Bay of Islands, New Zealand Travel Guide | Best Places 2020

Bay of Islands, New Zealand Travel Guide | Best Places 2020

One of the most popular islands in New Zealand is the Bay Of Islands. A mile after mile from the beach and the rocky coastline surrounding the bay, which is dotted with 144 islands. Countless activities in the Bay of Islands are for backpackers, from affordable cruises to fishing trips to sea kayaking. I loved my time here. It is one of the few major seaside destinations in the country and a relaxing interlude before diving into all the adventurous activities of the country.


Top Attractions in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands:

Waitangi Treaty Grounds:

The city of Waitangi is an extremely important site in the history of New Zealand. This is where the country’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed and is also the key site for commemorations of the National Day. Purchase a visitor day pass to get the most out of your environment: full access to the Treaty Site, the nearby museum and a cultural show that will end the day in style.

Paihia Wharf:

The city of Paihia offers one of the best bases to explore the Bay of Islands. In particular, Paihia Wharf is the main point of departure for the dolphin cruises and whale watching experiences that make the region famous. The township is also within a short drive of many of the region’s most popular beaches and natural attractions.


Russell is another historically important township. New Zealand’s first seaport has established itself here, as has the first permanent European settlement. Russell abandoned the identity of shipping that had shaped it in the past to become a romantic getaway. It is also another essential starting point for ecological cruises and wildlife excursions.

Pou Herenga Tai – Twin Coast Cycle Trail:

The Pou Herenga Tai – Twin Coast Bike Trail winds from Bay of Islands to the picturesque Hokianga Harbor. The road covers 87 kilometers and can be divided into four manageable sections. Those wishing to take the full two-day trip will have an immediate glimpse of the subtropical beautiful terrain that is the hallmark of the region, as well as one of the oldest Maori and European settlements in the country.

Matauri Bay:

Matauri Bay is just north of the Bay of Islands, less than a 45-minute drive from Paihia. Its sheltered white sand beaches are very popular in summer by surfers, divers, fishermen and campers. The bay is also home to the Cavalli Islands, the last resting place of the unfortunate Rainbow Warrior of Greenpeace – the bombing of the ship is still considered an important aspect of New Zealand’s history.

Haruru Falls:

Just around the corner from Paihia, you will find the beautiful Haruru Falls. The name of this small waterfall in the shape of a horseshoe is translated from Maori by “big noise”. In addition to being worthy of its nickname, the waterfall is the perfect place for kayaking and picnics.

Rainbow Falls:

This spectacular, one-drop waterfall on the Kerikeri River is surrounded by native scrub and walking trails. The Rainbow Falls fall into a popular swimming hole and are also a hot spot for local kayakers. A well-paved and the wheelchair-accessible trail lead to three viewing platforms that offer the best insights into this natural beauty. As a bonus, the trail also connects to other hikes in the vicinity.

Poor Knights Islands:

The Poor Knights Islands are just outside the north coast of North Island. A marine reserve was created around its waters in 1981 to protect the unique ecosystem of the region. The islands are the remains of a group of ancient volcanoes that have gradually been dug into the underwater caves – tunnels that make it a popular dive site. Even the legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau has ranked this region among the best in the world.

Maiki Hill:

Maiki Hill is located just outside Russell and is an important landmark for the region. Its English name, Flagstaff Hill, foreshadows its place in history: between 1840 and 1913, British colonists raised six masts there; Maori leader Hone Heke shot dead the first four men to defy colonial rule – which eventually led to the beginning of the wars in Northland. The last two flags to rise on the hill came next, as a symbol of unity between Maori and New Zealand Europeans (Pakeha).

Taronui Bay:

Taronui Bay is a protected beach located along the Purerua Peninsula, at the northwestern end of the Bay of Islands. There is no road access to this coastal gem: you must travel the circuit of the recreation park of Taronui Bay at low tide to reach it. The 3.7 km trek traverses a mix of exposed pasture and woodland landscapes before reaching its picturesque white sand destination.

Rangihoua Heritage Park:

Rangihoua Heritage Park opened in 2014 on the site of the first planned Christian mission in New Zealand. It takes 25 minutes by car to get to the park from Paihia; from there, visitors are invited to explore the different hiking routes and the exposed historical sites. The highlights include the archaeological remains of an ancient Maori pā (fortification site), a commemorative monument erected on the occasion of the bicentenary of the mission, and a cross perched on the exact spot where the first celebrations of the day were held. Christmas in New Zealand.

Whale Bay – Tutukaka Coast:

Whale Bay is a white sandy beach lined with scrub hidden on the Tutukaka coast of the island’s bay. Do not confuse it with the popular surf spot of the same name in Raglan: its counterpart in the Bay of Islands is known for its tranquility and largely isolated setting. A steep but well-maintained hiking trail on Matapouri Road is the only way to get to this Whale Bay. The trip takes about 30 minutes. After that, you can cool off by swimming or simply sit by the sand for a peaceful picnic.

Waewaetorea Island:

White sands, sheltered beaches, clear blue waters, fauna and flora, and a fascinating archaeological record – it’s fair to say that Waewaetorea Island, off the coast of Russell, has everything to please nature lovers. With breathtaking views and many natural wonders, this island and leisure park is the perfect destination for a day trip.

Other Things to See and Do:

Sail the bay: Sailing is a popular activity here. There are many options to navigate the day and most excursions are accompanied by a snorkeling or swimming excursion. Expect to spend 110 NZD for one day trip.

Dive a shipwreck: The region has some of the best scuba diving sites in the country. Beautiful coral gardens, blue waters and tons of reefs and fish populate the area. There are two remarkable shipwrecks here, including the Rainbow Warrior, which was bombed in 1985 by secret French agents. For a dive in open water, including all equipment, expect to pay around 300 NZD. Certification courses are available here too!

