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The Rock cruise, Paihia

Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Bay of Islands is one of those wonderful places where you can be non-stop active or just laze around and not feel guilty.

On his recent visit to New Zealand, Jason Dundas chose the active option and went on a 22-hour overnight cruise with promises of water activities, stunning scenery and wildlife.

He boarded The Rock, a 27m-long car ferry which has been converted into floating backpacker accommodation. It's the perfect adventure for active travellers who don't mind getting their feet wet. Most passengers are between 20 and 40 years of age, but some younger families also find it great fun. It's all about discovering the Bay of Islands and all it has to offer.

It's almost impossible to call a place the most beautiful in New Zealand. There's just too much to choose from. If you asked Jason he would nominate the Bay of Islands as the most beautiful in the beach holiday stakes. The crystal blue bay is scattered with 144 of islands. It has the second bluest sky in the world, after Rio de Janeiro.

It's close to the northern tip of New Zealand's north island, 60km from Whangarei. It has fantastic fishing, sailing and has been renowned internationally for big-game fishing since American author Zane Grey publicised it in the 1930s.

The Rock has one private and seven spacious shared cabins, large downstairs living area with a bar, dining area, lounge, pool table, piano and open fire. Upstairs all cabins have sea views and doors that open onto observation decks perfect for viewing the scenery and wildlife.

There's a platform for fishing, target shooting, kayaking, swimming and snorkelling. From the lookouts you will see the famous Hole in the Rock off Cape Brett.

Matilda, a plastic duck, bobs around in The Rock's wake creating a moving target for target shooting. Aiming at Matilda from a moving platform is quite a challenge and even if you've never fired an air rifle, the crew will show you how it's done. Competition is encouraged — maybe male vs female or country vs country — and it's really great fun.

Everyone keeps an eye out for circling birds as that usually means there are fish around. There's nothing like landing a snapper and barbecuing it for dinner.

The water is generally quite chilly, and kayaking is a warmer alternative. At night you will hear the call of kiwis and marvel at the Milky Way. Sun-charged algae gives an underwater fireworks display.

If you want to snorkel the reef, you will be provided with mask, snorkel and fins. Resident fish are used to visitors and will eat mussels from your hand. There's an abundance amongst the rocks — octopus, crayfish, starfish, moray eels, rays and plenty of other species. You will see green-lipped mussels and sea urchin and gathering them has been part of Kiwi life for longer than anyone can remember.

You will be treated to watching gannets, penguins, tui, fantails, dotterels, black backed gulls, dolphins fabulous sunrises and sunsets.

Just being there will make you wonder what Captain James Cook and his crew thought when they arrived after being stuck on a rock. They must have thought they had arrived in heaven. The area is rich in history and each island has its own set of stories and landmarks created by European and Maori cultures.

You'll need to take a few things along with you. A packed lunch and snacks, sleeping bag, towels, warm jacket, swimwear and walking shoes and sandals. Drugs and alcohol are not to be taken on board and you will need some cash for the bar.


Cruising New Zealand's Bay of Islands, four hours north of Auckland.


The Rock overnight cruise departs from Paihia Wharf in the Bay of Islands. It costs $142 per person and most meals and all activities are included.

Air New Zealand has flights to Auckland.

One-way fares from:

  • Sydney and Melbourne $259
  • Brisbane $298
  • Adelaide $335
  • Perth $530

Sales and validity dates apply.

Prices correct at March 18, 2010.

For further information

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476

Bay of Islands Rock Cruises
PO Box 433
Paihia 0247
Bay of Islands
New Zealand
Ph: +64 9 402 7796

Visas: Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand.

Electricity: 230V at 50Hz using the same plugs as in Australia.

Time zone: GMT +12.

Currency: New Zealand dollar.

International dialling code: +64.

To find out more about the hot deals mentioned on the show, check out Holidays for Sale.

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