Visit the stunning Bay of Islands on New Zealand’s North Island and enjoy the many water-based tours, from discovering uninhabited islands dotted around the cold, blue waters to watching dolphins leap around the boat. Enjoy the relaxed, friendly atmosphere in the bay’s towns or retreat to the ancient native forests to be at one with nature.

The Bay of Islands area is one of New Zealand’s premier tourist destinations and it is easy to see why thousands of people flock here each year. Despite its popularity, the Bay of Islands never feels overcrowded.

Most visitors stay in Paihia, a colourful, waterfront town full of cafés and buzzing bars. A short ferry ride across the bay is Russell. This town was the first European settlement in New Zealand. Spend a day wandering the historic streets and admiring the quaint, colonial architecture.

The nearby Waitangi Treaty Grounds are where historic documents were signed by the original Māori people and the “Pākehā”, as the natives called the British newcomers. The agreement allowed the Māoris to keep their culture alive.

The most popular activities in the Bay of Islands involve boat tours. Choose between fishing, dolphin or orca watching and cruising around the islands. If you are feeling adventurous, learn how to sail and windsurf or join a scuba diving tour around some of the outer islands.

For a day away from the water take a walk in the Puketi Forest. Follow trails past giant kauri trees and other native species. Make sure you visit the Haruru Falls, a picturesque waterfall that cascades down the cliff face in the shape of a horseshoe.

The Bay of Islands is located 240 kilometres (150 miles) north of Auckland. Driving is the quickest way to get there, although regular buses and organised tours run from Auckland too. Summer is the busiest time, but the Bay of Islands’ prime location in New Zealand’s “winterless north” means that you can enjoy stunning days here year-round.

Known for

Islands, Boating and Ferries

Top hotels in Bay of Islands

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Image for Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands
Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands
4 out of 5
1 Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi
NZ$85/night
1 Sep. - 2 Sep.
4.2/5Very Good! (1,368 reviews)

Located in Waitangi, this beachfront hotel is next to a golf course and within 1 mi (2 km) of Waitangi Golf Club and Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Paihia Beach and ...

4.2/5Very Good! (1,368 reviews)

"Loved the location. It’s beautiful and quiet yet close enough to walk into town"…"

Reviewed on 18 Aug. 2019

Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands
Image for Sea Spray Suites - Heritage Collection
Sea Spray Suites - Heritage Collection
4 out of 5
138 Marsden Road, Bay of Islands, Paihia
NZ$124/night
22 Sep. - 23 Sep.
4.5/5Wonderful! (519 reviews)

Offering direct access to the beach, this Paihia apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of Paihia Wharf and Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Paihia Beach and Waitangi ...

4.5/5Wonderful! (519 reviews)

"Loved the balcony and the size of the place but didn’t like the petrol station next door that smelt a bit"…"

Reviewed on 3 Aug. 2019

Sea Spray Suites - Heritage Collection
Image for Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge Paihia
Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge Paihia
3.5 out of 5
104 Marsden Road, Paihia
NZ$89/night
1 Sep. - 2 Sep.
4.2/5Excellent! (684 reviews)

This family-friendly Paihia hotel is located on the waterfront, within a 5-minute walk of Paihia Wharf and Paihia Beach. Waitangi Treaty Grounds is 1.5 mi (2.4 ...

4.2/5Excellent! (684 reviews)

"The staff were amazing. They were polite and friendly and extremely helpful."…"

Reviewed on 13 Aug. 2019

Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge Paihia

Popular activities in Bay of Islands

Paihia Beach
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Paihia Beach

Go on fishing charters, swim in the sea and browse shops and restaurants near Paihia’s main beach, the site of an annual swimming event that attracts competitors from around the country.

Haruru Falls
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Haruru Falls

Walk along the banks of the scenic Waitangi River and admire this beautiful horseshoe-shaped waterfall. Continue on the trail to the famous Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Paihia Wharf
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Paihia Wharf

Dine on fresh seafood in local restaurants, admire stunning oceanfront views and embark on cruises and fishing excursions from this pretty wharf.

Russell Beach
Image for Russell Beach

Russell Beach

Wander along the jetty for wonderful views of Kororareka Bay, get out on the water in a boat and enjoy alfresco dining along the beachfront.

Flagstaff Hill
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Flagstaff Hill

On this important hill, learn about New Zealand’s early Māori and colonial history, look for iconic birds and take in the stunning views of the Bay of Islands.

Russell Museum
Image for Russell Museum

Russell Museum

Learn about Russell’s Māori heritage and the history of European settlers through this vast collection of photographs, documents and other objects.

Top activities in Bay of Islands

Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach
Image for Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach

Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach

NZ$152

Experience the best things to do in Northland on this full-day Cape Reinga tour; see the northernmost point of New Zealand and rugged coastline of Cape Reinga, enjoy a unique 90 Mile Beach tour and speed head-first down Te Paki sand dunes.

Discover The Bay Cruise
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Discover The Bay Cruise

NZ$152

Discover the Bay of Islands and the Hole in the Rock on our premium cruise and experience the very best of the Bay of Islands. With our Nature Guide on board, discover new facts and stories as we interact with marine life.

Half Day 'Shore Escape' - Bay of Islands Private Jeep Tour
Image for Half Day 'Shore Escape' - Bay of Islands Private Jeep Tour

Half Day 'Shore Escape' - Bay of Islands Private Jeep Tour

NZ$155

Experience the Bay of Islands in Northland, New Zealand from the comfort of your private late model Jeep Wrangler. These allow you and your local driver/guide to get off the main highways to see the historic, scenic and natural wonders that are normally inaccessible to a standard coach tour with the 4x4 Jeep providing a comfortable and safe ride.

Full-Day Bay of Islands Dolphin Cruise with Hole in the Rock Visit
Image for Full-Day Bay of Islands Dolphin Cruise with Hole in the Rock Visit

Full-Day Bay of Islands Dolphin Cruise with Hole in the Rock Visit

NZ$265

Cruise through aquamarine waters looking out for dolphins and whales, visit the remote Cape Brett Peninsula and enjoy a unique Hole in the Rock experience (weather permitting) on this full-day tour to the Bay of Islands from Auckland.

Bay of Islands Cruise Excursion - Hole in Rock Cruise
Image for Bay of Islands Cruise Excursion - Hole in Rock Cruise

Bay of Islands Cruise Excursion - Hole in Rock Cruise

NZ$125

Discover one of New Zealand's best sailing, fishing, and tourist destinations with a half-day cruise that shows what the Bay of Islands is all about. Home to one of the most spectacular ecosystems, the Bay has become renowned as a world-class playground and offers you an experience like no other.

Dolphin Cruise to the Hole in the Rock
Image for Dolphin Cruise to the Hole in the Rock

Dolphin Cruise to the Hole in the Rock

NZ$120

This is the most popular dolphin watching cruise in the Bay of Islands, and for good reason! Board your cruise in Paihia or Russell and take in the stunning views as we glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over and Piercy Island/Motukokako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’.