Kororareka Bay In Russell

Kororareka BayBuy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

What strikes me about Kororareka Bay at Russell in the Bay of Islands is how idyllic it all seems. There’s an instant feeling of relaxation that sweeps over you the moment you stand on the shore of the large bay and let the sunshine engulf you. Going back many years to when the first explorers arrived in the area, it’s easy to see how after a long sea voyage the place must have felt like paradise.

Matauwhi Bay In The Bay Of Islands

Matauwhi Bay Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

It was my last full day in Russell and I decided to mark it up walking up the hill to the flag staff. By the time I set off the day was already hot and warm, however the prospect of a bush walk in front of me with no other plans for the day was quite delightful. Consisting of a combination of walking on road and gravel through bush, the walk while steep was certainly a treat and like others ahead of me, my efforts were rewarded with a magnificent 360 degree view of the surrounding area. Not to mention the famous flagstaff which first had the Union Jack flown in 1840 before Māori chef Hone Heke and his supporters cut it down four times as a symbol of protest against the way the British Crown were uploading the Treaty of Waitangi agreements.

I had a look around in the morning sun and decided that I liked Russell very much.

Tapeka Point In The Bay of Islands

Tapeka Point BayBuy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery

If you’re looking for a holiday location, I would like to suggest the Bay of Islands in Northland. Russell to be precise. You can spend the hot, warm summer days swimming in the bays, wandering around all the inlets, paths and tracks that are scattered around and generally not doing much of anything really. It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular spot. 

A Walk At Waitangi – Rediscovering The Treaty

Misplacing 30 years, damaged by water, rats –  The Treaty of Waitangi.

Of all the things I’ve discovered recently, the most interesting and peculiar is this. The Treaty of Waitangi, our nation’s founding document was lost for nearly 30 years. At the time, this was something I couldn’t quite believe. Even now, a month later, I still find it mind boggling yet somehow very typically kiwi.

Much like the rediscovery of the treaty, I came across this information quite by chance. It was during a recent visit to the treaty grounds in the Bay Of Islands. It was a lovely fine morning and after a short 30 minute stroll along Te Ti Bay I found myself at the Treaty Grounds in Waitangi. With a good 30 minutes to spare before the next tour, I had decided to pass the time by looking through the Waitangi museum. I had been assured it was well worth a look so I figured, well, why not! 

I casually strolled through the various exhibits which I must confess was very captivating until I happened upon a display cabinet containing a very worn and ripped piece of paper that resembled a school notice that had been at the bottom of a child’s bag for some time. The document, as it turns out, was an exact copy of the actual Treaty.

It seems that after the initial signing at Waitangi on the 6th February 1840, the treaty then went on a kind of regional tour around New Zealand so other Maori chiefs could sign. Unfortunately the next year the document was nearly destroyed by fire. Then, sometime after 1877 it was ‘misplaced’ (for nearly 30 years) before being found by historian Thomas Hocken in 1908. 

The story goes that the highly esteemed Thomas Hocken was rummaging around in the basement of a Government building in Wellington when rolled up, thrown in a corner, damaged by water and eaten by rats, he discovered the Treaty of Waitangi. It was then damaged further when restoration work (a little DIY presumably) went horribly wrong. It was at this point, after misplacing it for 30 years, damaged by fire, water, rats and restoration work that everyone decided it was best to leave the thing alone, put it in a tin case and lock it up for another 50 years.

As I moved out of the museum into bright sunshine and towards a gathering crowd that I assumed was the tour party I was joining, I had two thoughts. Firstly, what other important national documents are we missing?  Secondly, has anyone thought to look for them in remote hay barns?


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A Walk At Waitangi – A Ferry Ride

The 9:30am Russell to Paihia passenger ferry.