Go fishing: This region is known for certain marlins, trevallies and snappers. Charter excursions depart from Paihia and Russell and start at around NZD 100 for a half-day tour. No matter whether you are a beginner or experienced fisherman, you will find a fishing excursion for you. Bait and tackle are usually included.

Try parasailing: If you’re looking for a great view or an adrenaline rush, some companies organize parasailing from Paihia Wharf. You can go there alone or with a friend (and even with 2 friends!), At an altitude of 1,200 feet above the water. Prices start at 115 NZD for a single runner and go up from there.

Tour Pompallier House: The Pompallier House in Russell is a 19th-century French catholic mission house that now serves as a museum. Entrance costs NZD 10 (with discounts available) and details aspects of the printing press, tannery and factory previously operated by the mission.

Interact with Parrots: Parrot Place, located in Kerikeri, contains more than 300 species of birds, including blue and gold macaws, kakarikis and royal parrots. You can hold and feed some of them, and there’s even a dancing macaw named Elmo. At 10 NZD, the price is a little high, but it would be a great activity if you are traveling with children (the entrance fee is NZD 5 for children).

Typical Costs:

Hostel prices: Dorms cost between NZD 24 and NZ 35, while private rooms start at around NZ $ 70 for a double bed. All hostels in Paihia (the main city) are located on the main street. Most hostels include free Wi-Fi, and most also have kitchen facilities. For those traveling with a tent, there are some campsites in the area with basic facilities. Expect to pay 16-18 NZD for a single parcel (you will have to pay extra for electricity).

Budget hotel prices: Many prices are seasonal, ranging from 70 to 160 NZD per double room depending on the time. Airbnb is somewhat limited in this area, with only a few partnership arrangements. Expect to pay around NZD 45 per night for a shared room and NZD 120 per night for an entire house or apartment.

Cost of food: Meals at most restaurants will cost around NZD 30, while a meal in one of the nicer restaurants will cost around NZD 45-60, including wine. If you choose to cook yourself, plan to spend about NZD 60-80 per week. There are also inexpensive pizzerias and fish-and-chip shops in the city that will cost around NZD 9, while fast food (think McDonald’s) will cost you closer to NZD 11. Expect to pay around NZD 8 for a beer at the bar.

Transportation costs: Ferries operate between Paihia and Russell. The 15-minute ride costs NZD 12.50 for a return ticket. To get to the Bay of Islands, buses frequently serve Auckland with fares from as low as NZD 1 if you book early. If you do not, the rates are usually around NZD 30 for one way. Flights from Auckland to Kerikeri are also available, but you will spend between 150 and 300 NZD in one way.

Best Hotels in Bay of Islands:

The Clendon
Hotel in Russell

The Duke Of Marlborough 4 stars
Hotel in Russell

Donkey Bay Inn
Hotel in Russell

Copthorne Hotel & Resort Bay Of Islands 4 stars
Hotel in Paihia

Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge Paihia 3.5 stars
Hotel in Paihia

Paihia Pacific Resort Hotel 3.5 stars
Hotel in Paihia

Scenic Hotel Bay of Islands 4.5 stars
Hotel in Paihia

Changing Tides BnB

How to get to the Bay of Islands:

Bay of Islands by Bus or Coach:

Let your indulgent getaway from Auckland – head north with GreatSights, New Zealand’s premier tourism company. Our experienced and knowledgeable drivers will take you through picturesque countryside, rural towns and sandy beaches to the beautiful Bay of Islands. They will arrive in Paihia around 11:30 with enough time for lunch before your cruise or afternoon tour. Visit GreatSights for more information on Bay of Islands coaches and for great value combined offers.

Scheduled bus services:

InterCity operates several daily bus services to Paihia, Kerikeri and other destinations in Northland. Buses depart from the SkyCity bus terminal in central Auckland and serve New Zealand. InterCity bus tickets start at just $ 1 (plus booking fees). You can purchase tickets online, by phone, or from selected local travel agents, including the i-SITE visitor network. InterCity also offers affordable bus packages, which include bus trips on their network and great sightseeing tours, including our Hole in the Rock Dolphin cruise and our day trip to Cape Reinga. Find more information about FlexiPass or TravelPass bus packages. For more information on bus travel to the Bay of Islands, visit InterCity.

Bay of Islands by Car:

By car from Auckland to Paihia, you will have to travel three hours (non-stop) on a busy New Zealand national road. It is a good idea to provide extra time for breaks, a meal or a walk in one of the cities along the way. If you are visiting abroad, make sure you know the New Zealand Highway Code before heading north. We drive on the left and our roads are often narrower, windier and steeper than you might expect. For more information on driving on New Zealand’s roads, visit Traveling in the Bay of Islands by car gives you the opportunity to stop in some of the cities and interesting attractions. We think you will enjoy taking your time and spending a few days exploring Northland and the Bay of Islands. Here are two options to get you from Auckland to the Bay of Islands: a scenic drive, with some suggestions for stops and activities en route, and the faster, more direct option including a toll road.

Money Saving Tips:

Cook your food: The Bay of Islands is an upscale beach with many expensive homes and restaurants. Eating outside will really hurt your budget – more than in other places! Cook your own meals to save your budget!

Stay with a local: Although there are not many Couchsurfing hosts available in the area, there are still some. Try to stay with a local to reduce your hosting costs. You will also get valuable information about the area from a resident – and this is priceless!

Avoid the high season: Prices will be higher during the summer months (and the beaches will be crowded), so avoid the peak tourist season if you can!

Find deals at If you are looking for activities and are flexible with your dates, this website often offers good deals. You can find tours and activities up to 50% off!

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