THE MAGIC OF Kawau Is­land

Kawau Is­land's tri-weekly Royal Mail run might just be the world's most spec­tac­u­lar de­liv­ery route.

Go Travel New Zealand - - Auckland -

We have four days in Auck­land be­fore head­ing south to Queen­stown, but what to do? After look­ing through our guide books, we de­cide a trip to Kawau Is­land is just the thing. It's early morn­ing but we've al­ready driven the hour from Auck­land and are now fol­low­ing a wind­ing road down to a pic­turesque har­bour nes­tled in a river es­tu­ary. We walk into the Kawau Cruises of­fice and it's bustling with peo­ple like us: Tourists look­ing to visit an is­land with New Zealand his­tory and has a re­stored Vic­to­rian era Man­sion House that was once the res­i­dence of Gover­nor Ge­orge Grey. Shelley, of Kawau Cruises, hands us our tick­ets along with a map of the voy­age we would take on the ferry. At the wharf there is a queue of tourists and is­land res­i­dents wait­ing to board. We're re­lieved to see it is a big boat and Howard, the deck­hand, greets us with a beam­ing smile. At 10.30am, the ferry de­parts from Sand­spit Wharf and we head to­wards the river mouth which opens into the mag­i­cally blue ex­panse of Kawau Bay. Ian, our skip­per, pro­vides a safety brief­ing then starts his com­men­tary. Howard brews some cof­fee. In­side the ves­sel, lo­cals, many with what seems like food that would last for months and cats or dogs or birds, are talk­ing amongst them­selves. With a per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tion of less than 100 spread over 30 or 40 lit­tle set­tle­ment ar­eas in the bays and coves on its shel­tered west­ern face and al­most no road­ing, Kawau’s lack of so­phis­ti­cated com­mu­nity in­fra­struc­ture is a source of pride to res­i­dents. There is one store which serves magnificent burg­ers and meals for eight months of the year, and a swish lit­tle cafe open over the sum­mer time in Man­sion House Park. Ev­ery­thing has to be trans­ported in and out. We de­cide to head to the top deck. It's hot and there is very lit­tle wind so hats and sun­screen are def­i­nitely the or­der of the day. Look­ing at the map, we trace our path and see that we're head­ing to­wards the north­ern end of the is­land to Vi­vian Bay, the first of many set­tle­ments that we will see to­day. We're on the Royal Mail run, a three times a week de­liv­ery ser­vice to Kawau is­land res­i­dents. The mail is de­liv­ered in can­vas bags and ei­ther left on the end of wharves or handed to wait­ing is­lan­ders, ea­ger to hear news from “afar”. I won­der if this is sim­i­lar to the days of the pony ex­press de­liv­ery ser­vice! Vi­vian Bay has a lovely sandy beach with a glo­ri­ously invit­ing up­mar­ket re­sort right at the water’s edge. As we head out of the bay, the ferry sud­denly stops and Ian an­nounces over the PA sys­tem that there is a pod of dol­phins just off the ves­sel's bow. We take a look and see 15 or more dol­phins, in­clud­ing two baby calves that stay close to their moth­ers, all frol­ick­ing in the wake cre­ated by the ferry. We pass more lit­tle set­tle­ments as we skirt the edges of the is­land un­til we reach North Cove, a tran­quil deep­wa­ter in­let with about 30 houses along the water’s edge. On this is­land with no roads, ev­ery­thing has to be done by boat or on foot. Many prop­er­ties have their own pri­vate jetty in the same way that we have a garage for a car. On Kawau Is­land, a boat is like a car. We con­tinue on, mak­ing more mail drops, then head into Bon Ac­cord Har­bour, which is about 4km in length and al­most bi­sects the is­land. We drop more mail off, mov­ing from wharf to wharf. That is our sched­ule for to­day. Around lunchtime, we reach spec­tac­u­lar Tran­quil Bay where we find Gover­nor Grey's Man­sion House. The house is a cor­ner­stone of New Zealand's colo­nial his­tory and was built by Sir Ge­orge Grey, who was ap­pointed Gover­nor in 1845 and Premier in 1877. The man­sion was re­stored us­ing the New Zealand con­ser­va­tion bud­get and is filled with pe­riod fur­ni­ture and art­work. It took our breath away. Howard re­mained on the ferry fir­ing up the bar­be­cue for lunch while we ex­plored the man­sion and its spec­tac­u­lar grounds, which is home

to pea­cocks and weka and palm trees which helped pro­tect us from the hot sun. We walked lunch off with an easy stroll to Cop­per­mine, the relic of a pros­per­ous min­ing in­dus­try that con­tin­ued un­til early into the 20th cen­tury. This is a walk back in his­tory as well as in par­adise. It's time to get back onto the ferry, and on the way back there are more mail drops and pick­ups. We col­lect a few is­lan­ders head­ing back to the main­land, too. We de­cide to sit down­stairs this time – we've had our fill of the open air for to­day – and en­joy a glass of wine. Be­fore too long we're back where our ad­ven­ture started: Sand­spit Wharf. We start the drive back to Auck­land tired but sat­is­fied. We have en­joyed the warmth hos­pi­tal­ity of some Kawau Is­lan­ders and seen a lit­tle slice of New Zealand par­adise mixed with an im­por­tant slice of New Zealand his­tory. Sleep came easy that night.

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