Bay of Islands: Paihia & Russel

Day three started off bright and early. We decided late last night that we had experienced enough of the fertile smell from Rotorua that it was time for a change of pace.

So away we went from Rotorua up North past Auckland to Paihia in the Bay of Islands, a 5 hour and 37 minute drive. We left at 6:30am and arrived in Paihia at around noon, where we stayed at a beautiful little bed and breakfast. We checked into our “princess room” that we were given, a special upgrade by the owner, thanks to cuteness factor that my mom and I share.

We took the rest of the day to explore the farmer’s markets, beautiful beaches, rich history, and of course, delicious coffee shops.

The next day, we woke up early and drove across the car ferry to Russel to get to our four hour boat tour on time. Russel was in fact the first capital of New Zealand, so there’s some neat history you’ll read about at the end of this post.

On the boarding dock to the boat cruise, we ran into a family that we had met on a pit stop from Rotorua to the Bay of Islands. Funny how that goes huh? We spend the cruise with them along with 30 other people exploring from the water the vastness of the bay of islands. We explored 19 different islands, learned the history and culture there, saw Cape Brett Lighthouse close up, and took the large boat through the Hole in Rock. 

I got to know the family we had previously met pretty well on the boat cruise. My mom and I had a blast chatting with the family, two sisters and their mom, throughout the boat cruise. When we returned back to the dock, we all decided to get drinks and chips at The Duke of Marlboro, a hotel situated on the water front in Russel that was the first establishment in New Zealand to have a liquor license.

Some neat history for you as promised:

The Duke of Marlborough began its life in 1827 as “Johnny Johnstons Grog Shop”. The owner Johnny Johnston was an ex convict turned good, who became fluent in Te Reo and was very well regarded by the local Maori.

Previously, in the 1830s, Russell or Kororareka, as it was known then, was the biggest whaling port in the Southern Hemisphere. Sometimes, up to 500 whalers at a time would arrive in Russell after twelve months at sea. Russell had no effective law enforcement agency at this time, so you can imagine, the scene wasn’t ideal. Prostitution was one of the area’s largest industries and many local women frequently entered into 3 week marriages.

Johnny quickly changed the name of his hotel to the Duke of Marlborough, at the time the Duke of Marlborough was the world’s richest man, so the name sought to bring respect, and to combat the nickname given to Russel, the “Hell Hole of the Pacific”.

Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our day. The last adventure we could take together before mom returned home.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading.

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