Bay Of Islands

The Jewels in New Zealand's Crown

Back in 1769 Captain James Cook extensively chartered both the North and South islands and gave the Bay of Islands its name. Renowned for its scenic beauty, subtropical climate, fishing and boating, the Bay of Islands is one of the nation's most popular holiday locations.

Historically the area is very important also, as it is officially where the Treaty of Waitangi, the nation's founding document, was signed by an assembly of Maori leaders and the British Crown in 1840. In the Waitangi National Reserve you can visit the Treaty House, a beautiful Maori meeting house and a Maori waka (war canoe).

The region's capital is Paihia, a great place to swim with wild dolphins, or perhaps even a whale if you're lucky. Take a leisurely harbour cruise or zoom across the water in a giant speedboat. Keen sailors are well looked after here, with 144 islands and secluded bays to explore. Abundant big-game and light-tackle fishing is one of the region's biggest attractions.

Across the bay from Paihia is Russell, where you can visit the Captain Cook Museum or Christ Church, complete with bullet holes made by Maori warrior chiefs 150 years ago. Or take a day trip to Cape Reinga and impressive Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually only about 60 miles long!) in the upper North Island.

Insiders' Tips

  • Take a Harbour Speedboat Ride: A fun and popular way to traverse the harbour is on a giant speedboat.
  • Swim with the dolphins: Encounter wild dolphins in their natural environment as they swim around you.
  • Visit Ninety Mile Beach: Try body boarding on the desert-like landscape of the northern dunes.
  • A Bird's-Eye View: A great way to see the extent of the bay is from a helicopter.
  • Visit the Islands: Take day trips out to the islands from your mainland accommodation (there is no accommodation on the islands).
  • Mission House: Visit Mission House in Kerikeri. which is the oldest wooden structure in New Zealand.
  • Seafood: If you feel like a drive, about an hour north of the Bay of Islands is the Mangonui Fish Shop, arguably the best fish and chip shop in the country!

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