I’m trying to figure out how to write about the Bay of Islands and it seems my mind has reverted back to my 16-year-old self with a crush. All I want to do is tell you is how it was love at first sight, how dreamy it was, and how special it made me feel.
Jokes aside, it truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life.
From the moment I arrived, I understood why it’s one of the most popular tourist spots in New Zealand. I got off my bus in Paihia and immediately headed to the waterfront and looked out across the ocean, incredulous that I couldn’t turn the view over and find room to write ‘wish you were here’ and put a stamp in the top right hand corner.
My first priority was getting out on the ocean. The Bay of Islands is made up of over 140 islands and the best way to explore is by boat. I booked on to the Cream Tour. Part of this included the option of swimming with wild dolphins. I told myself I wouldn’t be too fussed if the opportunity didn’t arise, thinking I had outgrown my love of dolphins.
If you went into my childhood bedroom you would have saw three dolphin posters, several ornaments and a hanging dolphin mobile. Plus maybe one on a t shirt. I had such a fierce desire to swim with dolphins and this sheer love came flooding back as soon as I saw one swimming in front of the boat.
We were told during the briefing you had to be ready to swim at a moment’s notice, as soon we spotted a suitable pod, it was in the water straight away. No time for wet suits if you were in the first group.
We were less than an hour into our boat trip when we found a couple of suitable dolphins to swim with. I was 10 years-old again and practically skipping as I went to get my snorkel and fins, then I got straight into the water. The cold smacked against my skin, it was like having a block of ice for lungs. Breathing was a momentary struggle and then I managed to screech and swear at how freezing it was, but I didn’t care because soon we were swimming.
The water, so delightfully blue to sail across, was surprisingly green and murky underneath. It didn’t take long for the dolphins to swim beside us, everyone in the group frantically kicking their legs to keep up. The dolphins would submerge into depths we couldn’t see, only to surprise us and come up a few minutes later. They were bigger than I thought they would be.
There’s nothing quite like looking down into the ocean and seeing a chirpy dolphin swimming up towards you.
I was lucky enough to have a few times when it was just me and the two dolphins swimming alongside one other. I kicked my legs, gliding along next to them and I felt so utterly content. I forgot how cold it was, all I could think was how incredible this experience was.
When we were back on the boat the captain told us we were really lucky, they usually didn’t stay and play for that long. Even after all of us were out of the water, the two dolphins were still swimming alongside the boat, not wanting us to go. One of the girls pointed out how much better it made the experience, the fact they wanted to play with us, rather than being forced into it in an enclosure.
The rest of the day continued in a dreamy state, with dolphins continuing to swim alongside the boat.
Though, sadly, we didn’t have time to swim with them, as had a lot more to see. One of the famous sights in the Bay of Islands is the self-explanatory named Hole in the Rock. Again, luck was on our side, it was such a smooth day for sailing we were able to go through the hole. I amazed our boat fitted.
“Would you look at that? I haven’t seen the water this still in a long time,” the captain exclaimed as he expertly steered his way through the islands and rock formations. Despite his years on the job, it was lovely to hear the admiration in his voice. I couldn’t imagine these views would be something you tire of easily.
We stopped at Urupukapuka Island, which was such an idyllic spot.
There was a short walk near the beach, involving a little hill where you could make the most of the surrounding views. A fellow traveller and I, who were having a wander together, compared it to Greece with some sheep thrown in. Once again, I was struggling to take in the scenery. All I could say was:
“Look how pretty it is! Stop it.”
“I’m sorry but this is just ridiculous.”
The journalism degree pays off everyday.
It was utter paradise, painted so richly with green and blue. On top of the hill you could look out and see the golden beach below or dozens of islands around. It felt so tucked into the middle of nowhere, despite being so popular among tourists. I think, or at least I hope, that most people who visit there have this special moment of feeling on top of the world whist on that little hill.
Like I said earlier, I could go on and on about how quickly I became smitten with Bay of Islands. In fact, I wrote a whole other blog post about and if you want to read that, just click here.
What have been some of your recent travel highlights? I’d love to know in the comments below.