Tag Archives: hike

The Majestic Cliffs of Kenutu

Our last anchorage in Tonga was a spectacular one!  We picked this remote easterly island based on its location for the upcoming winds.  Plus, we wanted to hit one island on all four sides of Vava’u.  The winning island was Kenutu.  This is a long, pretty flat island with several white, sandy beaches and a thick forest inland.

It can be a bit of a challenge navigating to Kenutu because of all of the reefs.  We had to ensure we had good visibility and updated satellite charts to make it safely, which we did!

Kenutu, Tonga

Kenutu, Tonga

We arrived around 1500 which did not leave us much time to explore before dark descended upon us.  So, we jumped in Sweetie and worked our way through the reefs near shore.  A friend of ours told us that there is a 10-minute walk to the other side so we decided to investigate.

Exploring Kenutu

The path was easy to find as someone put a float in the tree with “trail” hand written on it.  Easy enough.  The first trail we found was truly a 10-minute walk to the other side.  But what we saw shocked us!  The colors were so vibrant!

The rocky cliffs shouted out with bright reds, browns, and greens while the water below had dozens of variation of blues and greens.  I loved watching the waves come up over the table creating a shallow pool.

Another beautiful hillside with more colors.  We found several trails on the east side of Kenutu.  We walked on all of them that we could find.  Each bay was just as beautiful as the last.  One of our walks led us down to sea level where we could witness the blow holes and surf up close and personal (lower photo).

One bay had several blow holes that showed off in a spectacular fashion.  I could have sat here and watched this fierce display of water all day!

It was getting dark and we wanted to explore by dinghy.  We went around the southeast side of the island and found a lovely pass.  But it was too rough and too shallow for us to go through by dinghy.

If we had more time we would have certainly stayed at this Kenutu anchorage longer.  What a beautiful surprise it was to see this island.

The next day we had to pull up the hook and go back to Neiafu to clear out of Tonga.  Super sad as we really did not do the Kingdom justice in 3 weeks.  I would love to come back here and really explore all three archipelagos.

This blog occured in mid-August 2023.  Our blog posts run 8-10 weeks behind actual live events.  In our last blog I share details of Vava’u.

Waitomo Glowworms

Waitomo is famous for its bountiful caves which are covered in beautiful glowworms.  I say “beautiful” loosely because the actual worm is not so hot looking, but its brilliantly bright tail is a spectacular thing to see when emersed inside a pitch black cave.

We arrive into Waitomo after a 2.5 hour drive from Auckland.  The journey was uneventful and kept us on a beautiful, proper 4 lane highway (that even had a shoulder)  for most of the trip.  We did get a lot of fog, but once it cleared it was stunning, rolling, green hills and farm lands.

Waitomo means “water” “cave” (wai=water) and (tomo=cave).  There are well over 300 caves that they know of – which means there are plenty more to be discovered.

Arriving in Waitomo

We make our first stop in Ortohanga, the neighboring town to Waitomo, to have lunch at the Thirsty Weta. We enjoyed some cold beer and pretty tasty food.  Then we headed to the Waitomo Caves Museum and Discovery Center.  Super informative, interactive, and informational museum where we learned all about the glowworm.

Fun Facts:

  • A glowworm is not actually a worm
  • It lives as a maggot or larvae for the first 6-9 months, then builds a cocoon where it then turns into a fly with no mouth!  
  • The fly only lives for 3 days and their primary goal is to mate.
  • The larvae, which is about as long as a match stick, will build a small hammock that can slide front to back.
  • They drop between 30-40 sticky, silk threads that are used to catch their prey.
  • Their tails light up attracting moths, mosquitos, and other insects which then get stuck in their silk threads.
  • Females lay about 200-300 eggs in 20-30 clusters (all within the 3 days she has to live as a fly, find a mate, mate, lay, and distribute the eggs).
  • The first larvae to hatch will eat its siblings to get strength to build its hammock and drop its threads (charming).
  • The glowworms tail will brighten and dim in 24hr cycles with the other glowworms in its cluster (they are in sync) and will provide an endless luminescence. 

The museum also had bones from a really large and rare bird, called the moa.

Waitomo Caves

Waitomo is famous for its caves which is their primary tourist attraction.  Unfortunately, they do not allow any photography inside the cave.  

We start our tour out by descending 13 meters into the cave.  We are surrounded by stunning stalactites and stalagmites that are thousands and thousands of years old.  They have a strict no touch policy so we keep our hands to ourselves.  Tons of curtains, candles, and mounds hanging from the ceiling and slowly reaching for its partner on the ground.

After a 20-25 minute walk along these beautiful structures, we quietly board a small boat in the dark.  This is the part we’ve all been waiting for – the glowworms.  We silently glide in the water as the guide uses a pull rope to maneuver the boat.  It is breathtaking to see these bright blue lights dotted all over the ceiling and cavern walls.  The top left photo was taken in slow-mo by someone else, but it gives you an idea of what it looked like.

They did have a fun green screen for photos –  we got suckered into the purchase since we couldn’t take any photos on the tour.

And us in the caves…Matt and Wayne with a lion, oh wait, that is me with crazy hair!

Ruakuri Bushwalk

After our leisurely stroll through the museum we decide to follow one of the trails that leads to another trail called Ruakuri Bushwalk.  We were not really prepared for this long walk as we did not have any water, but the path was pretty flat and well marked.

The first trail started at the Waitomo Caves, connected to Johnston Memorial trail then to Waitomo Walkway before it connected us with the Ruakuri loop.  But the long walk was worth it as the Ruakuri trail was fabulous!

We followed the river and discovered loads of caves!  The trail even took us through several caves or tunnels.

We crossed over a questionable bridge, trespassed on a few farms, and climbed over fences.

The river was at times gushing and other times tranquil.

Even if you skip the original walk that brought us to the Ruakuri Bush Walk, we highly recommend the Ruakiru Bush walk – it was absolutely fantastic.

The Woodlyn Park Lodge

We took the whimsical route when we decided to stay at the Woodlyn Park Lodge.  You have a choice of staying in a train, a freighter Bristol airplane, a hobbit cabin, or an old war ship (ML430).  

We opted to stay in the Oceanic “suite” in the stern of the ship (primarily because everything else was sold out!).  As it turned out, it was super fun with a large outdoor deck overlooking the river.

Upstairs is the living area, deck, and kitchen area.  Downstairs is the bathroom, master bed room (thru the small door) and an additional room with 3 single beds.

It certainly was fun and a novelty for us all.  Stay tuned tomorrow as we go 100 meters into the center of the earth on the Lost World tour.

  • Hotel: The Woodlyn Park Lodge
  • Kilometers:  185
  • Travel Time: 3hrs15min
  • Kilometers Walked: 9.8km on 22 Feb and 8.7km on 23 Feb

Events from this blog occurred in late February,  Our blog runs 10-12 weeks behind actual events.  Did you catch our last blog where we visit the City of Sails?

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.