Bay of Islands RECOMMENDATIONS See all

3 Days in the Bay of Islands: Suggested Itineraries

By Viator, December 2014

5 124 Reviews | Add your review

At the northernmost tip of New Zealand is one of the country's best kept secrets: the picturesque Bay of Islands. This is where the locals come for holidays - there is something for whatever strikes your fancy: sailing, fishing, snorkeling, horse-riding, hiking, kayaking, Excitor boat riding, swimming with dolphins, discovering history or just laying in the sunshine under one of the world's bluest skies.

There are about 150 islands in the bay, some uninhabited and barely explored. There are two main towns to base yourself. Choose Paihia if you like a thriving tourist center, or Russell if you prefer a bit more history and quaintness. Settle in, then get out amongst all those possibilities.

Day 1: Explore


You'll want to get your bearings and maybe have a closer look at all those beckoning islands. Since the 1920s a small boat has made its ways around the islands to collect milk and cream from the dairy farms and deliver mail; you can take this 'Cream Trip,' although on a more luxurious vessel than the original small boat. Or you can gaze at the islands from afar, walking along the pristine, sandy beaches of the mainland.

There is also fantastic bird watching, snorkeling, whale and dolphin spotting to be done. And of course, this being New Zealand, there are great places to eat wherever you go, and excellent wines to taste. Perhaps head for the waterfront restaurants in Russell for the evening.

Day 2: Discover

The Bay of Islands is where modern New Zealand began. The controversial Waitangi Treaty between the Maoris and the British was signed here and is only a short half-hour stroll along the beach from Paihia where you can learn about the Maori culture. You can also visit Kerikeri, the earliest permanent settlement in New Zealand, which is now a charming, small artists' town. Or take the short ferry ride between Russell and Paihia to explore neighboring areas.

Day 3: Thrill

Now that you've got the lay of the land and some history and culture, it's time to experience the thrill! Take a beautiful scenic helicopter flight over Cape Brett and Bay of Islands, and opt to land on top of the Hole in the Rock! Experience the island in a way that very few have before. Choosing to land on top of the Hole in the Rock is a must-do!

Tours & Tickets

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Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach Tour from Bay of Islands

4.5 star rating: Recommended 58 Reviews

Take an action-packed day trip from Paihia to the tip of New Zealand’s North Island on a guided tour of Cape Reinga! The Waverider coach, built to traverse ...  Read more

Location: Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Duration: 11 hours (approx.)

From USD $114.86

Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on R. Tucker Thompson including BBQ Lunch

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 22 Reviews

What better way to explore the peaceful waters of the Bay of Islands than by the "R. Tucker Thompson" tall ship. This replica of a 100 year old ...  Read more

Location: Paihia or Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Duration: 6 hours (approx.)

From USD $114.86

Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 4 Reviews

Get bird’s-eye views of Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock on a Bay of Islands scenic helicopter tour from Paihia. Take in the stunning scenery of the main ...  Read more

Location: Paihia, New Zealand
Duration: Varies

From USD $182.19

Kerikeri and Crafts Half-Day Tour from Bay of Islands

4 star rating: Recommended 4 Reviews

Enjoy an afternoon at the charming and historic town of Kerikeri. Visit the Mission and Stone House to discover the Kerikeri’s colonial past and its wine ...  Read more

Location: Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $47.53

Bay of Islands Shore Excursion: Puketi Rainforest Guided Walk

4.5 star rating: Recommended 2 Reviews

See New Zealand's stunning natural beauty on a guided walk through the Puketi Rainforest when your cruise ship docks at Bay of Islands. Take in the scenery as ...  Read more

Location: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $99.02

Puketi Rainforest Guided Walks

4 star rating: Recommended 3 Reviews

Experience New Zealand's natural beauty up-close and first-hand on a guided walk through the Puketi rainforest. Walk among towering kauri trees, see rare bird ...  Read more

Location: Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Duration: Varies

From USD $59.41

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