Bay of Islands, NZ

By Laurené Joost 27 May 2014
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With 144 islands, the Bay of Islands is a fantastic destination for divers, kayakers and nature lovers.

The views, atmosphere and rich history make this a great holiday spot in the Northland region. The Bay of Islands is a beautiful three- to four-hour drive north of Auckland, near the tip of the North Island.

Captain Cook named the Bay of Islands in 1769 and it was the home of the first European settlers in 1814. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed here – a big moment for Maori and European settlers. After big-game fisher Zane Grey visited in the 1930s, it became a premier fishing destination. Since then it has grown in popularity, with visitors flocking to enjoy its natural beauty and the variety of activities on offer – from quad biking to diving with dolphins.


Diving: Dolphins, whales and penguins are regulars in the waters around Paihia and Russell and diving here is great. There are adventures for everyone, from snorkellers to dive masters.

Sailing: Trips range from three hours to three days. You can also pick your sailing style – be it crewing on a sailboat or catching a fully equipped cruiser boat.

Kayak cruises: If you want to head inland, join one of the many great kayak trips. Starting along the coast, they follow the rivers used by traders in the past. This allows visitors to explore mangroves, see nesting seabirds and appreciate the many hidden waterfalls.

The essentials

Location: A 260km drive from Auckland, or a 40-minute plane trip.

Accommodation: Camping is available in Paihia and the more relaxed Russell. There’s a wide range of accommodation, from budget motels to luxury resorts.

Food/drink: For a breakfast with awesome views, go to Kamakura in Russell. Aegean Pizzeria in Kerikeri does some great Italian lunches.

The Gables in Russell is the perfect place for sundowners and also to enjoy all the delicious local produce over  dinner.  

Points of interest: Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a 10-minute drive north of Paihia, this is where the treaty was signed. Puketi Kauri Forest, about an hour’s drive north of the Bay of Islands, is perfect for hiking and spotting wildlife.

Maps: Pick up a map from the i-SITE Visitor Information Centre at the Wharf in Paihia.
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