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Things to do in Bay of Islands

Things to do in  Bay of Islands

Welcome to Bay of Islands

Tucked away toward the top of New Zealand’s beautiful North Island, the Bay of Islands are the gateway to some of the country’s most impressive coastal terrain. At the end of the 141-mile (227-kilometer) drive north from Auckland to Paihia, the islands loom into view, giving visitors their first glimpse of the spectacular scenery that awaits. The farther north you go, the prettier the vistas become. A full experience involves delving deep into the landscape, and tours can help you do just that, whether you want to charge into a rainforest, take to the sea in a boat or kayak, or soar above the islands on a parasail flight. Trekking through the Puketi Rainforest—home to a diverse range of native plant and animal life—is even better with a guide, who can point out the different species of flora and fauna. Take a scenic flight over rugged Cape Reinga, or watch the waves for dolphins on a sightseeing boat cruise. If your time is limited, a private Bay of Islands Tour can help you hit the region's highlights, combining activities such as wine tasting with sites like the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where British colonists and Maori chiefs signed the Waitangi Treaty in 1840.

Top 12 attractions in Bay of Islands

#1
Waitangi

Waitangi

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As the site of a significant event in the country’s history, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the northern village of Waitangi is an unassuming cornerstone of modern New Zealand society. Visitors can learn about Aotearoa’s social and political past while exploring the Treaty Grounds and surrounding forest and beaches.More
#2
Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

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Marked by a squat lighthouse and a gnarled 800-year-old pohutukawa tree, Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand that’s open to the public, and the site where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea come together. The area is popular for its coastal views, which you can enjoy from a series of windswept nature walks.More
#3
Kerikeri

Kerikeri

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Located at the mouth of the Kerikeri River and overlooking the peaceful Kerikeri Inlet, Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and one of its most historic spots. Kerikeri was once the site of one of New Zealand’s oldest missionary stations and is now a tranquil subtropical getaway surrounded by waterfalls and dense kauri forest.More
#4
Haruru Falls

Haruru Falls

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While Haruru Falls may be small, at around 16.5 feet (5 meters) high, but they’re wide, spanning the width of the Waitangi River as it flows inland. One of several striking waterfalls in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, Haruru is a great spot to cool off during the hot Northland summers with some swimming or kayaking.More
#5
Whangarei Falls

Whangarei Falls

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Although other parts of New Zealand boast taller or faster-flowing waterfalls, none is as conveniently located—and few are as photogenic—as spectacular Otuihau Whangarei Falls. This 85-foot (26-meter) cascade surrounded by birdsong and native bush is just minutes from Whangarei’s city center, making for a perfect pit stop or half-day hike.More
#6
Stone Store

Stone Store

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The Kerikeri Stone Store is the oldest stone building in New Zealand and part of Kerikeri’s historic Mission Station. Built in 1832, the Stone Store has been a trading post, a library, a barracks, and more. Today you can explore the store and hear the stories of the chiefs, settlers, and missionaries who passed through the station.More
#7
Kauri Museum

Kauri Museum

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Discover the history of New Zealand’s native kauri trees and so much more at Matakohe’s Kauri Museum. With interactive exhibits, life-like dioramas, and well-preserved heritage buildings, the Kauri Museum tells the stories of New Zealand’s colonial settlers and the mighty trees they felled to make ships, homes, and just about everything else.More
#8
Puketi Forest (Puketi Kauri Forest)

Puketi Forest (Puketi Kauri Forest)

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Sprawling across 51,000 acres (20,640 hectares) west of Kerikeri, Puketi Forest (Puketi Kauri Forest) is one of New Zealand’s remaining kauri rain forests. Get close to these giant native trees on the forest’s elevated boardwalks, or try one of the forest’s longer walks and discover some of the more than 360 indigenous plant species that call Puketi home.More
#9
Cape Brett and Hole in the Rock

Cape Brett and Hole in the Rock

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Overlooking the Bay of Islands and the Pacific Ocean, Cape Brett is a remote and remarkable part of New Zealand’s coastline. Trek 10 scenic miles (16 kilometers) to the tip of the peninsula, or take a day cruise or speedboat to the cape’s famous Hole in the Rock, a natural rock tunnel that comfortably fits the boats that sail there and back.More
#10
Bay of Islands Cruise Port (Waitangi Wharf)

