With an idyllic climate and over 140 sub-tropical atolls, 40 parks and reserves, 800 kilometres of coastline and many of the historic buildings - The Bay of Islands is a popular holiday destination. This region also plays an active role in the history of New Zealand and is a key driver in Northland tourism.
See an abundance of marine life including dolphins, seals, penguins, whales and gannets - many charter companies will take you further out among the islands to explore the incredible geographic features such as ‘Hole in the Rock.' Yacht chartering is another great way to explore the natural beauty of the area. The seas further out of the marine park are renowned for their big game fishing with marlin, broadbills and game sharks all found in the waters.
The small township of Russell - just across the harbour from Paihia is renowned for its history. A visit to the Pompallier Mission house and the local museum, followed by a stroll to New Zealand's oldest church is highly recommended. Russell is also home to many fine restaurants and cafes as well as the nations oldest licensed premises, the Duke of Marlborough. A visit to Waitangi, the birthplace of modern New Zealand is a must - as is a visit to the historic treaty house.
Cruise and discover the very best of the Bay of Islands. Experience the spectacular scenery in an area that is soaked in rich culture and history. Encounter diverse wildlife in their natural surroundings. Cruise among the 144 islands with skipper's commentary including a visit to the iconic Hole in the Rock and when conditions permit, travel through it. View marine mammals, dolphins, whales, orcas, with a success rate of over 90% on these trips along with other wildlife. Your trip will also include an island stop at Otehei Bay Urupukapuka Island. In summer, this includes a barbeque meal, the ability to grab a drink at the fully licensed cafe, hire snorkel, kayaks and paddleboards or just chill out on the beach. There is also island walks for the more adventurous.
Board your cruise and take in the stunning views as you glide out through the islands and along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse keeps watch over and Piercy Island/Motukōkako, or as it is popularly known the ‘Hole in the Rock’. According to Māori legend, local warriors used to paddle through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof above were a good omen. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space. Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales and other marine life during your cruise, and have your camera ready as you get up close to the action. The purpose-built catamaran is licensed by DOC (the Department of Conservation) for dolphin viewing and the crew have years of experience locating dolphins in these waters. Dolphin Seeker has indoor and outdoor seating available, and the largest outdoor viewing decks in the Bay of Islands.
In 1927, Albert Ernest Fuller acquired a delivery route around the Bay of Islands known as the Cream Trip. Locals and visitors began to come along for the ride, and tourism in the Bay of Islands was born. Today you still follow the original Cream Trip route on a relaxed day-long cruise. This is the perfect cruise for nature lovers and is the most extensive historical cruise offered in the Bay of Islands. Enjoy stunning views of the islands as we travel out through the islands on the new vessel Te Maki, making deliveries along the way. On arrival at Cape Brett Lighthouse, the farthest post of the original Cream Trip, you will be taken through the stunning Hole in the Rock at Motukokako Island. You’ll also see the impressive Black Rocks and Marsden Cross, where the first Christian sermon in New Zealand was held in 1814. See dolphins in their natural environment and if conditions are suitable, go swimming alongside these inquisitive creatures – it’s a life-changing experience (must be pre-booked). Alternatively try boom-netting, hanging on to the net as you glide through the water. Spend some time at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka island - relax on the beach, head up to the viewing point for a breathtaking outlook, and grab a snack at the island's cafe. Ninety years on, the Cream Trip cruise is still the best way to see the Bay.
Skydiving over the Bay of Islands gives you the best possible view of the 144 islands that make up the spectacular Bay of Island and when you’re 2 miles up you can even see the curve of the earth – remarkable! To begin you skydive experience you’ll be collected in a luxury stretch limousine, a superbly stylish way to get to the drop zone. As well as the fun stuff you’ll also be pleased to know Skydive Bay of Islands is certified to the highest possible standard by New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority, ensuring that your skydive will not only be the most thrilling thing you do this year, but also one of the safest.
Sail the Bay of Islands with a small group for a personalised island adventure. Enjoy sailing to an island stop-over where you can swim, snorkel, explore and discover in beautiful surroundings. Your vessel for the day is The Phantom, a classic ocean racing sloop built by C&C Yachts in 1972. If you like you can take the helm and with a little help from your crew, experience her pedigree for yourself. You will instantly appreciate her beauty, and feel safe and comfortable on this heavy displacement performance yacht. On board you'll also enjoy 'the best lunch in the bay' according to Lonely Planet, comprising delicious New Zealand cheeses, fruits, home-made breads and more.
