Cruises: Voyage of discovery
By Kerri Jackson
Aboard the Oceanic Discoverer, cruising through Northland's beautiful Bay of Islands, it's easy to imagine yourself queen (or king) of your own private yacht.
The Discoverer sleeps 72 guests, compared to the hundreds found on larger liners. The ship's size not only makes the cruise a more intimate, personal experience but it also means it has access to places beyond the reach of larger vessels.
One such spot is the beautiful Whangaroa Harbour, just north of the Bay of Islands. Other cruise ships are too large to enter the harbour but as a Discoverer passenger you awake on the second morning of your five-night Paihia to Auckland cruise already moored in the harbour's calm waters.
The Discoverer also carries with it a smaller excursion boat, the Xplorer, and a fleet of even smaller Zodiacs. So once you're inside the harbour you can spend your time exploring its bays under the guidance of your cruise leader.
The five-night cruise back to Auckland also takes in other sights in the Bay of Islands.
Day three of the cruise explores more of the Bay's famous islands and sights, including the Hole in the Rock, plus time spent relaxing on the beautiful white sand beach on Roberton Island. If you're feeling active, take the walk through the island's native bush up to the lookout for breathtaking views of the Bay's 144 islands.
As the ship winds its way further south, it stops at Burgess Island, near Great Barrier, to give passengers a chance to wander through a native reserve before re-boarding the Xplorer for a spot of seabird watching.
The next day it's into Great Barrier's Port Fitzroy, squeezing through the narrow Man-O-War passage, and past the oyster farms, to disembark for a guided walk of the island's former key mining and kauri-logging sites.
On day five it's home to Auckland, via the conservation reserve at Tiri Tiri Matangi, and the wreck of the Rewa at Mahurangi Islands.