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.
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.
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)
- Laundry hand crank basins and clothes lines
- (2) showers including 1 that offers hot water from a wood burning stove
- Free book trade library
- 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.
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.
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.