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Bay of Islands Wharf

New Zealand is gifted with natural beauty, flaura, and fauna. The Bay of Islands is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country with its endless green valleys and long mountains that lapse the dark blue ocean bed.

Located in the East coast of the North Island of New Zealand, the Bay of Islands is a 3-hour drive from Auckland. Spanning a 16km stretch, the bay is irregularly shaped and forms a natural harbor. It contains 144 small islands, several peninsulas and inlets. In a study done in 2006, the Bay of Islands was named to have the world's second bluest sky, next to Rio de Janeiro.

There is an array of fascinating things you can do in the Bay of Islands, which varies from relaxation to adrenalin pumping adventures. Two favorite past-times of locals are fishing and sailing. Here are our 11 most popular activities and attractions (in no particular order) you must not miss:

1. Puketi Nature Trail

Take the one-hour Puketi nature trail to walk inside the beautiful rainforest of Puketi. It’s adventurous and extremely fun, and you get to learn about the rich bio-diversity in New Zealand. A professional guide is provided for each tour to ensure your safety and to give you a fun-filled tour with an adventurous trail and explanations about the flora, fauna and animal life of the forest. The most popular attraction here is the range of Kauri trees – the world’s second largest tree species, found only in this part. Choose from the options of full-day, half-day or night-time tours.

2. Kayaking Trips

Bay of Islands Cruise and Kayak offer a cruise experience combined with an interesting range of kayaking trips. These tours cater to the adventurous traveller looking to explore the natural beauty of New Zealand. Each tour is accommodated by a skilled professional guide, who looks after your safety and will fill you with interesting stories of the history and the legends around the area.

3. Waitangi Treaty Grounds

This location resembles an important milestone in the history of New Zealand, i.e. the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, in 1840. Located 28km away from the Kerikeri Airport, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds host the Treaty House, the Meeting House & the world's largest war canoe ceremonial. Tourists can enjoy guided tours - which allows them to get a sense of Maori culture, and cultural performances conducted by various community groups. You can also take leisure walks through the grounds of the Waitangi estate, admiring the gardens, beaches and the spectacular views of the Bay of Islands. A complete tour in Waitangi Treaty Grounds takes 3-4 hours.

4. Wine Tours

Visit the countryside and meet the locals in their lifestyle. A tour typically includes visits and tasting at local vineyards. Tours can be personalized after talking to the organizers. There are several custom made tour packages, which can be selected according to your taste:

  • Wine, Food and Craft tour – this tour costs $70 per person and covers a few local vineyards, Cheese factory, Chocolate factory, Stone Store and the Picturesque Waterfall. The tour departs from Pahila at 1.30 pm on the scheduled date and returns by 5.00 pm.
  • Half day Wine tour – covers 4 local vineyards, allowing the visitors to taste wine and talk to the local wine makers. It costs $80 per person and takes 3 hours.
  • Highlights tour – costs $99 per person. Tour duration is 9.30 am – 1.30 pm. The visitors get to enjoy a scenic countryside tour, exploring some of the oldest buildings in the country. Visitors are allowed to take photographs at the picturesque waterfall.
  • Evening Wine & Dine tour – take this tour to find out how it all started – with related to wine making in New Zealand. You get the opportunity to enjoy wine and cuisine in the birthplace of wine, in the country. The tour costs $120 per person.

See our top 5 restaurants in the Bay of Islands for more great food experiences.

5. Sailing

While you are in Bay of Islands, don't miss a sailing adventure with the ‘She’s a Lady’. Sailing among the 144 islands with exotic scenic beauty, you get hands-on experience in participating in sailing by helping the crew. If all the hard work doesn’t interest you, just sit back, relax and enjoy your surroundings. Any day, you can see a range of marine life, including dolphins, whales, penguins and several species of sea-birds. The crew on-board the ‘She’s a Lady’ are extremely friendly and caring, that you get to learn a lot about the marine life and the history of the area. These sailing tours cater to all age groups, with or without prior sailing experience. Daily sailing tours depart from Russel and Paihia.

6. Flying Kiwi Parasail

Enjoy the breathtaking view of the scenic Bay of Islands, during the highest parasail adventure you can experience in New Zealand. The parasailing experience takes you 1200ft above sea level across the pictorial landscapes of Paihia and Russel, all the way cross to Cape Brett. Flying Kiwi Parasail team ensures full safety of the journey, with their perfect safety record, hi-tech equipment, safety gadgets and well-trained staff. The first trip starts at 8 in the morning each day, and continuous at intervals of 1.5 hours. Individual fly tours cost $110 per person, while group flying options for couples or families are available at $95 per person.

7. Fishing

You can experience both freshwater and saltwater fishing at the Bay of Islands. With 144 islands and the bay itself, it offers a number of fishing charters and fishing spots, to suite all types of skills and finish experiences. Fishing trips can be arranged to rivers, lakes, back country streams and the bay. Alternatively, travelers can explore fishing spots anywhere in one of the islands, on their own. If you wish to continue your fishing expedition for days, there are a plenty of accommodation and dining options to give you a pleasant stay. Fishing trips can be arranged for as low as $50, and these will pick you from anywhere in Paihia, Waitangi, Russel or Opua and in between, and drop you at the same location at the end of the trip.

8. Hole in the Rock Cruise

The half-day cruise is intended for seeing dolphins and other marine life, but what’s more worth about this cruise is the ability to travel through the famous Hole in the Rock, located at the Motukokako Island. According to the legends, prior to departing on battles, local warriors paddled through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes. The cruise makes a stop at the stunning Otehei Bay on the Urupukapuka Island, where you get a chance to explore the island for 1.5 hours, and get a unique cultural experience with the Maori people.

9. Overnight Cruise Aboard ‘The Rock’

The overnight cruise offers the travelers an exciting experience, with several adventurous activities. The trip leaves the shore at Paihia on a 22 hour tour, exploring the sub-tropical regions around the Bay of Islands. ‘The Rock’ is a house-boat providing overnight accommodation for up to 36 people. It is suitable for travelers of any age and provides a completely safe, enjoyable tour. It will take you through sandy beaches, and shallow waters allowing you to engage in several adventure activities.

10. Swim with Dolphins

Cruising and swimming with dolphins is one of the unique featured activities in Bay of Islands. You get the opportunity to be close to these innocent, friendly beasts, in their natural home. Even if you don't wish to swim with them, you can observe these lovely animals from the boat, while it circles around the island, looking for dolphins and other marine life, including whales and seals. There are several options for you to choose from, which includes full-day and half-day cruises, daily starting from Paihia and Russel. Each cruise takes around 35 passengers in one tour. Tourists are provided with masks, snorkels, wetsuits and hot showers.

11. Tango Jet Ski & Island Boat Tours

Make your stay a memorable one with the exciting Jet Ski and boat tour. You can hire a jet, or take a guided tour through the Bay of Islands to the stunning Hole in the Rock. A 30-minute blast trip within the bay will cost $100 per ski. A guided 1 hour blaster tour which costs $180 per Jet Ski, will take you through the inner islands of the bay, even through the remote islands. At a cost of $340, the 2.5 hour Bay Bonanza tour takes you way towards the outer islands, all the way to the Hole in the Rock, Cape Berette lighthouse and the Cathedral Caves.