Bay of Islands - Area Information
144 sub-tropical islands steeped in history... memories...and marlin
Wherever you are in the Bay of Islands, it’s impossible to escape the lure of the sea. There are almost endless opportunities for immersing yourself in the blue-green world of island and beach. Charter a yacht or launch. Dive or snorkel. Paddle a sea kayak in and out of the islands’ nooks and crannies. Swim with dolphins.
Many people come to the Bay of Islands with marlin in mind. Zane Grey, the great American western writer and big game fisherman, pitched a tent and caught his first marlin here in 1926. He made sure the world heard about it!
Today, enthusiasts come from all over the globe in pursuit of marlin, broad bills and game sharks. You can take part in keenly contested tournaments or hire a boat and fight your own private battles with the denizens of the deep.
The scenery is nothing short of spectacular and can only be fully appreciated by cruising through the area.
The Maritime Park is a natural wonderland with an abundance of wildlife including marlin, whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets and many other species.
In 1769, the English explorer Captain James Cook dropped anchor in the Bay of Islands and set the wheels in motion for its settlement by the English. It was Cook who named the place, "Bay of Islands"... and it was here that English settlers first set up home in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
The birth of New Zealand's nationhood is traced back to 1840 Waitangi when Maori tribal leaders and the English colonisers forged a treaty which, despite some flaws, remains a watershed document for uniting New Zealand's various peoples into one common nation. After the Treaty, the British established Russell as the nation's capital, which later moved south to Auckland, then farther south to Wellington.
Russell was an established settlement of the Maori people long before the arrival of Captain Cook and the sailing ship 'Endeavour' in 1769. Its Maori name was Kororareka, which comes from a legend about a wounded Maori chief who asked for penguin... and on tasting the broth, said 'Ka reka ko korora' (how sweet is the penguin).
From the early 1800s, South Sea Whalers found Kororareka an ideal port to collect provisions. The town grew as more and more ships landed there, but soon gained a reputation as a lawless and bawdy port; earning the nickname 'Hellhole of the Pacific'. Deserting seamen, runaway convicts, grog sellers and prostitutes all made their homes, there. The whalers bartered muskets for food, and this encouraged the local Maori Chief - Hongi Hika - and the northern Maori, to instigate local inter-tribal warfare.
After the whalers, the missionaries arrived. The first mission station was set up by the Reverend Samuel Marsden in 1815. In 1819, at the invitation of the Maori Chief Hongi Hika, he established the second mission station at Kerikeri. The first Roman Catholic mission was set up by Bishop Pompallier in Russell in 1839.
First British Official Resident
James Busby arrived in Paihia in 1833 as the official British Resident sent out from England. He was expected to protect the traders and settlers, prevent outrages against Maori, capture convicts, and encourage the Maori chiefs to keep order.
Busby settled with his wife and children in a house built at Waitangi from a wooden frame shipped over from Sydney. At this time there were around 1000 settlers in the Bay.
First British Governor
On 29 January 1840 Captain William Hobson arrived, having been appointed the Lt Governor of New Zealand. His job was to make a treaty with the Maori chiefs. Busby's position as British Resident ceased, but he continued to assist Hobson and he also prepared the English draft of the Treaty of Waitangi for Hobson's consideration.
The Treaty of Waitangi
The Treaty was signed on February 6, 1840, outside the home of James Busby, by forty six Maori chiefs and later, over 450 Maori leaders around the country added their mark to the agreement.
The Treaty House
Busby's house, now known as the Treaty House, is open to the public, daily. In 1844, only four years later, Hone Heke, together with chief Kawiti, showed their displeasure by chopping down the British flagstaff at Maiki Hill, in Russell. Skirmishes between the Maori and Europeans have continued in various forms. Today the Government is currently working on the settlement of land claims and fishing rights - many of which have been disputed since the original Treaty.