Bay of Islands Travel Guide
“Everything about your tour was first-rate. The small size of the group, the wonderful people we met, the sights, the accommodations were all spectacular. Everything went off without a hitch.” – Mr & Mrs T Geller (USA)
The Bay of Islands region, north of Auckland, has the finest maritime park in New Zealand with the 144 Islands and secluded bays. The Bay has an abundance of marine life, including the big marlin, whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets and many other species. The maritime and historic park is the original cradle of European civilization and has fine examples of Maori culture.
The Bay with its pristine natural environment is the gathering place in the South Pacific for overseas sailing yachts on world cruises, international sport fishermen, golfers and marine enthusiasts.
In the Bay of Islands you can find thrilling adventure or perfect peace. The unbelievable natural beauty, amazing beaches and a host of islands make for an idyllic aquatic playground and ultimate retreat.
The townships of this historic bay are infused with both Maori and European history. You’ll find out why the Bay of Islands is considered to be the birthplace of New Zealand as a bi-cultural nation. You’ll also see how Maori culture and lifestyle have adapted to modern times.
Wherever you are in the Bay of Islands, there are plenty of recreational activities 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 or swim with the 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 competitive tournaments or hire a boat for your own fishing trip.
Bay Of Islands Quick Facts
- Location: North Island, New Zealand
- Main Towns: Paihia, Russell, Kerikeri
- Known Locally For: Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Hole in the Rock Cruises, Diving, Sailing, Dophins, Beaches
- Distance From Auckland: Approx 240km/149miles – 4 hours 15 minutes by vehicle.
Bay of Islands Short Break Holidays & Sightseeing Day Tours
One of the most popular holiday destinations for Kiwis in New Zealand, our Bay of Islands holiday packages, combine great outdoor experiences & time to relax. Cruise, drive or coach from Auckland, or start in Paihia, the hub of the Bay of Islands.
Ocean & dolphin cruises, scenic flights and trips to the tip of the North Island – Cape Reinga. Select the best of the Bay of Islands activities while holidaying in this magical region.
Paihia is known as the jewel of the magnificent Bay of Islands. With shimmering safe waters and superb beaches Paihia is a good place to be based for your Bay of Islands experience. Take a relaxing walk along unspoilt beaches, take a guided tour through historical sites or go fishing. If adventure is what you seek, perhaps try skydiving, parasailing, scuba dving or kayaking.
Paihia is the place of friendly locals, happy cafés and people enjoying life. Whether it is swimming with delightful dolphins, taking in a spot of retail therapy or just lazing under a tree, Paihia is the place for it
A quick ferry ride across the water from Paihia is the charming, elegant township of Russell. This tranquil place was once known as “the hell hole of the Pacific” when it was the shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders during the 19th century. Today Russell is still a favoured spot for boaties who seek safe anchorage.
Historic buildings to visit include the Catholic Mission “Pompallier” and Christ Church, which still carries the bullet holes from the Maori Wars. Discover Russell’s exciting past by visiting the museum, cafés, restaurants and craft galleries, while appreciating its colonial architecture.
You will find a wide range of accommodation available and you can also arrange sightseeing, adventure or fishing activity from the Russell waterfront. If you’re planning to do any island or bush hiking, be sure to call into the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre. For self-drive explorers, take State Highway 11 to Opua and catch the vehicular ferry to Russell or leave State Highway 1 at Whakapara and travel the fully tar-sealed scenic coastal route via Oakura. There’s also a passenger ferry service from Paihia.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Truly one of New Zealand’s most historic sites, being the place where both Maori and European joined in signing the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The Treaty House is located amongst a vast peaceful estate which includes a fully carved Maori Meeting House, one of the largest Maori War Canoes and a Visitor Centre and Gallery. The estate is a must see for any visitor interested in New Zealand’s history and culture.
The Waitangi Golf Course Course is located in a wonderful setting with majestic ocean views. And for a deeper understanding of how mangrove forests fit into coastal ecology, take a trek through to Haruru Falls or join a guided kayak tour.
Kerikeri was home ground for the fearsome Hongi Hika, a Maori chief who terrorised many tribes throughout the North Island in the early 1800s. Yet he was kind to missionaries – allowing Samuel Marsden to establish New Zealand’s second mission station here.
Kerikeri overflows with orchards and galleries, fruit and art. All along the roadside, orchards sell their delicious oranges, kiwi fruit and avocados. Follow the art and craft trail and you’ll get to know some of the artisans. Visit the wineries, lunch in one of the many outdoor cafés, indulge in delicious handmade chocolates or locally made macadamia liqueur. Kerikeri also has excellent sporting facilities including golf, all-weather tennis and yachting. Expect a good choice of cafés and restaurants.
Historical highlights of Kerikeri: the Kerikeri Mission House, the country’s oldest house built by John Butler in 1821, and the Mission’s Stone Store dating from 1832 and New Zealand’s oldest stone building. These wonderful buildings are regarded as the “Cradle of the Nation”, and are must for all visitors to the Bay of Islands.
Within minutes by car or an hour’s walk from the Kerikeri Basin car park is the 27 metre Rainbow Falls. Further afield lies the Puketi Forest, an ideal place to tramp and view kauri trees from a boardwalk which also has wheelchair access.
For those who arrive in the Bay of Islands by sea, Opua is your port. It’s where the boats live – yachts, launches, ferries and runabouts of every description. On the wharf, a number of charter companies offer yachts you can sail yourself. A new 240 berth marina is now complete so with the friendly yacht club, the boat haul-out yards and extensive marine services, Opua is a delightful safe-haven for any sailor. It is also where you catch the car ferry if you want to drive to Russell.
For a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit places to stay in the Bay of Islandsfor more information.