The Bay of Islands
Approaching the Bay of Islands, signposts herald a detour to Kerikeri, providing an opportunity to explore the Stone Store and the Kerikeri Mission House. Build in 1822 the Mission House is thought to be the oldest surviving building in New Zealand.
The sheltered harbours and plentiful fishing offered within the Bay of Islands (containg over 150 islands) attracted the earliest Maori and European settlers. From Paihia passenger ferries and tour boats offer options to explore the Bay of Islands and link to the historic town of Russell across the bay. In the 1820s the drunken antics of early Eauropean sealers and local Maori gave Russell a rather sordid reputation. This is in marked contrast to the pretty and refined town that remains today. If you wish to ride your bike to Russell then the Opua ferry just south of Paihia is a highly recommended route. Nearby, the 22km diversion to experience the relief of the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa is recommended. The coastal route from Russell, via Oakura, to Whangarei is great fun too, offering a variety of twisting and sceic tarsealed motorcycling much better than the heavy traffic of SH1.
At the national reserve of Waitangi, just north of Paihia, lies the picturesque site of the signing of the New Zealand’s founding document: the Treaty of Waitangi (signed in 1840). Visit the quaint cottage built by James Busby in 1832 and the nearby skillfully carved Maori meeting house. The expansive lawns and gardens provide sweeping views of the Bay of Islands.
East coast beaches south of Whangarei
South of Whangarei, Mangawhai Heads, Leigh, Snells Beach, Waiwera Hot Springs, Hatfields Beach, Browns Bay and Mairangi Bay are all worth exploring, but the routes get busier the closer you get to Auckland.
Waiwera’s thermal pools are well known for their therapeutic benefits, as the Maori name for the springs ‘Te Rata’ or ‘the Doctor’implies.