Our first full day in New Zealand was February 6th, which happens to be a national holiday: Waitangi Day. It was on this date, in 1840, that the Maori people signed the Treaty of Waitangi, ostensibly making New Zealand part of the British empire, affording its people the same rights as other British subjects while guaranteeing Maori rights to their own land.
Although similarities have been drawn to treaties signed between the Native Americans and those who claimed their land, the politics of Waitangi Day are not the subject of this blog. (However, we did visit the Treaty House on the 7th — after the crowds thinned — and found it fascinating and mostly accessible. And that will be a future post.)
We skirted most of the local festivities on the 6th and, instead, took a cruise to Cape Brett Hole in the Rock.
Hosted by Fullers Great Sights, this excursion took us from the sheltered waters of the Bay of Islands out to the Pacific Ocean.
I was happy to discover that the boat was wheelchair accessible.
Along the way we encountered a playful pod of dolphins before passing Cape Brett Lighthouse, which guards the entrance to the Bay of Islands.
I was delighted by the expansive and beautiful blue skies, as well as the kayaks and sailboats we passed along the way. As I noted in my journal, “The day was sunny, the weather glorious! Sunscreen was liberally applied.”
Although this cruise often goes through the Hole in the Rock, on this day the water was too choppy to allow us to do so.
So after getting as close as we safely could, we turned back toward Paihia.
Along the way we had a one-hour stop at Otehei Bay, former home of American author Zane Grey who, according to the Great Sights brochure, “is known for making game fishing famous in the Bay of Islands.”
The brochure also mentioned beautiful beaches and nature walks, and we took the fairly easy trek up the hill in order to enjoy the panoramic view.
Unfortunately, a wheelchair would have difficult time navigating the path we took, and the allotted time did not allow us to explore an accessible trail to the top.
Reboarding our boat, we headed back to Paihia by way of Russell, a quaint little town formerly known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific. (But that’s another post!)