The Bay of Is­lands is a jewel in the North Is­land’s crown, a re­gion stud­ded with his­tor­i­cal and nat­u­ral trea­sures. We spend a week­end cu­rat­ing our pick of the gems

Dish - - CONTENTS - Words NAOMI LARKIN / Pho­tog­ra­phy SUPPLIED

Naomi Larkin puts the spot­light on the beau­ti­ful Bay of Is­lands.

Tuck­ing into per­fectly cooked fish and chips on the black-peb­bled Rus­sell beach, two Dutch tourists sit watch­ing the or­ange sun sink slowly into the ocean. “This is par­adise,” one of them sighs. The com­ment re­minds us that, as Ki­wis, we of­ten take the beauty of our coun­try for granted. In the Bay of Is­lands, how­ever, it’s hard to ig­nore that par­adise re­ally is right here on our doorstep.

And when you’re in such a breath­tak­ing nat­u­ral set­ting, you don’t want to be wast­ing time scrolling down your phone screen to find the best places to visit, eat and sleep. Which is why we’ve high­lighted our top picks for you – so you can fo­cus on en­joy­ing the eye­wa­ter­ingly lovely sur­rounds and soak­ing up the sto­ries of this his­tory-rich re­gion.

Within Rus­sell there are a num­ber of his­toric spots worth mak­ing time for. Pom­pal­lier House on the fore­shore was built to house the Catholic mis­sion’s print­ing press in 1842. It’s a beau­ti­ful build­ing with a charm­ing gar­den and a shop sell­ing not just pre­dictable cu­rios but also a good se­lec­tion of books and games for chil­dren.

Give those legs a work­out and head up Maiki or Flagstaff Hill, where Hōne Heke three times cut down the flag­pole fly­ing the British flag. The 360 de­gree views from the top will make you glad you braved the climb. At Rus­sell Mu­seum, you’ll find a host of fas­ci­nat­ing arte­facts in­clud­ing a large-scale model of Cap­tain Cook’s ship the En­deav­our. Stop in at Christ Church, too, the coun­try’s old­est church, where you can play ‘spot-the-mus­ket-ball-hole’; the build­ing was hit by stray ammo dur­ing the Bat­tle of Kororāreka in 1845 and still bears the scars.

When you’re weary of vis­it­ing the past, take a stroll through the present with one of the many bush and bay walks. Or head to Long Beach, the per­fect fam­ily-friendly swim­ming spot. Take a pic­nic and savour the views out to Rober­ton Is­land.

Take the short ferry ride be­tween Rus­sell and Pai­hia for a day trip or whip across the wa­ter to change up your din­ner spot. Or head up to The Old Pack­house Mar­kets in Kerik­eri to stock up on fresh pro­duce and pick up a caramel-filled dough­nut and a cof­fee while you browse stalls like Ron­goa Magic’s Māori medic­i­nal balms; Hihi Olive Es­tate; or wo­ven prod­ucts from Nuku Craft. Open Satur­day 8am-1.30pm and Sun­day 9am-1.30pm. Then me­an­der across the road to the Makana Bou­tique Chocolate Fac­tory and sam­ple their hand-made chocolate and truf­fles.

The iconic Duke of Marl­bor­ough oc­cu­pies a prime spot on Rus­sell’s water­front

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