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.
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!
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.
The next day, we took it easy, and hung out on the beach, only a few steps away from the hostel.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
We also inspected some bizarre Antoni Gaudi-esque public toilets.
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!
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.
We checked in to a cheap airport hotel and enjoyed one final dinner in New Zealand.
The next morning, we left on an early flight for New Years in Sydney and more Australian adventures!