Northland: tall ships, dolphins and mermaid pools

One thing’s for sure... we haven’t spent long enough in Northland! We’ll start with our favourite day - a voyage on the R. Tucker Thompson tall ship around the Bay of Islands.

It’s illegal for the tall ship to chase after dolphins, but we were really lucky and they approached us as we were stopped for lunch! We weren’t allowed to swim with them as there were some babies there. They get easily distracted and if they miss a couple of feeds it can cause starvation.

It was a windy day and so it was quite an experience being on the ship. I felt like I was on the Dawn Treader (from the BBC version of the Chronicles of Narnia, obviously!)

Meanwhile, I think Sam thought he was Peter Pan as he spent much of his time at the top of the mast - you can just about see him in the photo below.

Although I enjoyed climbing the mast, I decided to stick firmly to the role of ‘photographer’ when it came to the trapeze...

The views from the top of the ship were spectacular. It was a unique way of experiencing the Bay of Islands (which is made up of around 150 islands).

The Bay of Islands is rich in history and a member of the crew told us about some events that took place in 1772 between visiting Frenchmen and the Maori people. We learnt the word ‘tapu’ which describes a thing or place that is sacred and must not be interferred with. A location in the Bay of Islands had tapu placed on it after the son of the tribe’s chief had drowned there. The French, although initially welcomed by the Maoris, then fished in the tapu area unknowingly and angered the tribe. The French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne and 25 members of his crew were murdered and eaten by the tribe. The Maoris believed that by eating the sailors, they would take on their ’mana’. To have mana is to have great authority, prestige and respect. Mana is inherited at birth - the more senior the descent, the greater the mana. But you can increase your mana through successful ventures, and at the time cannibalism was seen as a way of taking on another’s mana.

We learnt a lot about Maori culture while we were on the tall ship as well as learning about the ship itself which is run as a not-for-profit enterprise. The money that is made during the year helps to fund youth development voyages over the summer. It was great to talk to some of the crew members who had previously come on these programmes. Our day onboard the R Tucker Thompson tall ship was our favourite day in almost two months in New Zealand, we 100% recommend it!

We stayed just outside of Russell on yet another farm (which included free kayak hire!)

Not far away was a great cafe with an incredible view...

Although we had initially planned to drive to the very top of Northland, we felt that we had driven past so much already, so decided to take a leisurely few days heading back to Auckland. We were able to visit the Mermaid Pools...

...Whangarei Falls...

... and numerous beaches.

We’ve absolutely loved Northland and we feel we haven’t touched the surface really. It’s this area of New Zealand that has made us think that maybe one day we will come back again. But for now, our New Zealand adventures have come to an end. Next stop... South America!