Bay of islands
photo by Hidde de Vries

The Bay of Islands is in the Far North of the North Island of New Zealand.


This region of New Zealand is rich in history and a fantastic example of why New Zealand has much to offer the traveller. This area of New Zealand is where the first missionaries settled in the early nineteenth century.

Getting there

By car

  • State Highway 1. SH1 will take you along the east coast from Auckland into the Bay of Islands region.

By bus

GreatSights New Zealand operate daily sightseeing tours to the Bay of Islands from Auckland. Tours can be completed in one day, including a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Fullers GreatSights Dolphin Watching Cruise to Cape Brett and the famous "Hole in the Rock".

InterCity Coachlines is New Zealand's national coach company and operates a number of daily departures to the Bay of Islands and other Northland destinations.

Further excursions including accommodation, food, travel and activities can be purchased from major New Zealand tour companies such as Kiwi Experience or Magic Bus.

By plane

  • Kerikeri Airport. The flight from Auckland is about 45 minutes. is the local operator and fly twice daily from the North Shore of Auckland to Whangarei and Kerikeri airports. operate up to four flights per day from Auckland.

Traveling around

A number of boat operators run regular ferries between Paihia Wharf and Russell. Tickets can be purchased on-board and cost around $6 each way or $10 return.


  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds were gifted to the nation by Lord and Lady Bledisloe in 1932. The Waitangi National Trust Treaty Grounds give a unique and fascinating insight into New Zealand's historic past. New Zealand's most significant document, The Treaty of Waitangi, was first signed here in 1840 between a few Maori chiefs and the British Crown, and became the basis for life in New Zealand as it is known today.

  • Haruru Falls - Haruru means "big noise." The water falls in a horseshoe shape - very rare and quite spectacular - and Maori legend states that a taniwha (water monster) lives in the lagoon below. You can walk to Haruru Falls along the Waitangi walking track, or drive to Haruru Falls township - which is only 3 kilometres from Paihia. In the 1800s, there were over 100 Maori villages along the Haruru Falls river.

  • Stone Store at Kerikeri, the oldest stone building in New Zealand, and adjacent Kemp House, are perennial subjects for tourists' cameras.

  • Puketi Forest - Puketi Forest, along with Omahuta Forest, forms one of the largest contiguous tracts of native forest in New Zealand's Northland. Home to Te Tangi o te Tui Puketi, the fourth largest living kauri with a height 50.9 m (167'), Puketi is easily accessible from the Bay of Islands, Whangaroa and Hokianga Harbour. Access to the recreation facilities can be reached from State Highway 1 or the network of secondary roads that skirt the forest.

  • Museum in the old Memorial Library (open Thursdays & Fridays) for a glimpse of Kawakawa's coal mining history. The railway line running through the centre of town to Opua is a remnant of those times. Unfortunately major maintenance requirements mean that regular trips to Opua by Gabriel, the renowned steam train, will not be taking place at present, however the station is open and welcomes visitors. Visit also the Kawiti glow-worm caves at Waiomio which boast a galaxy of glow-worm lights, white limestone formations and 12 generations of history.

Things to do

  • Carino Sailing & Dolphin Adventures Sailing and Dolphins

  • Forestwalks, Adventure Puketi, Adventure Omahuta (Guided forest walks (accommodation available in our B&B. Packages available)) , +64 (09) 401 9095, +64 (09) 401 9095, Summer season 9.30AM to 10.30PM, Winter hours by arrangment, Postal: RD1, Puketi Heights, Okaihau, Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Physical: 476 Puketi Road, Okaihau, Off State Highway 10 (SH10) from the Kerikeri round about to the Airport. We are 12--15 minutes from there, follow the clearly marked Puketi Forest signs, you will then find Adventure Puketi signs.

  • Fullers GreatSights — operate the widest range of marine and land based activities in the region. Officially licensed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Fullers GreatSights operate a number of cruises that are permitted to actively seek dolphin and whales in and around the Bay of Islands.

  • Ipipiri Overnight Cruises From October 2009 Fullers GreatSights will launch a brand new $12m overnight cruise ship in the Bay of Islands. This unique cruise will showcase the history of the region on a two day, one night cruise experience.

  • Operate a range of cruise and land tours aimed for the more adventurous traveller. From half day Dolphin Eco Encounters, Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach day tours to the Excitor - Ultimate High Speed Adventure Fast Boat ride to the iconic Hole in the Rock.

  • 'The Rock' Overnight Cruise Cruise the Bay of Islands for 22 hours, incorporating lots of water activities, island walks, onboard meals, as well as time to watch the stunning scenery and wildlife. These pioneers of the overnight cruise provide an experience that you will never forget.

The area is home to a huge number of activities, from lounging on boats cruising around the various islands, to scenic helicopter or fixed wing flights. Many of the activities are focused on or in the water. If you fancy a go at Kayaking then try Island Kayaks based next to the Pipi Patch . A number of boat operators run regular ferries between Paihia Wharf and Russell. Tickets can be purchased onboard and cost $6 each way or $10 return.


You can't go past the Pipi Patch and the Salty for a good old knees up! Plenty of traditional pubs and bars throughout town including the Mako pub on the water front.


In Kerikeri, the Enz of the Earth store is not just a place to shop for exotic things. Sit in the inner garden for a while and take in the peaceful surroundings.


English and some Maori in the Waitangi area, though this is for tourists.