Bay of Islands Cruise Port (Waitangi Wharf)

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The Bay of Islands Cruise Port (Waitangi Wharf) offers access to important historical sites such as Russell, New Zealand’s first capital, and the house where the Treaty of Waitangi—an agreement between the British crown and Maori chiefs—was signed. It also serves as a jumping-off point for more than 140 islands, the waters of which are home to whales and dolphins.More
#11
Te Paki

Te Paki

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Located on the Aupouri Peninsula, Te Paki is the northernmost region in New Zealand and hosts one of the nation’s most diverse ecosystems. It’s home to rare–and endangered–flora and fauna, such as the giant flax snail and Bartlett’s rata tree.Ranging from coastal dunes to tall forest, through both wetlands and shrublands, Te Paki is home to a surprising variety of ways to get in some outdoor fun. The east coast of the peninsula is sheltered, with sandy beaches and rocky headlands that provide great places to scuba dive, snorkel and fish. The west coast is more exposed and home to the golden sand dunes of 90 Mile Beach. Along this stretch of coastline, it’s not only possible to catch waves from a number of classic surf breaks but also to carve up the steep dunes on a sandboard. Prior snowboarding experience is recommended, but sand tobogganing and body boarding are great options for beginners.The three-day, 30-mile (48-km) Te Paki Coastal Track hike takes in the entire coastline from Spirits Bay to Te Paki Stream, where it joins the 90 Mile Beach. Several shorter hikes, including the Pandora Track and Rarawa Beach Walk, are available for visitors not keen on spending multiple days on the trail.More
#12
Pompallier Mission and Printery (Pompallier House)

Pompallier Mission and Printery (Pompallier House)

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When Europeans were first beginning to establish settlements in New Zealand, a race was on between British and French for who would have the most influence. While the Protestant British would eventually win out and form an island colony, the French still managed to build multiple settlements and influence local Maori. One of those ways was through Catholic texts that were translated and distributed in Maori, which were printed, tanned, and bound right here at the Pompallier Mission and Printery (Pompallier House) by Russell. Accessible today through a guided tour, the Pompallier Mission offers visitors a glimpse of early European settlements, as well as a thorough explanation of how British, French, and Maori tribes all skirmished and negotiated for land. Aside the early printing press and info relating to printing, the Pompallier building is a sight in itself, having been constructed in 1842 in a rammed-Earth style that was typical of the day in the French city of Lyon. It also has an extensive heritage garden, with sweeping views that look across the bay towards Waitangi and Paihia.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 2 Days in the Bay of Islands

How to Spend 2 Days in the Bay of Islands

How to Spend 3 Days in the Bay of Islands

How to Spend 3 Days in the Bay of Islands

Top activities in Bay of Islands

*Popular Cruise Ship Tour* Bay of Islands and Glow Worm Caves Small-Group Tour
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Cape Reinga Half-Day Tour Including Scenic Flight
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Phantom Sailing Bay of Islands

Phantom Sailing Bay of Islands

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US$97.30
Bay Combo Tour - 60 mins (min 2)
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Bay Combo Tour - 60 mins (min 2)

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Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour
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Bay of Islands Wine Tour

Bay of Islands Wine Tour

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Bay of Islands Highlights Tour - With Glow Worm Caves
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Scenic Tour - Bay of Islands, 30 mins (min2)
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Half-Day Bay of Islands Discovery Tour from Paihia
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Island and Wildlife Day Cruise

Island and Wildlife Day Cruise

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Recent reviews from experiences in Bay of Islands

