The Bay of Islands is one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday areas, and for good reason.
Stunning coastal scenery combined with sites of historic significance means the Bay of Islands offers something for everyone.
The travel site newzealandholidaytravel.com identifies eight key reasons for visiting this popular area, a half day’s drive north of Auckland.
8 reasons to tour the Bay of Islands
Outstanding coastal scenery
With 144 islands, hundreds of secluded inlets, clear blue waters and a sub-tropical climate the Bay of Islands is often seen as New Zealand’s holiday paradise. The scenery is stunning, the pace of life relaxed, the islands are protected and largely uninhabited apart from seals, dolphins and the occasional visiting whale.
The Bay of Islands was one of the first areas in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans and so contains many of the nation’s most historic towns and buildings. Historically the Bay of Islands is particularly famous for one act that gave birth to the country of New Zealand – the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. A visit to the site where this happened, near Paihia, is on most people’s itinerary.
Bay of Islands water activities
No trip to the Bay of Islands is complete without getting out on the water. Day and half day cruises on sailing yachts, cruiser boats and powerboats are plentiful and are the best way to explore the islands. Diving opportunities are good and include dives to the wreck of the famous Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior. Swimming with dolphins and whale watching trips are also available and offer high success rates. Land activities such as bush walks, coastal walks and horse trekking are popular too.
The town of Paihia makes a good base and is the hub of holiday and travel activities for the Bay of Islands region. Accommodation, shops, restaurants, tours and activities are all readily available. Paihia also offers good beaches with clear, calm seas. In addition, Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga on the Aupouri Peninsula are also reached by long day tours from Paihia.
Russell was the first capital of New Zealand and that heritage is very visible in the buildings of this peaceful and charming Bay of Islands town. The oldest church and the oldest liquor store in New Zealand are both to be found in town. The best way to arrive is on the ferry from Paihia (10 minutes) and there are plenty of walks through the spectacular scenery of the coast and bush. Maiki Hill above the town has over the years been a source of conflict between Maori and European settlers and offers great views. Visitors enjoying the relaxed ambience of Russell’s waterside cafes and restaurants will find it difficult to understand that this was once one of the roughest little ports in the world.
Often called the Cradle of the Nation the Bay of Islands town of Kerikeri is home to New Zealand’s two oldest buildings – The Mission House and The Stone Store. Nearby is Rewa’s Village, a full-size reconstructed Maori settlement adding to the historic character of the town. Set in a countryside full of orchards of oranges, kiwi fruits and mandarins Kerikeri is now well-known for its sub-tropical horticulture, citrus fruits and niche food products. Other attractions include a vibrant arts and crafts scene, interesting gardens and walks.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
The birthplace of the nation and most significant historic site in the Bay of Islands. This is the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi which passed sovereignty of the country from the Maori to Great Britain and from which the country of New Zealand arose. The treaty has been a source of controversy, particularly in the Maori community, ever since. Tours, educational activities and displays are found in the Treaty House Museum along with daily Maori cultural shows. Activities reach a peak on February 6th Waitangi Day each year, the national holiday which commemorates the signing of the Treaty. The world’s longest war canoe is also on display nearby. Waitangi is a pleasant 30-minute walk along the beach from Paihia or 5 minutes by car.
The Hundertwasser Public Toilets at Kawakawa
As you travel to and from the Bay of Islands be sure to stop off at the famous colourful toilets in the town of Kawakawa. Designed by Austrian architect Frederick Hundertwasser visitors (and users!) liken the experience to being inside a functional art installation. This is the only time you will be forgiven for taking pictures in a public toilet!
Source: New Zealand Holiday Travel