After morning coffee on the porch, a stroll to the waterway, and a goodbye chat with our hosts of Cabin 23, we were on our way north to Opua and Russ’s namesake, the town of Russell.
Even though the day was overcast and drizzly, we still enjoyed the sights along the way. Our first stop was the Roadrunner Tavern, owned by Russ’s high school friends, in Opua. We enjoyed a cold local brew and bought a bottle of Pinot Noir from the package store for later in the evening. If you find yourself traveling through Opua, stop by the Road Runner Tavern for a game of pool and a snack.
I would recommend taking the short ferry ride from Opua to Russell rather than driving the long way around. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, and it’s inexpensive. Russell is a quaint town with an interesting and checkered past. Take the time to visit the small museum and learn about the local history.
Okiato, where the ferry actually docks when taking passengers to Russell, was the first capital of New Zealand before being moved to Auckland. Russell was an important sea port in the 1800s and the first European settlement in New Zealand. A booming whaling trade operated out of the port, and the town became known for its lawlessness and prostitution. Today, Russell is a tourist destination with many cafes and guest accommodations.
While in Opua, we received a tip on where to stay that evening. Bridgehouse Lodge in Warkworth would become our final destination. Along the way, we made a few stops during breaks in the rain. So many of New Zealand’s towns and cities are full of murals, and Matakana is no exception. I just loved the public toilet design and the colorful stairway with its water feature.
We arrived in Warkworth to the Bridgehouse Lodge just in time to catch the All Blacks game in the attached restaurant and bar. Bridgehouse Lodge is the oldest building in Warkworth and is located along the Mahurangi River. I would highly recommend a meal in the restaurant. While not a five star accomodation, the rooms are clean, comfortable, and affordable.
In the morning, we decided to loop up into the southern part of the Coromandel region before heading back to Mt. Maunganui for a 7:00 P.M. dinner date. Our day was overcast and a little rainy, but we were determined to make the most of my last full day in New Zealand.
Tairua is a beautiful little fishing town on the north side of the harbor across from the resort town of Pauanui. Wanting to see more of a local’s viewpoint, we skipped the resort area and spent a little time driving around Tairua.
While much of our day was spent viewing the countryside through a rainy windshield while driving, we did make a few stops for pictures along the way. We were headed south to Whangamata, our final destination, when I spotted this rainbow and just had to pull over to snap a few pictures. And, yes, the rainbow was a sign of bluer skies to come in Whangamata.
We purposely allowed ourselves some extra time to explore the Whangamata area. It’s known as one of the best surfing beaches in New Zealand, but there is something for everyone. There’s a nice shopping district in the downtown area with boutiques and a few souvenier shops. We lucked across a fantasitic beach at the Orokawa Scenic Preserve where you can also take a short hike up some cliffs and find yourself with spectacular views.
I recommend viewing at least some of New Zealand’s beauty through the eyes of a local. Should you hit some of the tourist attractions? Absolutely. Two of my favorite places on the North Island are still Hobbiton and the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. We definitely played the part of tourists our last trip, so this visit was more focused on friends, family, and relaxing.