Waka at Waitangi
I revisited the Treaty of Waitangi grounds with some trepidation as I was left feeling underwhelmed after my visit in 2002. This visit was infinitely better. I discovered that everyone with a New Zealand drivers licence can explore the grounds for free. The $18 guided tour around the Treaty grounds with Dennise Robinson was my favourite Bay of Islands tour.

View from Russell wharf
A summer seaside town bulging with yachties, with a church that has authentic bullet holes in its weatherboards was how I remembered Russell. The next morning I caught the car ferry and went to re-acquaint myself. 

The Māori name Kororekera reflects a wounded chief’s passion for healing soup made from “sweet” blue penguins, and the town with its bittersweet history is undeniably worth visiting.In the early 19th century sailors, traders and escaped convicts visited the town to resupply their ships and enjoy some drunken recreation. John Bidwell a botanist and world traveller at the time described it as ‘The Hell Hole of the Pacific’ was well earned. 

Marsdon Cross
After a couple of wrong turns, driving to Marsden Cross and the remains of Rangihoua Pa via a backcountry labyrinth of gravel roads, becomes a karmic test of patience. A muddy track leads down to the beach and the famous cross which stands in a farm paddock on the edge of the sea. In winter, it seems like you are visiting a private beach framed by pohutakawa and a full frontal view of the nearby islands.

Inside the Stone Store Kerikeri
Even in winter the air around Kerikeri smells fruit-laden. People visiting art galleries, coffee shops and farm supply stores still animate the main street. At the Stone Store, I discovered that talking to someone who's every gesture expresses how much she loves her job is a delicacy to be savoured. 

Liz Bigwood is the Kerikeri Mission Station’s property manager. Names such as Reverend John Butler and James Kemp; significant dates; and the relationship between the mission and Hongi Hika’s Kororipo Pa, flow effortlessly through our conversation.