Monthly Archives: March 2023

Great Barrier Island

We are free!!!  Oh my goodness after almost 3 months in the marina we finally break ourselves free to do some sailing around New Zealand.  We’ve been tied to the dock doing boat projects and meeting with different vendors and have not had a moment to go sailing until now.  We decide to head to Great Barrier island first and if time and weather permits, Mercury Island.

It is a slow motor down the Whangarei River.  We request permission to have the Te Matau a Pohe “Hook Bridge” open so we may pass under.  Still an amazing thing to see!

It is a beautiful day, albeit light wind on the nose.  We raise the main sail and continue on a motor sail as we don’t even have enough wind for the jib.  We pass by the Hen and Chickens Islands.  I just love their names.

Kaikoura Potato Bay

We approached Great Barrier Island and made the last minute decision to go to Smokehouse Bay which is supposed to be a nice boatie/cruiser bay.  However, when we approached we saw that there were close to 30 boats anchored there – so we stopped short and anchored in Kaikoura Bay also known as Potato Bay.  We had this beautiful bay all to ourselves.

We were expecting some ugly winds so we moved the following morning to a new bay.

Wairahi Bay

There were still a lot of boats at Smokehouse Bay so we decided to go to a bay just past it (still in Great Barrier Island).  We arrived to Wairahi Bay with 3 other boats.  Perfect!  From here we can easily visit the other bays within the western side of Great Barrier Island. We hang out in this anchorage for over  a week.  Several other boats joined us in this anchorage, but it is big enough to not feel crowded.

First, we explore the river that feeds into Wairahi Bay.  Matt took the SUP up the river during high and low tide so that he felt comfortable taking the dinghy with me.  It is so cool to be surrounded by hillsides, overhanging trees, and hidden houses. 

I spotted at least 5 hidden “baches” (summer houses) in the trees.

Smokehouse Bay

About 1 mile down from our anchorage is a popular spot called Smokehouse Bay.  It is a place created for locals and cruisers/boaties.  This as the anchorage that was incredibly busy when we first arrived. However, the weather changed which made this a very uncomfortable anchorage so everyone cleared out when we visited.  This is a shot during low tide (top) and high tide (bottom).

The facilities in this bay were provided by the late Eric Webster and his many friends.  Locals and cruisers maintain the property and equipment.  The Weber family placed Smokehouse Bay under the protection of the Queen National Trust as an open space covenant for the public whilst remaining in private ownership.

A massive rain storm destroyed Smokehouse Bay in November 2005.  Everything was covered in mud and debris and it took over a year to rebuild the facilities.

What can you enjoy at Smokehouse Bay?

  • Pizza Oven
  • Smokehouse (perfect for smoking fresh catch)
  • Grills
  • Laundry hand crank basins and clothes lines
  • (2) showers including 1 that offers hot water from a wood burning stove
  • Free book trade library
  • Toilets
  • Outdoor seating area around a bonfire
  • Great hikes on the 5 hectres (50 acres)

We enjoyed the entire bay to ourselves because it was inclement weather and all the boats left for a more protected anchorage.  We hiked to the summit and had excellent views of the bay.

Port Fitzroy

The most populated bay in Great Barrier Island is Port Fitzroy.  It is where you can get fuel and some supplies.  Super cute little town with a market, library, visitor center, and burger joint.  The town is the top photo.

There are two great hikes in this bay.  One starts from the center of town and leads you to a beautiful waterfall and the other is across the bay and leads you to a spectacular crows-nest view.

We decide to do the waterfall hike first, since we were already in town and it is only a 40minute hike to the falls.  But it is straight up.   First, you clean your shoes with a spray and scrub…then off you go down the path.

About 40-minutes, 300+ stairs, and 1.5 miles  later we arrive at the triple waterfall.

We take a moment to enjoy the beauty around us, dip our toes in (its freezing), and head back.

Next we take our dinghy across the bay and leave it at the dock (red arrow).  We then hike to the valley (green arrow on right), up to the peak and back down to the dock.  Super good hike.

At the top of the peak is a swing bridge that leads you to a 600-year old Kauri tree.  Once at the tree, you can climb up to the crows-nest to get a spectacular view of the bay.

As we make our way back down the hill we take a turn off to Sunset Rock.  I bet this would be wonderful to watch the sunset…

All in all we hiked 10.5 kilometers or 6.5 miles.  We were a bit bushed when we got back to the boat.

Historic Floods

We ended up spending a little more time in Great Barrier due to bad weather.  Lucky for us we were tucked away in the perfect anchorage for inclement weather.  Evidently this is a once in 50 year flood and yet it happened twice within a week!

Everything was flooded including the airport, grocery stores, and busses!

And of course the streets and highways.

We weather the second storm at a different bay called Karaka Bay at Great Barrier.   This was the calm before the storm.

Some more beautiful photos from Karaka Bay

I just love the stunning motus, rock formations, and islands.

