Bay of Islands, North Island, New Zealand

Bay of Islands, North Island, New Zealand

Paddling the Bay

New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is located on the north-east coast of the North Island. Maori called the Bay Ipipiri, however Captain Cook re-named it the Bay of Islands in 1769 on account of it being a bay of islands. Paddling the Bay’s intricate coastline promised a unique perspective on this beautiful area, so I set about organising a multi-day kayak trip.

Kayaking the Bay of Islands NZ
After initially wanting to rent me the beginners kayak on the right, I managed to convince the manager to let me take the one on the left

At first, the hire company were reluctant to rent me a sit-in sea kayak as I would be heading out by myself. However after explaining to the manager that I was born in a kayak, had been raised by kayaks and had been paddling since before I could walk (none of which is strictly true) he agreed. We checked the forecast and picked three days that sat within the company’s safety guidelines.

Kayaking the Bay of Islands NZ
‘The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed’

On the morning of departure I shoe-horned my camping gear, supplies and myself into the kayak and set out from Paihia. As I rounded Tapeka Point I left the sheltered waters and headed east towards the Bay’s major island chain.

Pulling in to Motuarohia Roberton Island, I found the place where Captain Cook anchored the Endeavour in 1769.

Motuarohia Roberton Island NZ

Upon his arrival, Captain James Cook had a skirmish with the island’s Maori inhabitants and shots were fired. Upon his arrival, Captain James Clayton had lunch.

Kayaking the Bay of Islands NZ
Cooks Cove, Motuarohia Roberton Island
Kayaking the Bay of Islands NZ
Finding a park wasn’t a problem

After a feed I paddled east from Motuarohia Roberton; the island blocking the prevailing wind and making for glassy conditions. Floating over the shallow reefs I could check out the marine life below.

When conditions are good, there’s something very calming and meditative about kayaking; the rhythmic action of paddling, the ‘swoosh’ of the blade through the water, the gliding motion of the kayak, the peace of the tranquil marine environment.

Kayaking the Bay of Islands NZ
‘Sailing on a sea of silicone grey’

After passing by Moturua Island, I reached Urupukapuka Island where I drifted between the yachts and beached at Paradise Bay.

Urupukapuka Island NZ
Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island

It felt good to walk around and have a stretch, then relax for a while on the grass overlooking the beach.

Feeling rested, I slid back into the kayak and made my way around the south of the island to the main Urupukapuka camping ground.

Kayaking the Bay of Islands NZ

Approaching Urupukapuka Bay, I came across a colony of pied shags nesting in some trees overlooking the water.

Pied Shags NZ
Some say Urupukapuka Island is haunted by a horrible headless shag

The Urupukapuka Island camping ground is big enough to hold hundreds of people, but when I visited it I had the place to myself. The campsite was well equipped with water, toilets, outdoor showers and acres of grass.

camp site Urupukapuka Island NZ
Transport and accommodation

I spent the following day exploring the hills, cliffs and bays of the island via the network of walking tracks.

Bay of Islands NZ
The Island’s highest point afforded amazing views of the Bay of Islands.
Urupukapuka Island NZ
Spectacular views around every corner
seabird footprints on the beach
Take only seafood, leave only footprints
Urupukapuka Bay NZ
Urupukapuka Bay

The next morning dawned drizzly, and with the forecast predicting 15+ knots later in the day I made an early start back to Paihia. Apart from the odd light shower, the early conditions were perfect.

Bay of Islands kayaking, NZ

I made it back around Tapeka Point before the wind blew up, and stopped at the picturesque town of Russell for lunch.

Bay of Islands kayaking, NZ
Russell Jetty

Thawing out in the sun at Russell I lost track of time, and ended up leaving a little too late. The nor’ easter arrived as forecast, and I had to battle the wind and whitecaps back to Paihia. I arrived tired and saturated, but buzzing from what had been a fantastic trip paddling the Bay.

For more on the Bay of Islands click here

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4 thoughts on “Bay of Islands, North Island, New Zealand

  1. I’ll just sit right back and hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.
    That started from a tropic port, aboard a tiny ship 😀😀

    1. ‘The mate was a mighty sailing man, the skipper brave and sure…’ TV show themes were great in the old days. I used to go and see a guitarist in Melbourne called Jimi Hocking who used to play the music to Stairway to Heaven and sing the lyrics to Gilligan’s Island. It was ace. And who can forget the Banana Splits theme

  2. “Upon his arrival, Captain James Cook had a skirmish with the island’s Maori inhabitants and shots were fired. Upon his arrival, Captain James Clayton had lunch.”

    HA HA HA !
    Thats bloody brilliant – U hilarious yet poignant funny Fekker.
    Seriously tho, this might be your best photo essay montage account yet J-Man ….
    Plonked your (lucky) readers right there in that burnt orange kayak with you. (Glad you chose requisite life buoy Gak colour for the trusty steed ;<}}
    Thanks for taking me for a fang round the Bay of Islands brother.
    (I jst laid back, while you did all the paddling 🤣🤣)

    1. Hey Kat, glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for your kind words – and from a true mariner. I’ll ride shotgun with you for your next swing coz now you owe me a ride 🙂

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