Your half-day tour begins as you board your motorcoach for a scenic 30-minute drive to the Kawiti Glow-worm Caves. The caves, located on private property, are owned by descendants of Maori chieftain Kawiti who fought against the British in 1846.
New Zealand’s most famous fly, the glow-worm (Arachnocompa luminosa), belongs to the gnat family and is not related to the European glow-worm, a beetle. Get your camera ready for a galaxy of glow-worm lights, impressive limestone walls and magnificent delicate stalactites and stalagmites that took thousands of years to form. A small stream flows through the cave in which a pet eel resides.
After an exploration of these natural wonders, you’ll make your way to Kawakawa. This quaint town is known as "Train Town" for the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway that runs down the middle of its main street, and celebrated for its public toilets designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a former resident of the town. You’ll have free time to enjoy this town before departing for Puketi Forest.
The Puketi Forest once covered most of the Bay of Islands with massive kauri trees. Now protected in reserves, these magnificent trees rival California's redwoods in height and girth. A guided walk through the forest on a boardwalk affords you the opportunity to marvel at these imposing trees. Nearly 50,000 visitors annually use the elevated wooden walkway which protects the kauris' sensitive feeding roots, yet allows visitors to get up close to the ancient trees of the forest.
Your tour continues with a drive to Kerikeri.
You’ll snap a photo or two as you travel past the oldest wooden building, Kemp House, and the oldest stone building, the Stone Store, both part of the Church Mission Settlement established in 1819. Also within sight is Rewa’s Village, a reconstruction of a Maori fishing village.
Built for the Reverend John Butler by missionary carpenters and Maori sawyers, Kemp House was occupied by missionary families, including James and Charlotte Kemp. The Kemps continued to live in the house after the mission station folded in 1848, operating a kauri gum business from the Stone Store. The dwelling and gardens passed down through the family until it was gifted to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 1974. The Stone Store was passed into Kemp family ownership, and from 1929 onwards was used mainly as a general store.
You tour concludes with a scenic drive back to the wharf. With the Bay of Islands behind you, you'll take home a myriad of unforgettable memories of a lifetime.