Our friends captured us heading up the river, n our way back to the marina.

Events from this blog occurred in late January 2023.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  Don’t miss our last blog where we explore the Lost Springs.

The Lost Springs

In the heart of Whitianga, right downtown, is a unique and magical oasis called The Lost Springs.  This is in the backyard of a very determined man who spent 16 years tenaciously searching before striking water.  He then spent another 4/5 years finishing the build these fantastic thermal pools.  The water which comes from springs 667 meters below ground are considered to be over 16,000 years old!

The Lost Springs were sculpted by the hands and vision of the founder Alan Hopping.  The pools are only open Friday-Sunday.  Getting there early  to enjoy the peace and tranquility that this place has to offer.  There are several pools with water temperatures ranging from 32° to 41°C and pools no deeper than chest height. 

The Lost Springs are covered in gorgeous plants, flowers, rocks and gemstones.  Giving you the impression that you are truly in the hot springs.  There is an attached spa and restaurant  to enjoy as well.  And for those who really like to indulge you can enjoy poolside service including snacks and beverages.

The Hot Springs

The first pool you come to is the Lagoon which is fresh water and cold!  We were not brave enough to swim in this one.  It has a lovely waterfall that you pass by on the way to the other pools.

Next you pass through the Amethyst cave which boats of stalagmites and stalactites as well as beautiful gems embedded into the rock (all man-made).

They have beautiful colored lights that illuminate the rocks and gemstones.

We really liked this spot as it was warm, secluded and tranquil.

But we did venture out to the Amethyst pool where we enjoyed a poolside cocktail to start the day.

Crater Lake

The furthest and hottest pool is the Crater Lake.  It has two mini pools that feed into the main pool.  The two mini pools are the hottest and depending on where you sit you may end up where the spring feeds in.

Super fun experience in a very beautiful setting.  I highly recommend visiting The Lost Springs if you ever find yourself in Whitianga!

Events from this blog occurred in mid-January 2023.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events.  Don’t miss our last blog where we explore Whitianga Waterways by land, air and sea.

The Beauty of Whitianga Waterways

We decided to make the 5.5hr drive to Whitianga to visit our friends Leigh and Linda.  They had generously invited us down for the weekend.  Matt and I arrived after lunch and Leigh immediately took us on a drive through the town of Whitianga.  It is a lovely town with two large markets, several supply companies (marine, plumbing, hardware) and access to the waterways and beaches at every corner.  I can see why Leigh picked this location to develop the Whitianga Waterways.

Later in the afternoon, around sunset, we took the duffy out to explore of the Whitianga Waterway canals.  We packed some snacks and cocktails and enjoyed a leisurely stroll through each canal.  It was simply lovely and frankly the best way to end the day on the water seeing the potential of this fabulous development.

You know Leigh told me that the retirement community, which is under construction, will have restaurants, stores, and a full medical facility.  In addition to the standard amenities like the custom barge dedicated for residents.  And you only have to be 55 to be eligible – who knew?  Matt and I could buy in today!

Helo Ride

The next day Leigh took us out for an aerial view of Whitianga, the coast line, and several of the neighboring islands including Mercury island.  Leigh has to take off and land on this very small trailer (I’d say it is smaller than 2m x 2m) and I’m telling you it takes great skill, courage, and expertise to do so.  I was absolutely amazed at how easy he made it look!

He is such a talented and controlled pilot that he instantly puts us at ease.

The day started a little rainy and cloudy, but it soon cleared up. 

We ran along the Whitianga coastline and saw the town from above.

We even found a few anchorages that we need to check out in Sugar Shack.

Lots of little beautiful islands all around Whitianga.

The recent cyclone brought a lot of extra water that was still running off creating dozens of waterfalls.

And Leigh showed off these two stunning Kauri trees.  Not sure how they survived the demolition of the kauri trees, but thank God they did.  Estimated to be 500-600 years old, young in Kauri life.

Boat Tour

The next day we all went out for a Whitianga coastline tour in Moon Shadow.  We passed by the famous Cathedral Beach which was very popular on this bright and sunny day.  Made famous by the cave that goes all the way through (bottom image).

Leigh found a rather large cave made popular by the tourist boats.  When we arrived, there was a small power boat inside showing off the cave’s interior beauty.  After he departed, Leigh nosed his beautiful yacht into the opening and kept going!  Surprises never cease!  He expertly maneuvered his boat into the cave.  I am not sure how he did it without touching his outriggers or any part of the boat, but he did!

It certainly was hard to leave this beautiful town.  We hope to be back to visit the wonders of Whitianga!  But we had to get back to Sugar Shack.  Be sure to check out our next blog post as we visit the Lost Springs and get stuck behind a double 36-wheeler who got stuck on a tree!

Events from this blog occurred in mid-January 2023.  Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events. Matt and I spend months finding and fixing leaks all over the boat in our last blog.