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How to Spend 3 Days in the Bay of Islands

How to Spend 3 Days in the Bay of Islands

While visiting the Bay of Islands, you have two main home-base options. Choose the thriving tourist center of Paihia as a jumping-off point for most cruises and outdoor activities—or the quaint, quieter seaside village of Russell. Here’s how to make the most of a 3-day stay. 

Day 1: Water play

Take a closer look at all those beckoning islands. Since the 1920s, a boat has made its way around the islands to deliver mail and collect milk and cream from the dairy farms—you, too, can take this “cream trip” aboard a more luxurious vessel. Or, zip between Russell and Paihia on a ferry. Options abound for day cruises: zoom through the Hole in the Rock at Cape Brett by high-speed catamaran, sail through the maritime park on a vintage schooner, or swim alongside dolphins in their natural habitat.

Craving more water time? An overnight cruise settles the matter, with opportunities for island hikes, fishing and kayaking, and swimming and snorkeling while your boat is anchored at a picturesque cove in the bay. 

Day 2: Cultural and natural history

Combine culture and nature at Waitangi River, a local estuary whose crown jewel is Haruru Falls. Paddle there by kayak, or join a traditional waka crew and explore the area by Maori-led canoe. Discover local customs at a Maori meeting house, and learn the haka war dance. Alternatively, book a day pass to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds just north of central Paihia. Stay for a cultural performance and a traditional-style hangi feast of meat and vegetables cooked over hot stones.

If time allows, check out Kerikeri, the earliest permanent British settlement in New Zealand—now a charming artists’ town.

Day 3: On the move

Time to go farther afield. Opt for a scenic plane flight to Cape Reinga, or take a helicopter ride to Cape Brett, making sure to land on top of the Hole in the Rock. Adrenaline seekers can parasail or skydive over turquoise waters. 

If staying grounded is more your thing, a ride on a wheelchair-accessible motorbike trike is a unique way to tour the region. Or, go hiking in the subtropical Puketi rain forest for a glimpse of the Northland’s birdlife and ancient kauri trees. Alternatively, rent a mountain bike and pedal along the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.

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8 Tours and Activities | All Bay of Islands Tours

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Dolphin Cruise to the Hole in the Rock with Island Stopover - Afternoon Cruise

Dolphin Cruise to the Hole in the Rock with Island Stopover - Afternoon Cruise

star-4.5
246
Slip through the famous 'Hole in the Rock' in New Zealand’s Northland during this half-day Bay of Islands cruise by high-speed catamaran. Pass rocky outcrops, sandy beaches and an array of islands as you make your way out to the Cape Brett Lighthouse, and Motu Kokako Island. Keep an eye out for dolphins and other marine and birdlife.
More
  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
US$87.97
From
US$87.97
Taking safety measures

Bay of Islands Cruise & Island Tour - Snorkel, Hike, Swim, Paddleboard, Wildlife

Bay of Islands Cruise & Island Tour - Snorkel, Hike, Swim, Paddleboard, Wildlife

star-5
148
Let seafaring experts show you the best of New Zealand’s Bay of Islands by land and by water on this adventure cruise. With 144 different isles, it can be hard to know where to start, but your captain and crew know all the best spots to swim, snorkel, stand-up paddleboard, and spot marine life. Hop off at two hand-picked islands for a hike to panoramic lookout points and beachside tea with biscuits.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$82.72
From
US$82.72

Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour

Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour

star-5
47
Discover the Bay of Islands by helicopter, with an optional landing at the Hole in the Rock. See Cape Brett from above during an aerial tour from Paihia, narrated by a professional pilot. Fly over Russell and Waitangi en route to the Hole in the Rock. Upgrade to land atop the iconic natural landmark, with an optional walk led by a Maori guide.
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  • 20 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
US$195.50
From
US$195.50
Taking safety measures

Cape Reinga Half-Day Tour Including Scenic Flight

Cape Reinga Half-Day Tour Including Scenic Flight

star-5
66
Fly over the Northland coastline on a scenic flight between Paihia and Cape Reinga. Soar above Ninety Mile Beach before landing for a minibus tour at the top end of New Zealand's North Island. Visit Cape Reinga Lighthouse, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, then stroll along the beach at Tapotupotu Bay and surf the sand dunes of Te Paki. Look down on remote Parengarenga Harbour and Great Exhibition Bay on your return flight. Includes morning tea and round-trip hotel transfers.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$338.36
From
US$338.36

V8 Trike Tours 60 minute Bay of Islands Combo Tour - 2 Passengers

V8 Trike Tours 60 minute Bay of Islands Combo Tour - 2 Passengers

star-5
96
Explore the Bay of Islands from the seat of a 350 Chev Trike for a fun-filled and memorable experience. You can choose from three different routes that include some of the area’s must-see sights, or combine them all for a longer trip. Your driver keeps you safe and gives you local insights into the Paihia area. This tour is wheelchair accessible, so anyone can join.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
US$180.46
per group
From
US$180.46
per group
Taking safety measures

Parasailing Adventure Over the Bay of Islands

Parasailing Adventure Over the Bay of Islands

star-5
65
There are few more unique ways to see the Bay of Islands than catching the wind and parasailing high above the water. See the Bay’s towns, forests and islands – all the way out to Cape Brett’s famous Hole in the Rock – from the sky on this aerial adventure. Take to the skies with your friends or family on tandem or triple flights. Your children can even go parasailing – this adventure is suitable for all.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$76.98
From
US$76.98

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

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

star-5
203
Sail the Bay of Islands on a working tall ship aboard the famed ‘R. Tucker Thompson,’ built in the tradition of a 100-year-old Northland schooner. Ply the waters of the pristine bay, where you can help hoist the sails, climb the rigging or simply relax on board, then swim while anchored in a sheltered bay in the maritime park. Enjoy morning tea and a barbecue lunch, with an optional complimentary ferry ride from Paihia to Russell, where your vessel departs.
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  • 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
US$116.56
From
US$116.56

Bay of Islands Skydive from 12,000 ft. with 40-Second Free Fall

Bay of Islands Skydive from 12,000 ft. with 40-Second Free Fall

star-5
169
Experience 40 seconds of thrilling freefall as you skydive the Bay of Islands, then drift back to earth with views of 144 islands and turquoise water. Jump in tandem with an instructor from 12,000 feet (3,658 mt.), with the option to purchase photos and video footage of your Bay of Islands skydive. This skydive adventure includes pickup and drop-off at locations in central Paihia and Kerikeri.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
US$241.19
From
US$241.19
Taking safety measures


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