Shared fishing charters offer a full range of fishing options tailored to suit everyone's individual needs and experience. From saltwater fly, light tackle, live baiting and jig fishing they welcome both novice and experienced anglers. Your experienced fishing guide offers expert local knowledge for the discerning angler and patient tuition for the novice to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to land their catch. Snapper fishing trips are generally within the inner bay. Pilchards, squid and mackerel are the most common bait used but the odd live bait is always handy as big Snapper are quite partial to these tempting morsels. Ledger and stray line rigs are predominantly used for this species but jigs and soft baits (artificial rubber-like teasers) can also be effective for those experienced anglers keen to preserve. Quality fishing tackle and morning or afternoon tea is provided. You can decide whether to release the fish you catch or take them back to your accommodation for eating. Smoking, canning or vacuum packaging can be arranged.
Take a relaxed tour of Kerikeri, a small town rich in history. Explore the mission station and its grounds, home to New Zealand's oldest standing European buildings: the Stone Store and Kerikeri Mission House (Kemp House). The iconic Stone Store stands at the edge of the Kerikeri inlet, offering a unique shopping experience with an interactive story space upstairs. See how the early settlers lived and learn about the building’s many lives as a trading post, library, barracks, school and general store. Built in 1822, Kemp House is the country’s oldest surviving building, surrounded by English-style cottage garden and orchards. Hear the story of the first missionary families and see their personal items and furniture preserved over the years. Reverend Marsden is said to have planted the first grapevines in New Zealand in 1819, and today wine is one of many reasons people come to Kerikeri. Visit Ake Ake vineyard, a family-run boutique operation set just outside Kerikeri, and sample their organically-grown wines. Tour the vineyard and see how the grapes are grown before tasting their range. Your tour of Kerikeri concludes with a visit to the Makana Chocolate Factory where you can watch delicious chocolates, truffles, caramels and toffees being made by hand. Taste samples and of course shop for gifts – or just indulge yourself!
Travel to Hokianga and meet your local Māori guide, then venture into the ancient Waipoua Kauri Forest for an unforgettable encounter. Learn about life in the forest and hear Māori waiata (songs), myths and legends as your guide takes you on an intimate journey through nature and explains how the lives of local Māori are intertwined with the forest. The Waipoua forest is home to some of the most significant kauri trees still standing. The most famous Kauri is the impressive Tāne Mahuta (the Lord of the Forest). The largest known kauri tree in the world aged up to 2,500 years old, his mighty girth is over 13 metres and he stands an impressive 51 metres (167 feet) high. Stand beneath this ancient giant and hear the legend of how he separated earth and sky at the beginning of the world. After your forest encounter, spend some time in the Hokianga town of Opononi before turning back towards Paihia along the old stagecoach route. This trail was first marked out by early Māori and then frequented by traders and merchants who transported supplies, kauri, gum and timber between the coasts. On your way back, stop at the Kawiti Glowworm Caves and discover one of Northland's best-kept secrets. These family-run caves will delight you with twinkling glowworms, amazing limestone rock formations including stalactites and stalagmites, all surrounded in lush green native forest.
Offering an exhilarating experience as you blast to the Hole in the Rock within a return time of one and a half hours, Ocean Adventure offers the perfect balance of exploration and exhilaration as you fast track your journey through the iconic scenery of the Bay of Islands.
A perfect way to end the day. Experience the Bay of Islands the old-fashioned way with a cruise on the R. Tucker Thompson, a traditional gaff-rigged schooner with her own unique history. On the Sundowner Sailing, take in the views as the ship sails across the sheltered waters of the inner harbour. Enjoy an antipasto platter as the sun starts to set.
About the R. Tucker Thompson - Built from 1970-1985, the R. Tucker Thompson’s design is based on the halibut schooners of the North West American coast. With a lofty rig of varnished oregon spars, Kwila decks and bulwarks and brasswork features, she looks the part of a 19th century working ship: purposeful and square-shouldered, but fast enough to out-run the law!