Christmas in New Zealand – Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

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We left the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula early on Christmas Eve for the 5-hour drive to Paihia at the far northern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. While it was Christmas, it certainly didn’t feel like Christmas. With the reversed seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, summer was in full swing here, and everybody was busy hitting the beach and barbecuing. Pining for some familiar traditions, we donned red santa hats and blasted some Christmas carols for the trip up.

Our little elf at the wheel.Our little elf at the wheel.
Our little elf at the wheel.24-Dec-2011 08:50
 

Luckily, we were able to get a reservation at the absolutely delightful Seabeds Hostel. Upon calling to make a reservation with Marie, the friendly proprietor, she told us she would be serving a Christmas Dinner that night for all the hostel guests. Nice!

Christmas dinner at Seabeds Hostel in Paihia.Christmas dinner at Seabeds Hostel in Paihia.
Christmas dinner at Seabeds Hostel in Paihia.24-Dec-2011 20:22
 

That evening, we tucked into a delicious dinner with a group of new friends from all around the world, swapping stories and sharing traditions. It was the perfect way to celebrate Christmas abroad and Marie kept us entertained and well-fed. I can’t imagine a better way for a rag-tag group of backpackers to spend the holiday.

New friends at the hostel.New friends at the hostel.
New friends at the hostel.24-Dec-2011 20:58
 

The next day, we took it easy, and hung out on the beach, only a few steps away from the hostel.

Christmas Day on the beach - a first for us!Christmas Day on the beach - a first for us!
Christmas Day on the beach - a first for us!25-Dec-2011 18:02
 

We also checked out the local Haruru Falls. While tiny, the classic horseshoe shape reminded us a little of Niagara on the US-Canada border!

Heather and the "Mini Niagara" Haruru Falls.Heather and the "Mini Niagara" Haruru Falls.
Heather and the "Mini Niagara" Haruru Falls.25-Dec-2011 14:29
 

For dinner, we cooked ourselves a traditional Christmas feast, and at the same time tried to use up some of the remaining food items in our pantry before we left the country.

On our final day in Paihia, we took the ferry across to the old town of Russel. This historic settlement was the location of the first European settlement on New Zealand in the early 1800s. It was fun walking around the old streets and checking out some of the historic buildings.

A quiet beach at Russell, NZ.A quiet beach at Russell, NZ.
A quiet beach at Russell, NZ.26-Dec-2011 12:25
 

From there, we hopped on one of the many Bay of Islands cruise-tours. Unfortunately, with the Boxing Day holiday in full effect, the ship was absolutely packed, and we found it hard to find any space to ourselves.

Cruising the Bay of Islands.Cruising the Bay of Islands.
Cruising the Bay of Islands.26-Dec-2011 14:23
 

The highlight of the cruise was the famous “Hole in the Rock” on Piercy Island off Cape Brett. Under the right conditions, these cruises will pass right through the natural rock arch. Unfortunately for us, the weather wasn’t cooperating and we could only enjoy the “Hole in the Rock” from a safe distance further back.

The famous "Hole in the Rock".The famous "Hole in the Rock".
The famous "Hole in the Rock".26-Dec-2011 14:49
 

On the way back to Paihia, the captain spotted some wild dolphins. We enjoyed watching these guys zip around the water. They even followed our boat back part of the way to port!

Dolphins surfing back home with us in our boat's wake.Dolphins surfing back home with us in our boat's wake.
Dolphins surfing back home with us in our boat's wake.26-Dec-2011 17:10
 

That night, we gave away our leftover food and some other supplies to some German guys we had met at the hostel and started getting out things together for the final push back to Auckland.

The next day, we hopped in our Jucy car one final time for the three hour drive down to Auckland. Along the way we stopped at a nice waterfall.

One final NZ waterfall!One final NZ waterfall!
One final NZ waterfall!27-Dec-2011 12:30
 

We also inspected some bizarre Antoni Gaudi-esque public toilets.

The Hundertwasser Public Toilets in Kawakawa.The Hundertwasser Public Toilets in Kawakawa.
The Hundertwasser Public Toilets in Kawakawa.27-Dec-2011 10:23
 

On our way back to the city, we received a reply to an ad we had posted on the Kiwi-version of Craigslist – someone wanted to buy all our camping gear! We were very thankful to have someone to offload our tent, sleeping bags, air mattress, and cooking items. Before handing it all over, though, we wanted to use our camp stove one final time. So, we pulled off the side of the highway and cooked ourselves a nice little pasta lunch!

Making use of our camping gear...one last time.Making use of our camping gear...one last time.
Making use of our camping gear...one last time.27-Dec-2011 14:01
 

Finally, with our gear sold back in Auckland, it was time to drive to the airport and drop off Jucy “Jazzy”. After six weeks and more than 6,000 km (3,500 miles), it was a sad good-bye.

Adios, Jucy Jazzy! You served us well...Adios, Jucy Jazzy! You served us well...
Adios, Jucy Jazzy! You served us well...27-Dec-2011 18:16
 

We checked in to a cheap airport hotel and enjoyed one final dinner in New Zealand.

Our last Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.Our last Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.
Our last Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.27-Dec-2011 18:49
 

The next morning, we left on an early flight for New Years in Sydney and more Australian adventures!

Flying back to Australia.Flying back to Australia.
Flying back to Australia.28-Dec-2011 07:20
 

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