We left the Coromandel Peninsula to drive north to the Bay of Islands and the Northlands… an area we hadn’t yet visited on our previous trip to New Zealand.
This area is rich in history. Māori tribes arrived here from other South Pacific islands about 750 years ago.
Māori settled and multiplied throughout the bay and on several of its many islands. Many of the Māori settlements later played important roles in the development of New Zealand, such as Okiato (New Zealand’s first capital), and Waitangi, where the Treaty of Waitangi would later be signed… more on this later.
Abel Tasman, a Dutchman, is officially recognized as the first European to ‘discover’ New Zealand in 1642, landing on the South Island after sighting and naming (now Tasmania) Van Diemen’s Land. The first encounter between Māori and European was violent, leading to bloodshed. After partly charting the coastline, Tasman left New Zealand without ever having had the occasion to set foot ashore. More on this in the next post as this next week we are visiting Abel Tasman National Park.
The Bay of Islands was the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. Mor than a hundred years after Tasman, the first European to visit this area of New Zealand was Captain Cook, who named the region in 1769. Whalers arrived towards the end of the 18th century, while the first missionaries settled in 1814.
Next stop: Waitangi Treaty Grounds… self-titled New Zealand’s most important historic site, and we can’t disagree. The grounds, museum, tours, cultural performances and traditional hangi are extremely well done and really are a ‘Must See’ if you visit this area.
Our last tour on the North Islands was a flight over the Northland region, to Cape Reinga. According to Māori legend, the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife to leap off the headland and climb the roots of the 800-year-old pohutukawa tree. They descend to the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki, using the Te Ara Wairua, the ‘Spirits’ pathway’. At Cape Reinga they depart the mainland. They turn briefly at the Three Kings Islands for one last look back towards the land, then continue on their journey.