On our 7th day, we loaded into 2 cars and headed for the far north, to Ninety Mile Beach and the dunes there. After some car sickness, lunch, and a stop at the famous Hundertwasser Toilets, we arrived.
Ninety Mile Beach is actually 55 miles (88 km) long. The sand is hard & stable enough that you can drive on it from an hour or two efore low tide to an hour or two after. And, according to our host, there’s no speed limit. She, Melanie, drove us north along the beach to the dunes, hitting 180something kmh (111 mph) where the kids tried sand sliding. Never in my life have I wished more for snow sleds, but they made do (due?) with boogie boards and tried cardboard (it doesn’t work well).
We wlaked around on the beach for a bit, relaoded the cars, caved to the kids and got McDonald’s instead of eating at a restaurant, and took dinner back to the beach to watch the sunset, which was lovely.
Then we loaded up and headed for Paihia, almost 2 hours away, where we stayed for the night. Having not seen any of Bay of Islands in the dark, this morning was a pleasant surprise. We got breakfast at Alfresco’s Restaurant and Bar; I had hot cakes with rhubarb compote and vanilla marscapone and bananas and I could have eaten another order of it – it was delicious. Also, one thing I haven’t mentioned is that all coffee here is espresso based, not brewed american style. I’ve been having long blacks, which are 2 shots of espresso. It was just nice to have it in an espresso cup in a cafe this morning; I felt like I was back in France.
Right after breakfast, we headed to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, first participating in the traditional welcome ceremony and cultural performance and then taking a really informative 1 hour tour about the history of NZ and the treaties between the Maori tribes and the UK. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to get a good look at the museum, so we’ll have to come back this way again some day. The Bay of Islands is beautiful and I’d love to come back and spend 4-5 days there exploring.
Tomorrow we’ll start the new year off with a tour of Hobbiton and then (I think) a short drive to Rotoroa where we’ll be staying the night and taking in the hot springs (I think).
Happy New Year!