We’re based in one of the oldest, and most culturally significant parts of New Zealand. Our horse riding base is located alongside the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds and just 5 minutes outside of Paihia, and centrally located between Russell, KeriKeri and Kawakawa.
Our horse rides take us alongside the coastline of Wairoa Bay and through the native and pine woodland of the Waitangi Endowment Forest. On this page you can find out more about our location and some of the key areas you will find out more about on your horse riding adventure.
The Bay of Islands was the first area to be visited and then settled by European explorers and received it’s name from Captain James Cook in 1769. Previous to this around 700 years before it was discovered by the ‘Mataatua’ a large Maori migration canoe which had traveled all the way from ‘Hawaiki’.
The Bay of Islands consists of over 140 natural islands, the largest of which is Urupukapuka. As part of Northland in New Zealand it experiences mild sub-tropical temperatures all year around – frequenting over 25°C in Summer and rarely below 10°C in Winter. The first European settlement in the area was Russell which can be seen in the distance from Paihia and is commonly reached by passenger or vehicle ferry.
The treaty of Waitangi is an important part of the political constitution of New Zealand and a key moment between the Maori Chiefs and British Crown. The treaty draft itself was drawn up in part by Captain William Hobson, a British naval captain who had arrived in the Bay of Islands in January 1840. He had been instructed by the crown to gain sovereignty over all – or part – of New Zealand.
The treaty itself was first signed on the 6th February 1840 with over 400 witnesses on the day, both European and Maori. Upon signing William Hobson recounted the phrase – “He iwi tahi tatou” – meaning we are now one people. A version of the treaty is still on show at the Waitangi Treaty grounds museum which has since become known as ‘the birthplace of the nation’.
In 1932 Lord and Lady Bledisloe gifted the nation the grounds of Waitangi and the treaty house which comprised of over 2300 acres which was to be set aside as a historical reserve, and the original treaty house restored to its former condition when the treaty was signed in 1840. Shortly after the gift there was the suggestion for afforestation in the area to generate a source of revenue for the area so that the area might be maintained for future generations to come and recognise the historical importance of the area.
A further important part of Lord and Lady Bledisloe’s wish was for the forest to be maintained as a bush and bird sanctuary to support native wildlife as well as supporting sporting activities in the area, the first of which was the development of the Bay of Islands golf course in 1950.
The Waitangi Forest is a commercial pine logging forest that was set up following the afforestation from Bledisloe’s gift to provide an income to sustain the Waitangi area. It is currently split into two sections, the first section referred to as the ‘Waitangi Endowment Forest’ which is currently operated by the Department of Conservation, and the remainder of the forest is operated by private logging firms. For each rider that enters the forest as part of our ‘forest and hillside’ ride – we pay a $5 fee to help support the area and extensive conservation effort that is underway in the forest.
The forest itself is also home to the world class Waitangi Mountain Bike Park which opened in 2017 and is now open for public use. The forest itself is also a successful Kiwi conservation area and predator free zone – which allows native bird life to thrive within the forest.
Paihia is often referred to as the ‘gateway to the bay’ and is one of the busiest tourist towns in the Bay of Islands. Paihia gained its name from Henry Williams, who only knew limited Maori vocabulary at the time but understood the word ‘Pai’ to mean ‘good’ – hence came about the term ‘Pai Here’. It benefits from subtropical temperatures all year around making it a hot spot even through the winter months of the year where the temperature barely drops below 13°C.
It is one of the most popular tourist towns through the summer months and the Bay of Islands is visited by over 150 cruise ships per year, more than doubling the local population on numerous occasions. There are many different activities available in the area, from Skydiving to sea-diving, kayaking and horse riding making it the perfect all-round family holiday destination.
The Bay of Islands is a nature hot spot and is an important home to several important native species – including the Kiwi. On your rides with us you may be lucky enough to spot some of the following:
The East coast of New Zealand is home to a program called the ‘Kiwi Coast’ one of the biggest kiwi conservation efforts in New Zealand. The Waitangi Forest, under the guidance of the Department of Conservation is now also a kiwi safe zone where the population is starting to thrive.
Another favorite in the area are Fantail, also know as p?wakawaka. You are almost certain to meet a few of these cheeky, energetic and vocal little birds on your rides with us. They’re easy to spot due to their distinctive fan like tail that helps them swoop around and dive for insects in mid-air.
The Weka is another bird, though slightly rarer to spot than the others. Like the kiwi it is also a flightless bird that is around the size of the average Chicken. They are considered to be a vulnerable species within New Zealand and their numbers are carefully monitored as they are threatened by non-native predators such as stoats, weasels and feral cats.
The Pukeko is a widespread and easily recogniseable bird, due to its deep violet colored plumage. They are known to have quite complex social behaviors and often live in family-sized groups. We most commonly see these birds grazing in our paddocks alongside the horses!
The Tui is one of New Zealand’s most attractive birds, and is most often heard singing beautiful melodies before you spot one. Lesser known is that Tui are great pollinators of flowers and native plants as they will often fly a great distance for their favorite foods – mainly feeding on the nectar of native plants.
Another local resident in the area are the Paradise Ducks – which you will often see in mated pairs. The female has a white head where as the male is slightly larger and dark grey/black in colour. In particular they love the grassland paddocks along side the waters edge so if you come for a swim in summer we will almost certainly spot at least one pair.
Another common bird in the area is the New Zealand pigeon, or the ‘kereru’. These large birds are blue/green in colour with a white underbelly which makes them easy to spot when flying. They are one of the view birds in New Zealand still large enough to eat a diet of native wild berries.
The only bird of prey you will find in this area is the Swamp Harrier, or ‘kahu’. They are opportunistic hunters that have adapted well to large environments, and commonly feed on possum and rabbits. You will often spot them circling over head in the forest looking for potential prey.
There are plenty of great activities all across the Bay of Islands, once you’ve been for a trip with us you might want to consider some of these (we’ve picked out our favorites!) :
No trip to the Bay of Islands is complete without taking a trip out to see all 144 islands (okay well maybe not all of them!). Why not head out with our friends at Explore to get out and see more of the sea, if you are lucky you might find Dolphins and all other kinds of marine life as well!
Looking for something suitable for the whole family? Why not give the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park a go? They’re right next door, and have different grades of tracks and trails available for the whole family. If you don’t have your own bike you can hire them on-site and if visiting during the school holidays or weekend they also run a shuttle bus service too!
For the adrenaline junkies amongst us – you simply can’t miss these two options – why not fly high above the Bay of Islands with a trip on the Flying Kiwi Parasail or if you are feeling extra brave you can check out the team at Bay of Islands Skydive as well! While they might not be for the faint of heart there is no better way to get that adrenaline pumping and seeing incredible views at the same time.
Discover the History and Birthplace of a Nation with a guided tour around the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Find out more about the Treaty of Waitangi itself and explore the stunning museum exhibits and see the amazing Ng?tokimatawhaorua – the worlds largest Ceremonial War Canoe. Waitangi have events for the whole family all year round – and is a stop that should be on itinerary of every visit to New Zealand.