The Bay of Islands has more to offer than just pretty sunsets, and here you’ll find ancient culture, untouched beaches, and even skydiving.
New Zealand is truly one of the most magnificent places on Earth. Both the North and South Islands of the tiny country in the South Pacific have an assortment of fantastic things to do and places to visit. Most of these destinations are otherworldly, almost as if they crept out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But The Bay Of Islands, near the northern-most tip of the country, is simply one of the most stunning destinations in New Zealand due to its beaches.
The area on the northeast side of the North Island is known for its undeveloped beaches, game fishing, Maori cultural artifacts, skydiving, and the 144 subtropical islands that wait for visitors just outside the small waterfront towns.
Without further ado, here’s why The Bay Of Islands in New Zealand is worth visiting and what to do when you get there.
10. How Could Anyone Not Like A Stunning Enclave Of Beautiful Beaches And Pristine Islands?
There are tons of people, including stars like Taylor Swift and Cole Sprouse, who fly to New Zealand for a total Middle Earth Experience but the truth is, The Bay of Islands has nothing to do with The Lord Of The Rings. While parts of the towns of Paihia, Kerikeri, Kawakawa, Kaikohe, Kaeo, Russell, and the 144 islands that encompass the area appear as though they were taken from Tolkien’s books, the reality is The Bay of Islands is all about the beaches and pristine islands. The Bay also is rich in history from a European settlement perspective and Māori culture. The area between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula is a three-hour drive from the city of Auckland and is often heralded at the birthplace of New Zealand.
9. Hop-On A Boat And Cruise Around The Bay And The Outer Islands
There’s an assortment of “must-dos” when visiting The Bay of Islands including cruising around the bay and all of the outer islands. Given the name of this tourist destination, it’s no surprise that the top attraction is water-based activities. Boats, kayaks, canoes, catamarans, and stand-up paddleboard can all be rented through various companies found throughout the towns. However, the towns of Russell and Paihia tend to be the biggest ports. The towns offer tours through Explore NZ, Albatross, V Expedition, and Fuller Great Sights that’ll bring you up close to the various islands and assortment of marine wildlife that dwells in the bay, namely dolphins and Orcas.
8. The Hole In The Rock Cruise Is One Way To Discover The Bay Of Islands And The Mythology Surrounding It
Discovering the “Hole In The Rock” cruise in the Bay Of Islands is one of the must-dos when visiting the northern region of the country. There are daily departures from Paihia and Russell that usually delve into the cultural mythology surrounding this beautiful spot. The tour also brings you up close with a diverse range of wildlife such as pods of dolphins, schools of Kawai and Kingfish, and Orcas whOffeich are numerous in the area. The Hole in the Rock Cruises takes about 4.5 hours and costs $155 per person.
7. Ninety-Mile Beach Isn’t In The Bay Of Islands, But It’s Almost Always Offered On Tours
Technically 90 Mile Beach isn’t part of the Bay of Islands, but due to its proximity, it’s almost always lumped into the attractions of the area. The completely inaccurately named beach actually stretches 55 miles long (or 88 kilometers) and is located on the northwest shore of the tip of New Zealand, while The Bay of Islands is on the northeast side. Day trips to the beach from the Bay of Islands can be booked through Dolphin Cruises. While the beach is an official highway, tour guides are the best people to navigate the entirely sandy terrain. The tours will let you spend the day swimming, exploring the beaches, surfing the sand dunes, and gazing out into the vast openness of it all.
6. Rural Countrysides, Beach Views, And Railway Tunnels Await Bike-Riders
While The Bay of Islands is certainly a boater’s paradise, the area is also fantastic for biking. There are several biking trails around the area, according to NZ Pocket Guide, and some of them have stellar beach views. However, the 8kKM journey along the Twin Coast Cycle Trail is the most famous. It takes riders through railway tunnels and along a gorgeous rural countryside. The best access point to the trail is in the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park on Bayly Road.
5. Up Your Instagram-Game At Rainbow Falls
If you don’t care about your Instagram profile, congratulations, you’re a better human being than most of us. There’s no doubt that Rainbow Falls in the Bay of Islands town of Kerikeri looks good on a feed. But it’s also just somewhere you should go to breathe and gain a better appreciation for our planet. It is so much bigger than us. According to NZ Pocket Guide, Rainbow Falls is 27 meters and has many different viewpoints, the best being from behind the waterfall itself. Just be careful when you climb inside, it’s slippery.
4. Test Your Level Of Bravery By Skydiving Over The Epic Countryside
Skydiving tends to be a pretty popular activity in New Zealand, both for locals and for tourists. But the Bay of Islands is precisely where you want to test the limits of your bravery. According to NZ Pocket Guide, Skydive Bay of Islands is your best bet. For tandem dives, prices range from $200 to $800 depending on the package that you get. But, without question, this will not only be the most memorable experience of your trip, but also of your life.
3. Commandeer The R. Tucker Thompson Ship For A Ride Around The Bay
While there are many boating experiences to be had in the Bay of Islands, hopping aboard the R. Tucker Thompson is one of the most unique. Environmentally-friendly all-day sailings and evening and afternoon sailings are available from Opua. Prices for adults hover around $159 while kids are down at $79.50. Tea, lunch, and ferry transfer is included. The old rigged topsail schooner takes guests around the area of Paihia and Waitangi and operates as a non-profit to teach young and old Māori and Pākehā, visitors, and Northlanders sailing.
2. Camping On Urupukapuka Island Or Just Visiting For The Day
Urupukapka Island is the largest in the Bay of Islands and is filled with walking and hiking trails that take you to some of the most impressive waterfalls and lush vantage points in the area. According to NZ Pocket Guide, it’s fabulous for bird watching and even has a ton of campground for those who want to stay overnight. However, all campers must register as the land is protected. Ferries depart daily from Paihia wharf and only take a short time to get to the island where day visitors can rent kayaks, fish, and swim.
1. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds Is Historic And Interesting
Without a doubt, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is one of the most historically significant sites in all of New Zealand. This is the spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed and New Zealand became a nation – hence why The Bay of Islands is called “the birthplace of New Zealand”. According to NZ Pocket Guide, a day pass can be purchased that will allow you into the stunning museum, colonial house, and even give you tours through the bush and a cultural show.