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.