The Paihia Police station is located opposite the long stay car park on Williams St(45).Phone: (09) 402 7130 Fax:(09) 402 6253

The Russell Police Station is located on the strand on the Russell Waterfront.Phone:(09) 403 9090 Fax:(09) 403 9091


  • Paihia - The main town of the Bay of Islands, Paihia is known as the jewel of the magnificent Bay of Islands. With shimmering safe waters and superb beaches, Paihia is a good place to be based for your Bay of Islands experience. Take a relaxing walk along unspoilt beaches, take a guided tour through historical sites or go fishing. If adventure is what you seek, perhaps try skydiving, parasailing, scuba diving or kayaking. Paihia is the place of friendly locals, happy cafés and people enjoying life. Whether it is swimming with delightful dolphins, taking in a spot of retail therapy or just lazing under a tree, Paihia is the place for it.

  • Russell - A quick ferry ride across the water from Paihia is the charming, elegant township of Russell. This tranquil place was once known as "the hell hole of the Pacific" when it was the shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders in the early 19th century. Today Russell is still a favoured spot for boaties who seek safe anchorage. You will find a wide range of accommodation available and you can also arrange sightseeing, adventure or fishing activity from the Russell waterfront. If you're planning to do any island or bush hiking, be sure to call into the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre. For self-drive explorers, take State Highway 11 to Opua and catch the vehicular ferry to Russell or leave State Highway 1 at Whakapara and travel the fully tar-sealed scenic coastal route via Oakura. There's also a passenger ferry service from Paihia.

  • Waitangi - Truly one of New Zealand's most historic sites, being the place where Maori and European joined in signing the Treaty of Waitangi on 2 February 1840. Here the Treaty was signed by the representatives of the English Crown and a small number of Maori chiefs. Then the Treaty was circulated around New Zealand and further Maori chiefs added their signatures to it. The largest signing by chiefs took place at the Mangungu Mission House in Horeke on 12 February 1840. Not all tribes signed the Treaty! The Treaty House is on a vast peaceful estate which includes a fully carved Maori meeting house, one of the largest Maori war canoes and a Visitor Centre and Gallery. The estate is a must-see for any visitor interested in New Zealand's history and culture. The Waitangi Golf Course is in a wonderful setting with majestic ocean views. And for a deeper understanding of how mangrove forests fit into coastal ecology, take a trek through to Haruru Falls or join a guided kayak tour.

  • Kerikeri - Kerikeri was home ground for the fearsome Hongi Hika, a Maori chief who terrorised many tribes throughout the North Island in the early 1800s. Yet he was kind to missionaries - allowing Samuel Marsden to establish New Zealand's second mission station here. Kerikeri overflows with orchards and galleries, fruit and art. All along the roadside, orchards sell their delicious oranges, kiwi fruit and avocados. Follow the art and craft trail and you'll get to know some of the artisans. Visit the wineries, lunch in one of the many outdoor cafés, indulge in delicious handmade chocolates or locally made macadamia liqueur. Kerikeri also has excellent sporting facilities including golf, all-weather tennis and yachting. Expect a good choice of cafés and restaurants. Within minutes by car or an hour's walk from the Kerikeri Basin car park is the 27 metre Rainbow Falls. Further afield lies the Puketi Forest, an ideal place to tramp and view kauri trees from a boardwalk which also has wheelchair access.

  • Opua - For those who arrive in the Bay of Islands by sea, Opua is your port. It's where the boats live - yachts, launches, ferries and runabouts of every description. On the wharf, a number of charter companies offer yachts you can sail yourself. A new 240 berth marina is now complete so with the friendly yacht club, the boat haul-out yards and extensive marine services, Opua is a delightful safe-haven for any sailor. It is also where you catch the car ferry if you want to drive to Russell.

  • Kawakawa - Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Kawakawa is marked by its unique entrance sign, an arch constructed in the style of Frederick Hundertwasser. Kawakawa is home to the famous Hundertwasser-designed public toilets - a definite must on your itinerary. This is the only building in the Southern Hemisphere designed by the Austrian born artist and is the last building he designed before he died in 1999.

Get out

  • Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga. Coach tours from Paihia usually last about 8-10 hours so it may be better to take a Kaitaia-based tour instead.

  • Do the Hokianga (just 45 minutes drive from Kerikeri and 60 minutes drive from Paihia)

    • Mangungu Mission House (historic site) — site of the biggest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

    • Koutu Boulders — biggest concretions in the world

    • Sand Dunes — fantastic sandstone sculptures on top of dune opposite Opononi

    • Wairere Boulders (nature park) — an enormous basalt flow just south of Horeke

    • Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary — see 5 of the 12 biggest kauri trees in an undisturbed healthy forest

    • Tane Mahuta — Lord of the Forest (most visited kauri tree in NZ)

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The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

Hidde de Vries, Matt Lemmon, funtor, BAROSI, Mihaly, bulach, swienerli, Roma44

Some photos courtesy of: , . The photos provided by Flickr, Panoramio are under the copyright of their owners.

This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Daniel, Marc Heiden, Peter Fitzgerald, Felix Schaad, Tiki, Danielle van Strien, Ann, Ian Kirk and Michele Ann Jenkins, Inas, Tatatabot, Episteme, Nurg, Morph, Jonboy, Hypatia, Nzpcmad and Huttite

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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