the largest cruising ship permanently based in New Zealand. She has four levels, which includes 30 ocean view cabins, a sundeck with 360 degree views and a 70-seat restaurant and bar.

After a safety briefing, the four of us went down to explore our cabins, which are opposite each other and each have a king size bed and our own ensuite, as well as large windows.

We left Opua and cruised through the Veronica Channel, past Russell and around Tapeka Point, where we were exposed to the swell from the Pacific Ocean and it was a bit rough for a short period.  As we were cruising along, we saw a pod of bottlenose dolphins swimming past.

The captain took us to a sheltered area, Otehei Bay, where some people went ashore on a tender boat to take part in various activities like snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and beach or bush walks.  As it was raining, we decided to stay onboard and have a cuppa instead.  Where we had anchored, we were surrounded by several small islands and this would have been an absolutely stunning location had the sun been out.

After the adventurers came back on board, the captain took us to Jack’s Bay, which is a sheltered bay that we would be staying in for the night.  At 5.30pm we were served pre-dinner drinks and nibbles, but unfortunately there was no sun to watch setting over the islands.

The four of us enjoyed a lovely dinner with the other four people from our tour group – Ian & Pat, from Scotland and Peter & Judy, from Adelaide.  There was lots of chatter and laughter, and we went off to bed feeling happy with our lovely afternoon and evening in the Bay of Islands, despite the rain!

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