At Wellington Anniversary Weekend Mike and I stayed in a typical Kiwi bach belonging to members of his family at Long Beach, over the hill from Russell. It’s a really lovely spot and I hope for a return invite.
Russell, Bay of Islands
The vehicle ferry between Opua and Okiato goes approximately every 10 minutes and is only $1 per passenger, $11 for a car. The last ferry goes at 10pm but if you are too late to make it there are ways to drive around. We took a 9km windy, hilly and unlit gravel road. One possum was killed en-route but many more were lucky to get away with their lives.
Russell was New Zealand’s first capital and is full of history, for example Christ Church in Russell is New Zealand’s oldest existing church. In 1845, during the Battle of Kororareka between British forces and Maori unhappy with British rule, the church was hit by stray musket and cannon balls, the damage from which remains.
The Duke of Malborough was New Zealand’s first licensed hotel. They were packed to capacity and the wait was long but the food impressive and the view unbeatable. Perhaps they should never have moved the capital from Russell, Bay of Islands.
We jumped on an Explore ‘Dolphin Discovery’ tour which cost $95 per adult, $50 for children $15 cash is payable if you ‘splash’ (swim) and a voucher to return is provided if no dolphins sighted.
The company has a 50% swim success rate. You can’t swim when a dolphin calf is present (less than two years of age) as they require extremely regular feeding to maintain their body temperature and human interaction will distract them from this.
Half-way through the trip it was looking like a swim was unlikely as both pods (one of 12 dolphins which would have been the best to swim with ratio-wise) we’d come across had minors present. In the end we were only able to swim with Jo, a solo dolphin who gave us a 4 or 5 out of 10 swimming experience.
The captain summed things up nicely when he pointed out the trip was ‘swim with the dolphins’ not ‘float with the dolphins’ you need to be a strong swimmer to keep up with dolphins like Jo. Dolphins can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes at a time so much of the time she was under water.
Some friends bought us back some freshly caught Snapper from their fishing trip ($100pp for a half day out). The Crusty Crab where we’d bought fish & chips for lunch was closed by 9pm so we were grateful to the staff at Hone’s Garden who happily battered and cooked it for us while we waited in their pretty beer garden before consuming it on the waterfront watching the sun set on our time in the Bay of Islands.