Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands is famous and rightly so. Paihia is the centre of tourism here and a great base for most activities. Russell across the harbour is the oldest European settlement in New Zealand and a bit harder to get to – either by a twisty coastal road from north of Whangarei, by passenger ferry from Paihia or car ferry from Opua – either way, it’s definitely worth it, one of the prettiest waterfronts in the country! Kerikeri north of the bay is an affluent area with many orchards and lifestyle properties, with some of New Zealand’s oldest houses, it is a bit removed from the Bay of Islands but set on a scenic river, with plenty of other sights like the impressive Rainbow Falls.

If you’d like to avoid the mass tourism side of the Bay of Islands and intend to boycott the cruises and activities you’ll actually miss out on the best things here, the most spectacular aspect of the bay really is being out on the water, cruising to the big Hole in the Rock, seeing or even swimming with dolphins on the way and seeing or walking on those amazing islands in the bay.

bay-of-islands_russell
The Russell waterfront before sunset, historic buildings and lots of charm!
russell waterfront tree
The huge Moreton Bay fig tree on the Russell waterfront, next to the historic police cottage.
Hole in the Rock
The Hole in the Rock in the Bay of Islands from the air
urupukapuka island bay of islands
It’s easy to visit the stunning Urupukapuka Island in the middle of the Bay, not so easy to get your camping gear to this wonderful campground.
Urupukapuka Island from the air.
Urupukapuka Island from the air.
urupukapuka island otehei bay
Maori history on the island goes back to 1350, sometimes there are archeologists at work.
urupukapuka island walking
Urupukapuka Island offers great loop walking tracks to beaches, lookouts and cliffs.
Entico Bay on Urupukapuka Island
Entico Bay on Urupukapuka Island.
maori canoe bay of islands
You can book some highly rewarding activities like a Maori canoe expedition to the Haruru Falls.
Bay of Islands: view to Motukiekie, Waewaetorea and Okahu Islands.
Bay of Islands: view to Motukiekie, Waewaetorea and Okahu Islands.
Dolphins in the Bay of Islands
Dolphins in the Bay of Islands – there are two resident pods of bottlenose dolphins in the bay and further out at sea you may find common dolphins, maybe even migrating whales.
The beach behind Tapeka Point near Russell.
The beach behind Tapeka Point near Russell.
School gate at Russell School.
School gate at Russell School.
stone store Kerikeri
NZ’s oldest stone house (1830s) in Kerikeri.
kerikeri mission house
NZ’s oldest house next door was a mission house (1821).
The Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri.
The Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri.
An eagle ray in the Bay of Islands.
An eagle ray in the Bay of Islands.