Quick post note — I think the last picture is the best, but had to put it down there so that the sidebar didn’t interfere. Hope you make it down to it.
North of Auckland, New Zealand is an area of the country that does not get enough credit as a great tourist destination. (Official Northland visitor website) From 90 Mile Beach in the far north down to the chill village of Whangaparaoa close to Auckland, this is a relatively under touristed part of New Zealand and one of the most beautiful parts of a beautiful country. Given that it is just a few hours north of Auckland, I am surprised that more visitors don’t take advantage of the opportunity, but I did.
I wandered around a few places in Northland (though didn’t have time to get up to 90 Mile Beach), but the area that I really enjoyed was the around the small town of Paihai and the Bay of Islands. The town is basically a six or seven street village and the draw is the harbor and the surrounding waterfront though the food was excellent. I truly enjoyed staying in the town of Paihai — it had a number of hostels and was a really chill and mellow place to hang out.
One day, I decided to try one of the local attractions: a dolphin cruise, where you can swim with the dolphins if the conditions are right. There are a couple different varieties of dolphins (and whales, in certain seasons) that call this area home. The two kinds of dolphins you can view are the bottlenose and the common. The bottlenose dolphins are larger and move in pods of 10-30 at a time. And there are a number of those pods in the Bay of Islands and they are the kind that you will be swimming with, if you can. The common dolphins are smaller and much faster. As a result, they are basically impossible to swim with — they aren’t going to stick around for you to be able to keep up with them.
Although you are highly likely to be able to view dolphins, swimming with them is subject to a number of rules. The reason we were unable to swim with the dolphins on the day I went out was that there were some infant dolphins swimming in the pod that we followed for a while and you cannot swim with any pod that has baby dolphins in it.
Regardless, it was a great day. We got to see a couple pods of bottlenose dolphins right in the harbor area, then we went out further and followed a couple pods of common dolphins, who are amazingly fast swimmers. It wasn’t the season to see Orca whales or other larger mammals, but if you are in the area, I suggest a nice day dolphin cruise or possibly camping in the area to extend your stay.