On Tuesday we picked up our home for the next 2 months, a campervan from Britz. The pick up seemed to take ages, but once we finally got on the road we could start heading North. We had booked the Orewa beach top10 holiday site for our first night as it wasn’t too far to drive and it would give us a good base to get to grips with the van. As it turned out there wasn’t any need to book, we are early enough in the season that all of the sites have enough room to just turn up and book in on the day and I can’t really see this changing until nearer Christmas.
Orewa beach itself was beautiful, our pitch looked right out to sea and we walked along the beach to the town to get some supplies and cooked the first meal in the van. Since then we have got wise to using the kitchen and barbecue facilities at the sites (no need to use up your own gas or make the van smell!). We also paid up for Top10 site membership which was only $48 and which has given us 10% off all of the Top10 sites and also local discounts on trips and food at some places, so we had made our money back by day 3!
On Wednesday we headed north to the bay of Islands Top10 at Russell. The staff at Orewa had given us a handy guide to Northland which they had written which suggested routes to the Top10 sites in the north. We stopped for lunch at a place on the map with a nice name and some coast, Waipu Cove, and were really glad that we did. the beach was beautiful (by now we’re realising that they ALL are!) and the beautiful mural painted on the toilet block told the history of the town and the arrival of the first Scottish migrants, driven away from their homes by the clearances.
Back on the road, we made our way to the car ferry to Russell and a lovely campsite. We still had time to drink some local Rosé at the Duke of Marlborough hotel, by the water and to eat the poshest bar snack ever of yummy calamari.
We had booked two nights at Russell with the intention of going on a boat trip around the Bay of Islands and the following day we booked onto the cream trip, which follows the route of the boats which used to go around the bay picking up the cream produced on the various islands and delivering post and supplies to the islanders. The trip also promises dolphin watching and swimming if the conditions are right. The weather was pretty grey to begin with so we decided against taking our swimming gear and in the end there wasn’t any dolphin swimming so I didn’t feel that I had missed out! We did, however, see absolutely loads of both Common and Bottle nosed Dolphins. They played around the boat, fed and jumped and surfed in the wake of the boat. When they feed, they stir up all of the fish under the water which makes it easier for the seabirds to catch them, so we were also treated to seeing gannets diving into the water like torpedoes to catch the fish that the dolphins we hunting. It was quite a sight.
Apparently there was a penguin swimming with the dolphins, but unfortunately I missed him. Penguins are still on my list of things I’d like to see… We did see some seals later on and the boat also went though the hole in the rock and did an island stopover at for lunch. We had enough time there to have some food and go for a walk up the hill to see some stunning views of the bay.
We ended the day back at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell for some fish and chips. It was the first time that I’d had Gurnard and it was lovely.