star-5
Exceptional experience
Johnny_F, Dec 2018
Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on 'R. Tucker Thompson' Including BBQ Lunch
I loved my day aboard, this must be the best way to see the Bay of Islands.
star-5
Bay of Islands is just beautiful...
PATRICIA S, Mar 2018
*Popular Cruise Ship Tour* Bay of Islands and Glow Worm Caves Small-Group Tour
Bay of Islands is just beautiful, the highlight being Kawiti Cave to see the glow worms.
star-5
Matt was great at showing us...
danica-78, Aug 2017
*Popular Cruise Ship Tour* Bay of Islands and Glow Worm Caves Small-Group Tour
Matt was great at showing us everything you would want to see in the bay of islands.
star-5
Thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip...
kim p, Jan 2016
Cape Reinga Half-Day Tour Including Scenic Flight
Would recommend this as a must for anybody wishing to see the wonderful landscape in its entirity of the Bay of Islands.
star-5
There's no better way to see Bay of...
Kenneth J P, Mar 2016
Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour
There's no better way to see Bay of Islands than by helicopter and landing on the Hole in the Rock was a great thrill.
star-5
It was an awesome day. Warm sunny...
Stephen M. E, Feb 2016
Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on 'R. Tucker Thompson' Including BBQ Lunch
Highly recommend to anyone wanting to see the Bay of Islands up close and personal.
star-5
This is definitely the way to see...
Curtis H, Dec 2015
Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour
This is definitely the way to see the Bay of Islands!
star-5
Absolutely recommend this tour! The...
Katherine A, Oct 2016
Half-Day Bay of Islands Discovery Tour from Paihia
The tour weaves through the Bay of Islands with the opportunity to see dolphins, and we even got a glimpse of a whale!
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Fascinating Glow Worms
nicolethompson, Jan 2020
*Popular Cruise Ship Tour* Bay of Islands and Glow Worm Caves Small-Group Tour
We also enjoyed our stops at the chocolate factory, wooden workshop, Kaori forest and the Haruru Falls.
star-5
Best way to see the Bay of Islands...
Samantha H, Mar 2017
Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on 'R. Tucker Thompson' Including BBQ Lunch
Best way to see the Bay of Islands!
star-5
WOW! What a great way to see the Bay...
David_Z, Jan 2018
*Popular Cruise Ship Tour* Bay of Islands and Glow Worm Caves Small-Group Tour
The tour showed us the top sights to see - We loved the stop at the chocolate factory, the scenery, the history, and the warm and friendly nature of our guide.
star-5
What a ride! Great fun from start to...
Bandit, Oct 2011
Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour
It was amazing being able to see the Bay of Islands from the air and being able to grasp just how large the area is.
star-5
What an excellent day! We helped put...
Roy S, Apr 2013
Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on 'R. Tucker Thompson' Including BBQ Lunch
We climbed the hill when the ship anchored and were able to see across the Bay of Islands.
star-4
Matt was our guide for the day and...
Nicole D, Jan 2018
*Popular Cruise Ship Tour* Bay of Islands and Glow Worm Caves Small-Group Tour
The glow worm caves were wonderful to see as was the rain forest area.
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People Also Ask

Why is the Bay of Islands famous?

The Bay of Islands is famous for its beautiful beaches and islands, coastal scenery, and as being one of the most historically significant places in New Zealand. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are a must-visit cultural attraction. Dolphin-watching, sailing, boat tours to the Hole in the Rock, and coastal walks are also popular.

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How long is the drive from Auckland to Bay of Islands?

Paihia, in the Bay of Islands, is around 142 miles (229 kilometers) from Auckland. A non-stop drive takes about three hours, without delays, but many travelers prefer to stop en route at Waipu, Whangarei, and/or Kawakawa.

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How many days do you need in Bay of Islands?

To see the main sights of the Bay of Islands, two or three days is enough. If you want to hike the Cape Brett Track, sail between the islands, sleep on a boat, or spend time camping on the islands, budget another couple of days.

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What can tourists do at the Bay of Islands?

Tourists enjoy outdoor and cultural attractions in the Bay of Islands. Learn about New Zealand history at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and in Russell; hike along coastal walkways; go dolphin watching or take a Hole in the Rock cruise; taste wine around Kerikeri; and island-hop on an overnight yacht.

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What can you do in Bay of Islands for free?

You don’t have to spend money to enjoy the Bay of Islands. Visit the free beaches on the mainland, enjoy coastal day walks (overnighting on the Cape Brett Track carries a small fee), and wander the charming town of Russell, taking in the views.

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Is Bay of Islands worth visiting?

Yes. The Bay of Islands is definitely worth visiting, especially if you enjoy beaches, coastal scenery, and learning about New Zealand history and culture.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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