Update as at 11 August 2014 — Surprisingly, this experience has become more budget friendly – it’s now only $168 for the cruise including shared accommodation. Awesome! Add this to a Planit NZ Travel Package and I can save you money on your trip to New Zealand.
If you’re on a backpacking trip to New Zealand, you can’t miss out on the Bay of Islands – an inlet off the South Pacific north of Auckland dotted with over one hundred tropical islands. On a sunny day, the blue-green, emerald waters contrasted with the white sand beaches will almost take your breath away. There are plenty of activities for the backpacker in the Bay – from snorkeling, to kayaking, to swimming, to fishing – or, you can just relax and soak up the sun.
Your trip to the Bay of Islands won’t be complete unless you spend some time on the water. Many backpackers choose to experience the Bay of Islands by going on a dolphin watching tour. However, if you want an all-in-one cruise that will allow you to experience all the Bay has to offer, you’ve got to check out Rock the Boat.
The Rock is a purpose-designed, floating lodge, which originally functioned as a car ferry in the Northland. Today, it’s a floating backpackers’ dream. The Rock has a bar, a fireplace, a pool table, a piano, a BBQ, and plenty of space to sit back and take in the scenery of the Bay. On the second level you have accommodation options for up to 36 guests. Each room offers a view of the sea and the six bed dorms open to a seaside balcony.
The 22 hour overnight cruise with Rock the Boat allows you to take in many of the activities you’d want to do in the Bay of Islands – all for one price. Don’t expect to get bored, as you can stay busy throughout the entire trip.
Here’s what to expect:
- As you’re leaving port in Paihia, the crew will set up some lines in the water to troll behind The Rock. We were able to catch some sea trout on the second day of my cruise. The staff cleaned the fish and served it as sushi with soy sauce and wasabi. It was absolutely gorgeous.
- As you’re cruising to the outer islands, the crew arranges a shooting competition for everyone on the boat. Shooting? Outside of Texas? You bet. A decoy duck is towed behind The Rock and you have the opportunity to take some shots at it with a BB gun.
- Once you set anchor for the evening, you’re given the opportunity to fish for some Red Snapper. If you’re lucky enough to land one, you can grill it on the barbecue and have it for your tea.
- The Kiwis love to BBQ, and you’ll get an excellent one for your dinner on the cruise. Ribeye steaks cooked to order along with sausages, potatoes, and a selection of pastas and salads.
- You have the opportunity to night kayak after you’ve set anchor for the evening. A guided trip will allow you to see the stars above and below. In addition to a sky illuminated with stars, you’ll see phosphorescence in the dark water. Tiny, microscopic organisms in the water store up radiation and when they are disturbed, they let off the energy as phosphorescent light. It’s magical to see – and as you might expect, a picture wouldn’t do the expereince justice.
- On your second day after waking to see the sunrise, you’re served a proper Kiwi breakfast of weetbix, porridge, and muesli.
- You’ll set off to find a deserted, tropical island where you’ll be led on a guided hike that affords you some stunning views of the Bay of Islands.
- After your hike, you have the opportunity to snorkel in the clear blue water, kayak, or you can simply chill out and soak up the sun.
The crew on The Rock goes out of their way to ensure you have a memorable time on their cruise. Each and every staff member on my cruise was passionate about the Bay of Islands, the cruise they were taking me on, and you could tell they really believed in the product they were a part of. It was refreshing to see, and they absolutely made the trip a positive one. Everyone went out of their way to remember your name, find out your story, and make sure you were having a blast on the cruise. Jonny, the skipper, was happy to answer any questions you might have on The Rock or the Bay of Islands.
We didn’t see any wildlife, but you stand a decent chance of seeing some of the Bay’s Bottlenose dolphins during your cruise. The Rock isn’t set up to go looking for them, but often some dolphins that the crew knows my name will come to find The Rock.
There is a fully stocked bar on board. It’s the center piece of the boat, and is a great place to relax and chat with the crew or other backpackers on the cruise. You’d expect drinks to be overpriced, but beers and mixed drinks were on par with what you’d pay back on shore in Paihia. If alcohol isn’t your cup of tea, there is free tea and coffee throughout the cruise.
It’s very often tough to find a good deal as a budget traveler in New Zealand. New Zealand is a beautiful country with so much to offer – but unfortunately, that often comes at a price – not with The Rock. A cruise on The Rock is a bargain considering everything the trip includes. For $178, you get shared accommodation, dinner, breakfast, kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, and the opportunity to cruise around the beautiful Bay of Islands.
It’s an excellent trip, and really is a backpackers dream opportunity to get out and experience the Bay of Islands.
If you’re considering a cruise with Rock the Boat (and you should), check out their website for more information. Don’t hesitate to get in contact with your hosts, Sarah and Jonny, should you have any questions. They’ll be happy to help. The $178 includes dinner, shared accommodation, breakfast, and all of your activities.
Disclaimer: Rock the Boat provided me with a complimentary cruise in return for a review on Backpackingmatt.