The plan for the day was to catch the ferry across to Paihia, then walk the 2km around the bays to the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi. Seeing the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed was something I had been looking forward to, so I was extremely pleased that the weather was kind for such a trip. The ferry ride was a short one but the local’s had assured me that a full day would be needed to make the most of the grounds. The previous day in Russell, when I had announced my intention to walk to Waitangi from Paihia to some of the long term residents, I had received a most indifferent response. Some were very encouraging of this plan and had assured me it wouldn’t be more than an hour’s walk. Other’s had looked at me like I had gone bonkers, shaken their ahead and assured me that to get to Waitangi from Paihia on a Saturday, I needed to have left last Wednesday, and even then I’d be pushing it. However, upon mentioning I was from Dunedin, their advice changed entirely. I was quickly told that I’d have no problem covering the distance. I’m not sure how this changed things, but apparently it did. 

One of the intriguing phenomena I’ve noticed when traveling in New Zealand is this. As soon as people find out I’m from Dunedin, I end up having one of two conversations. Either I end up discussing southerly weather patterns that include wind, rain and general cold temperatures or I end up discussing travelling distances. I’m not sure why this is, maybe everyone thinks all we do in Dunedin is walk in the rain. I’m not too sure.

As the 9:30am Russell to Paihia passenger ferry pulled away from the dock the temperature had already climbed to a lovely 23 degrees. The ferry had a small scattering of passengers as it quietly eased it’s way across the still, calm bay. It seemed almost the perfect way to travel. Looking across the bay, all sorts of water activities were getting underway along with a multitude vessels that were preparing for something called the Tall Ships Regatta. Whatever the event was, they had a splendid day for it and I was glad to be free of the hired car. 

Fifteen minutes later the ferry pulled into its berth in Paihia. After disembarking from the ferry and somehow managing to trip as I did so, I set off for my destination. It was a lovely fine morning and after a short 30 minute stroll along Te Ti Bay I found myself at the Treaty Grounds in Waitangi. With a good 30 minutes to spare before the next tour, I had decided to pass the time by looking through the Waitangi museum. I had been assured it was well worth a look so I figured, well, why not! 


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A Walk At Waitangi – Russell

Russell/Kororareka

I like Russell, I really do. It reminds me a lot of Arrowtown in Central Otago. It’s not that the towns are similar at all, nor are their visual characteristics that draw direct comparisons. What each town possesses is a feel of timelessness. There really is something quite lovely about being able to stroll down a street and without trying too hard at all being able to picture what it was like 130 years ago. In Arrowtown at any moment I keep expecting a disheveled miner to appear from the hills carrying with him a fortune in gold. In Russell, take a walk along the The Strand, a street that runs almost the entire length of Kororareka Bay and you can picture sailors from all sorts of nations sleeping off a nights inebriation on the pebbly beach. I had been in Russell for four days and was liking the place very much. 

The morning in Russell was bright and clear. Overhead, the sky was a crisp light blue with no wind to speak of. It was going to be what we Kiwi’s called ‘a scorcher’. That’s one of the great things about us here in Aotearoa, we’re so easily pleased. Give us seven days of clear, warm, fine weather with a beverage at the end of each day and we’ll be sweet as.


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Roll On Summer

Diners enjoy a summer evening in the Bay of Islands.

One of the wondrous things about New Zealand, when compared to the rest of the world, is how young our country actually is. As an example, The Falcon Hotel in Stratford Upon Avon, Britain was first built as a town house around 1500 and had a second floor added around the time of 1645. It’s first use as an Inn was then recorded in 1655. Even today, you can call in and have a pint under the timber-frame that props everything up and wonder how the hell it’s managed to stand for 355 years. And that isn’t even the oldest pub in Britain! 

Travel 18,000 km to New Zealand and you’ll find that the title of New Zealand’s oldest pub goes to The Duke of Marlborough in Russell which was opened 172 years after The Falcon in 1827. 

While New Zealand’s history is relatively young, having history worth celebrating is a recent realisation to many Kiwi’s. I’m not saying that until now we have been ignorant of our own history, more unaware that it is even there. So, when the chance came up to spend a week in the historical village of Russell in the Bay of Islands during summer it was an opportunity I jumped at. 

This photo was taken on the waterfront by The Gables that was built in 1847. As I understand it, The Gables served a brothel, a shop, a bakery and Salvation Army Boys Home. However, not all at the same time! 

Today, it is a wonderful restaurant and the perfect location to enjoy a delicious dinner while watching the sun set over the Waitangi Treaty grounds.


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