The Bay of Islands is a corner of the world that was meant to be explored by boat. This was the first part of the North Island to be settled by Europeans, and you can see from the islands and turquoise coves why they were immediately taken with this shoreline. Regarded by yachties as one of the best anchorages in the world, the Bay of Islands combines adventure and history with one of the most scenic coastlines in the world.
How to get to Paihia and Russell
All cruise ships arriving in the Bay of Islands will dock near Paihia at the Waitangi Wharf. To reach the town of Paihia, which is 1.3 miles away, you can either enjoy a 20-minute walk or a three-minute shuttle ride to the visitor’s center. From the i-SITE visitor’s center, activity staff and tour operators are available for all forms of assistance. While the town of Paihia is small enough to be walkable, visitors who are heading to the small town of Russell—which was at one time the capital of New Zealand—can catch a ferry from the dock in Paihia. Or, some cruise lines offer tender boats which cross the bay and dock directly on the waterfront.
One Day in the Bay of Islands
Visitors to the Bay of Islands have a smorgasbord of options to choose from which range from watersports, to history, to adventure. To explore the harbor and the surrounding islands and get a glimpse of the local marine life, hop aboard a harbor cruise to Cape Brett or Hole in the Rock. Depending upon the length of the cruise, you might have the chance to stop at empty beaches or ply the waters for dolphins. Or, for a bit of exercise, consider exploring the islands by sea kayak. For those interested in the history of the area, head directly to the Waitangi Treaty Center where the historic—and controversial—Treaty of Waitangi was signed with the Maori in 1840. You can catch a cultural performance at the Treaty House visitor center, which is located ten minutes from the center of Paihia. Finally, if you’d rather head inland to explore the forests or coastal dunes, take a tour of the Puketi forest or the wilds of Ninety-Mile Beach. These shore excursions often occupy the majority of the day in town, although they are a great way to experience the beauty of the Northland and escape the crowds back in town.
The New Zealand dollar is the accepted currency in all of the Bay of Islands, and a Kiwi dialect of British English is spoken by local residents. Given the cultural history of the area, you also may hear some snippets of Maori spoken in the area around Waitangi. For ATMs and currency exchange, all services are located in Paihia a short walk away from the wharf.