The boat trip thru the Bay of Islands is wonderful. If the seas are calm you will travel thru the hole in the rock we were not able to, but still worth the trip. But there are a few things to keep in mind. The drive from Auckland to the Bay of Islands is almost 4 hours long so you will spend about 8 hours of the day sitting on the bus. The tour is advertised as approximately 10 hours because of the distances involved, it is actually much longer than that closer to 15 hours. We missed a dinner reservation because of this. Finally, the seas within the Bay of Islands are usually calm, but the ride out to the Hole in the Rock can be quite rough. If you're sitting on deck, chances are you will get wet possibly very wet from ocean spray, which is something to keep in mind for that 4 hour return trip to Auckland.
Because of the weather we cruised the islands but could not go out to Cape Brett or the Hole in the Rock - unavoidable but understandable. The issue was that there were people from multiple tours to the area on the same coach up and back. That created an incredible amount of confusion about who was to be where when. The tour at Waitangi was very good but cut short due to the need to get back for the boat ride. Altogether it was a very long coach ride for a so so excursion.
Long day and they mix some tours together so it gets crowded and a little confusing on the bus. However, the boat trip was great and we were able to cruise through the Hole in the Rock very light winds that day. Only saw one dolphin beautiful but the people who signed up to swim with the dolphins couldn't go government regulations require at least two so they don't feel uncomfortable. The tour on the Maori canoe was great! Nice little gift shop at the boat dock had some really good prices. I would give it a five but they must have forgot to pick us up so they sent cabs for us and we made the bus just fine in the end. At the end they put you on a smaller bus to go to the hotel which was fine.
A well organized day tour with prompt pick up, most comfortable modern bus and efficient transfer between bus and boat. The tour company really demonstrated its experience, everything worked like a well oiled machine. Not being able to actually sail through the hole in the rock was understood by everybody as rough sea conditions made it too dangerous. Our captain however brought us close to the rocks and the opening so we could appreciate their majestic size. Overall, a long but excellent day.
We recommend package tours like these because it saves you the trouble of driving out to remote locations and arranging the boats on your own.
About the tour: The driver was absolutely amazing! The boat portion of the tour was slightly crowded, so it was difficult to secure great outdoor seats. Besides the actual Hole in the Rock, parts of the cape tour were a bit slow -- it was mostly waiting around to get to the good parts. However, the boat crew were complete pros!
As with any outdoor tour in NZ, you need to remember that visibility is VERY dependent on the weather. Be sure to bring rain gear and expect cool temps, even in summer.
Excellent tour run by Great Sights, our driver Ben took us on a couple of extra stops as all the passengers were good with the time keeping and getting on the bus on time. The Treaty Grounds was an excellent introduction to the Moari history and traditions. The Cruise also was excellent, we saw many Dolphins and we were lucky enough to be able to go through the Hole in the Rock.