New Zealand’s Bay of Islands is a treasure trove of island gems. With more than 140 sub-tropical islands dotted among the turquoise waters of the North Island, most of which are uninhabited and undeveloped, it is an area defined by its natural beauty. Each island has its own character and charms and it is worth taking an escorted tour of New Zealand to take full advantage of all that they offer. Unsurprisingly they are a popular destination all year round, but where is the best place to start exploring?
The main entry point to the Bay of Islands is the bustling seaside town of Paihia. Paihia makes the ideal base for exploring the Bay of Islands, and it is the starting and finishing point for a boat trip around the islands. One site not to be missed whilst on one of these trips is the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’. If you are wondering what there is to do in Paihia, the area has great beaches, where you can swim with dolphins, as well as go sailing, fishing and sea kayaking. If you enjoy walking you’ll love the spectacular 5km trail taking you along the coast from Opua to Paihia. There really is something to suit all ages, tastes and budgets – Paihia has it all.
The small, upmarket town of Kerikeri is full of galleries, boutique vineyards, cafes and gourmet food shops. Once the home to the famously fearsome Maori Chief, Hongi Hika, who was renowned for terrorising the North Island Maori tribes. Today Kerikeri is much more peaceful, being home to a weekly farmer’s market and arts and craft fair.
Kerikeri is also the gateway to the Puketi Kauri Rainforest, which is well worth a visit for any nature lover. Why not take a walk along the elevated walkway and see some of the rare and protected species of birds, or the Kauri snail?
Those wanting to experience Maori culture and the early history of New Zealand should look no further than Waitangi. The Maori and the British Crown joined together back in 1840 to sign the Waitangi Treaty at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. You can visit the Waitangi Treaty House and see the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe, then take a peaceful walk around the beautifully cared for grounds.
With its abundant seafood, the elegant township of Russell is the perfect place for a romantic dining experience under a moonlit sky. Visitors can also enjoy the historical buildings, including New Zealand’s oldest church, Christ Church, and the array of gift shops and cafes. Take a walk up Flagstaff Hill to enjoy the views, or rent a kayak or dinghy to take out on the water.
New Zealand’s Bay of Islands lie within protected waters and is one of New Zealand’s top tourists spots. Although you will struggle to see everything that these incredible islands have to offer, this will provide the perfect excuse you need to come back again and again.
Photo courtesy of Tourism New Zealand.