As the site of some of the best beaches, boating and weather found anywhere in New Zealand, the Bay of Islands is a highlight of any North Island holiday. A sheltered bay which houses 144 small islands, the aptly named Bay of Islands is a four-hour drive north of Auckland and is located in a setting where the chaos of the city center gradually fades into the rolling green hills and sparsely populated beauty of the rural Northland.
When visiting the Bay of Islands, the amount of adventure or relaxation you want to experience is completely in your hands. Spend the day aboard a charter boat on a cruise to Cape Brett and the famous “Hole in the Rock,” or take a smaller boat to a secluded beach to relax or stroll on the golden sands in perfect isolation.
Dolphin cruises, sport fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving trips are all popular when visiting the Bay of Islands, and given its northerly location the area can experience warm temperatures and abundant sunshine during all parts of the year. Paihia Harbour is where many tours depart from; although visiting the smaller, quieter town of Russell should also be a stop on any Bay of Islands itinerary. Situated on a jagged peninsula facing the calm, protected waters, this anchorage historically served as New Zealand’s first European settlement and capital. After a period of slipping into a rough-and-tumble port town, Russell now services visitors looking to relax in charming bed and breakfasts and pass time at coastal cafes.
For more areas heavily steeped in Maori heritage, any visit to the Bay of Islands should also include a visit to the historic area of Waitangi. This small settlement offers visitors the opportunity to stand inside a fully carved Maori meeting house and learn about the Treaty of Waitangi, a controversial treaty which was signed between the British and the Maori in 1840.
Or, if looking for day trips while visiting the Bay of Islands, consider heading north to 90-Mile Beach and Cape Reinga for ATV riding, sandboarding, and a look at where the currents of the tempestuous Tasman Sea dramatically merge into the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time, visiting the Bay of Islands is an unforgettable New Zealand experience sure to leave you wanting more and searching for a way to return.