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Bay of Islands | The best things to see and do 👀 👍

Known for its rich history and breathtaking marine-scapes, the Bay of Islands is perfect for relaxing, water-based activities and anyone that dreams of being 'stranded' on a deserted island for a few hours - many would argue it feels more like being 'stranded' in paradise'. To give you a taste of what to expect from your visit to the Bay of Islands, here's an overview of great itinerary ideas I've collated for you.


A favourite for many that travel to New Zealand, this aquatic playground with 144 islands to explore and umpteen opportunities for fun and adventure within a micro-climate that includes the towns of Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri. Highlights can include:

  • experience stunning scenery and amazing wildlife with Carino Sailing + Dolphin Adventures where the highlight has to be your chance to swim with wild dolphins, in their ocean habitat 🐬🏊⛵

  • get a sense of history at New Zealand's oldest existing church Christ Church in Russell, and enjoy its tranquillity and its wairua (spiritual atmosphere) ⛪🔎

  • thrill the senses with a memorable scenic helicopter view over the spectacular coastline and island scenery with Salt Air, or head further as far as Cape Reinga on a fixed-wing aircraft 🚁🛩️

  • escape to a quiet remote place with Phantom Sailing on a trip that always features sheltered anchorages, beautiful bays and white-sand coves with crystal clear water for swimming and snorkelling ⛵

  • visit The Parrot Place and take a 'Parrot Safari' through glorious subtropical gardens while witnessing the entertaining antics and colourful plumage of the many exotic parrots from around the world 🦜

  • even if nature isn't calling make a point to take in the colourful modern-art-meets-convenience wonder of the Hundertwasser Toilets in the small town of Kawakawa, designed by Austrian artist that made this region his second home 🚽🎨

  • paddle to Haruru Falls on a kayak ‘Night Safari’ to take in the captivating waterfall, the setting sun, millions of stars, rising moon, jumping fish, screeching Owls, Kiwi and other eerie night calls 🛶🌌

  • scuba dive with Paihia Dive to explore the spectacular Rainbow Warrior shipwreck and the underwater wonders in this beautiful part of New Zealand - great for experienced and first-time divers 🐟

  • set sail and help the crew command the iconic tall ship, R. Tucker Thompson, a traditional gaff-rigged schooner with her own unique story, then step ashore to explore a secluded island or take a swim while your barbecue lunch is prepared 🔍⛵

  • take the short walk to the three different viewing platforms to admire beautiful Rainbow Falls, a spectacular 27 metre waterfall that tumbles into a swimming hole surrounded by native bush 👟

  • visit Te Waimate Mission, NZ's second oldest building that preserves stories of important early encounters between Maori and settlers as well as farming, architectural and missionary history 🔍 

  • delight in the atmospheric ground-floor gift shop of the Stone Store, NZ's oldest stone building and enjoy its picture-perfect setting 📸🔎

  • take time to soak up the scenery and story of New Zealand’s most historic site the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and learn of the momentous events which shaped our nation 🇳🇿🔍

  • set off on a Dolphin Cruise in search of marine life enjoying coastal views right to the edge of the bay's Cape Brett Peninsula to the famous Hole in the Rock on Motukokako Island 🐬🛥️

  • absorb pioneer history recounted at French-style Pompallier Mission and Printery, and experience hands-on old-fashioned fun when you use the curious printery and tannery equipment 🔎

  • soar high above the Bay at New Zealand's highest Parasail experience 

BAY OF ISLANDS AT A GLANCE 🛏️ minimum 2 night stay recommended 📅 visit any time of year

📍 7 out of 10 visitors include the Bay of Islands in their New Zealand itinerary

🌦️there is a chance of rain 3½ days each week on average each year

👨‍👩‍👦‍👦Family fun scores well here with plenty to keep children entertained 🍽️Food + Wine experiences in this region were almost always mentioned as a highlight 🏳️‍🌈 LGBTQI+ friendly 👍

This part of New Zealand is home to:

Largest town:  Kerikeri

Popular places:  Paihia, Russell, Opua, Kawakawa, Waitangi, Haruru Falls, Te Tii, Rawhiti, Parekura Bay, Okiato, Waipapa, the 144 islands of the Bay of Islands and more...

Accessible by:

🚗 self-drive on a road trip

✈️ board a plane to land at Bay of Islands Airport near Kerikeri (KKE)

🚌 take a bus from Whangarei, Auckland City or Top of the North

Be adventurous. Be spontaneous. Embrace the unknown.

Let us plan your getaway. The catch?

Your destination is a surprise.

Book A Surprise Kiwi Adventure today and you might just end up in the Bay of Islands - it's Time 2 Go!


Explore Aotearoa New Zealand

Great Kiwi Trips provide the best of each region in bite-sized travel packages

Combine several trips together to create the ultimate experience!

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