The Bay of Islands in the North of New Zealand is an iconic New Zealand landscape and one of the ‘must-see’ in NZ. I live in Waipu 2 hrs south of the Bay – we like to call it paradise, and its hard to better it, but an invitation to go aboard the new overnight cruise ship Ipipiri was not to be missed. And as my friend Liz had never been to the BOI, it was a great chance to introduce her its wonders through this ‘on the water’ experience.
|A friendly welcome awaited us at the Inter City offices in the Ferry Building where all the formalities of booking in and payment were handled before we were bundled off to board the bus to Opua where Ipipiri awaited us. Length and height – she was clearly visible standing several stories above the wharf. She is not that pretty to look at for someone who likes the fine lines of a classical boat, but once on board that is forgotten – Ipipiri is maximized for comfort and views.|
|We stowed our bags in the very comfortable cabin (with ensuite) – we were on the kayak deck, climbed up another accommodation deck, and then we were in the very comfortable dining/bar deck, further steps led up to the top sun deck. We settled back for the ride, this trip is for kicking back and relaxing. When I saw Excitor speed past us, I appreciated the pull of that adrenalin rush, but I realized that Ipipiri was just what I needed, a leisurely 9 knots is our cruising speed.|
|Fresh muffins and coffee arrived as we cruised past Russell. I joined the skipper Rob in the wheelhouse, which seemed to have every mod con there was. No giant steering wheel here – the boat is steered at the touch of a button on the captains seat – much like a game console. Rob has been driving passenger boats for over 20 years, so I feel we are in confident hands. He began in Milford Sound in the 80s before moving to work with Kings and then Fullers in Northland.He knows the winds and conditions here and assessing the weather and the desire for some of us to kayak, he heads for anchorage at Waipiro in Parekura Bay. On the way he tells a few old tales of the islands, including a great story about Roberton Island – Motuarohia, one of the jewels of the Bay of Islands.||
|Eight of us sign up for a kayak, and the rest decide to go ashore for a walk. We are soon kitted out in lifejackets, we are warned that we might get a little wet and we step into our kayaks. Now this is often the tricky part for me – but not here, they have thought of everything. We step into the kayaks on a dry deck which is then lowered into the water and we paddle off – very civilized. Rochelle leads us off around the nearby rocky island where a gentle swell tugs at the seaweed. Often there are dolphins, but not today. Though a pair of Oyster Catchers is making a racket and we spot the almost invisible small grey chicks they are protecting – they are safe from us, we paddle back to Ipipiri, where a few of us decide to dive off for a swim.|
|After that nothing for it but to have happy hour – relax with a glass of wine and watch the sun set over the Bay before dinner. Captain Rob motors off to a more sheltered bay where we can eat and sleep with minimum wave motion. Dinner was very satisfying, with lots to choose from at the Buffet, my friend Liz was impressed that they had soy milk for her tea. We headed off to bed, and unfortunately missed out on the guided tour of the stars given by one of the crew from the top deck.|
|We fell asleep by starlight and woke to the sun coming up– it was as close to sleeping under the stars as you can get, but with all the home comforts. An early morning dip in the still waters set us up for a scrummy breakfast before motoring sedately home.
A fabulous and relaxing trip – slow travel like slow food
Cost: twin share from $299pp
Ipipiri: at 46m long, this Catamaran