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Bay of Islands walking weekend: a yacht and a pair of hiking boots

It doesn’t get much better than this for lovers of New Zealand’s beautiful, pristine landscapes.

Captain Cook first landed here on Roberton island, ironically shaped like a £ sign. Pic Steve Western

We boarded the yacht Kama Loa (Two Souls in Hawaiian) with skipper Steve and his wife Sue from the pier that juts out into the bay of historic Russell. I’m up here to experience some of the walks over the outer islands (and this kiwi night walk in town >>) ahead of the inaugural Bay of Islands Walking Weekend in October.

With a packed lunch from the local bakery and Sue in the galley making coffee, we motored out of the bay and around Tapeka Point, ogling at the $000s per night Eagles Nest high on the hill and the sandy beaches and coves sculpted on the water’s edge below.

The wind is asleep today so we motor all the way to Roberton Island (Motoarohia) where I convince Steve to take me to meet the island’s caretaker Jim and his wife Terri. Jim has been here for 40 years and Terri makes the most beautiful wooden crafts from kauri and other native timber like salad bowls and trinkets.

Project Island Song
Terri and her little rat puzzles

She’s a passionate supporter of Project Island Song which is on a mission to eradicate pests and to plant native trees that bring the birds back. To help the charity she makes these little Razzles – Rat Puzzles – that she sells for $20 with half going straight into the project. It’s a jigsaw of sorts – with little surprises inside. I had to have one!

After spending more time with them than we’d planned we decide not to walk to the top of this infamous island and to see where the nasty fight broke out that killed Mrs Roberton and her staff and family and lead to the first Maori to be tried under British Law. Maketu, the chief’s son, was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to death. It’s still a matter of controversy today and if you come on this walk your guide will tell you all about it.

Back in the little rubber dingy we blat back to the yacht and up anchor on this perfectly flat sea around to Moturua (Island Number Two). This is listed as a 2 hour walk for those with medium fitness.

Moturua army emplacement
I can’t think of a better picnic spot than on the top of Moturua! Pic Steve Western

We also took our picnic with us and started by walking first up past the old army latrines to the gun emplacement which served as a great table with the most stunning views ever. It’s no surprise that visitors to New Zealand go on about how beautiful it is, and it should make us city folk vow to get out once in a while and see what the rest of the world sees.

Steve is amping to start our tour up hill and down dale and while I’d recommend a medium (to good) level of fitness, kids will love it as much as the more experienced hiker. There is so much to see. A fantail (piwakawaka) flits along with us for a while, a tui flaps through the manuka trees scaring the little wax eyes, and all the while the breathtaking backdrop changes with every turn of the path as more islands come into view.

Moturua Island
The aerial view of Moturua. No wonder people think we live in paradise! Pic Steve Western

We see the hole in the rock in the distance and closer islands with expensive houses owned by the country’s rich – but not necessarily famous. That’s how things roll up here. It’s low key.

After touching the sand on 4 different beaches on this island, gathering some shells and a piece of driftwood that we decide looks like a heron, I scramble to the eco-composting toilet – and thankfully someone has left a roll of paper. Nice.

Moturua beach
Just one of the 4 beaches the hike takes you past
Steve Western
Our skipper Steve and Sue who’ve been sailing forever and run 2 yacht charters up here

Then it’s one last hump, as Steve so chirpily put it, and while my face may be the colour of a roasted beet, I’ve had a fantastic time and would do it all again. But with 21 walks arranged for this Walking Weekend in October, I’d probably choose the light house at Cape Brett round to Deep Water Cove – although that one is listed as Hard. Gulp.

Oh and coming home on the yacht, guess what? Yep, three dolphins show up and start cavorting around the boat. It really is paradise up here.

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!