Itinerary E12

Kawakawa, Ruapekapeka, Opua, Russell, Paihia, Waitangi

This trip starts at the Rawene Road junction with SH 12.

Drive Eastward on SH 12 through Waima, Taheke, Kaikohe and Ohaeawai to SH 1. Follow this south, through Moerewa to Kawakawa. This town is famous for having the railway line run down the middle of the main street, although trains are not presently operating on the line, which goes to Opua. It is also known for the fancy toilets in the centre of the town, which are worth a visit for the curiosity aspect if nothing else.

Head out of Kawakawa and at the t-junction turn to your right. Follow SH 1 south about 18 km and watch out for the sign pointing to your left to Ruapekapeka. Follow this road until you come to the car park and entry to Ruapekapeka Pa, the site of the third and last of the military engagements that took place in January 1846 between local Maoris and the Crown forces. The extensive underground earthworks are still clearly visible. A short walk at the rear of the Pa site will bring you to a magnificent stand of ancient Puriri trees. Read more >>

From the car park take the other arm of Ruapekepeka Road to SH 11 and turn right towards Opua. Besides the Marina and the range of marine service industries clustered around the waters edge, this is where the car ferry leaves from for the short trip across to Okiato and the road into Russell.

Russell was at one time known as Kororareko and it was the sacking of the town by local Maoris led by Hone Heke that led to the military actions. The town is compact and can easily be walked around. Christ Church, built in 1835, is the oldest church in New Zealand. It is two blocks back from the waterfront and the walls still show the bullet holes from the time of the sacking. Along the waterfront are several historic buildings and a number of good eateries.

At one end of the waterfront is Pompalier House, early base of the Catholic Marist missionaries and site of one of the earliest printing presses. Now owned by the NZ Historic Places Trust, it is open to the public from 10.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. from December to April and from May to November there are hourly guided tours from 10.15 to 3.15. Read more about Pompalier House >>

Return by ferry to Opua and head north to Paihia, centre of tourist activities in the Bay of Islands. At the northern end of Paihia, if you continue around the roundabout, you will cross the causeway and bridge leading to Waitangi, site of the first signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840. Within the grounds beside the Treaty House is an excellent Visitor Information centre. Read more >>

You can return to the Hokianga by Puketona Road to Puketona and then by SH 10 back to SH 1. Turn right and follow the signs to SH 12 and on to Kaikohe.