Choose from 10 Fun Things to Do in Bay Of Islands
The North Island’s Ninety Mile Beach runs northwards along the west coast near Kaitaia all the way to Cape Reinga on New Zealand’s northernmost tip.
This seemingly endless stretch of wave-lapped sand is rimmed by dunes and topped by the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea.
A 90 mile (145 kilometer) marathon is run along the beach each year, commemorating the race run by a legendary athlete along the stretch of sand in pre-colonial times.
The Ninety Mile Beach sand is hard enough to drive along, and tours here do just that when tides are favorable.
A popular access point is Waipapakauri, north of the main regional town, Kaitaia.
Set only a short drive from the Bay of Islands, this lush expanse of native foliage stretches over 37,000 acres of terrain. Here, kauri trees over 120 feet in height keep a watchful eye over the forest, and parts of the land have remained completely untouched since the arrival of the island’s first humans. In addition to the kauri—native hardwoods which were prized by Maori and exploited by European shipbuilders—there are over 370 different species of plants which thrive in the Puketi rainforest. Given the unique climate of the Northland and its geographical obscurity, a few of these plants are endemic to New Zealand and exist nowhere else in the world.
More so than simply the trees and the forest, many travelers visit the Puketi rainforest for the numerous species of birds. This is one of the few places left on the North Island with a wild population of Kiwi, and other birds such as the New Zealand Pigeon (kukupa) have been known to be sighted in the forest. Thanks to the efforts of local conservation groups, other species such as the New Zealand robin (toutouwai) have been re-introduced to the forest, and environmental efforts are currently focused on creating a sustainable habitat for their survival.
While the Puketi rainforest is open to the public, the best way to experience the forest is with some sort of a guided tour. The tours are able to provide transport from the Bay of Islands, and the knowledgeable guides who lead walks through the forest can point out features which might otherwise go unseen. For the best chance of finding birds and wildlife, consider visiting the forest at night for a tour beneath the glow of a headlamp. Here, in the silence of the forest and the creak of the kauri above you, you can truly get the feeling for the beauty of the Northland as it’s existed since the island first formed.
Wild and lonely Cape Brett is a remote location on the scenic back road leading along the coast from Russell.
Along the route is the traditional Maori village of Rawhiti, the starting point for the rugged 7.5-hour trek to Cape Brett. On reaching the cape, hikers are rewarded with shelter for the night in the Cape Brett Hut.
For non-hikers, Cape Brett is a popular day cruise destination from Paihia or Russell. The cape is famous for its ‘Hole in the Rock’ on neighboring Motukokako Island, a natural archway formed by ceaselessly pounding seas over the centuries.
As well as spotting dolphins, penguins and other wildlife along the way, the cruise passes a lovely seaside landscape of sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, and the lonely lighthouse on the tip of Cape Brett.
Cape Brett Hole-in-the-Rock is on the northern tip of a peninsula east of the town of Russell. Motukokako Island is just offshore.
Lighting the point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet, the remote lighthouse has an atmospheric end-of-the-world feeling, the ideal spot for long walks on the beach.
On the very tip of the cape is the 800 year-old pohutukawa tree, whose roots hide the entrance to the Maori Underworld, where the souls of the dead return. It’s a particularly spiritual place for the Maori, so eating and drinking here is best avoided.
Walks lead from here to surrounding bays and capes, and the area’s signature dunes.
By the bay and on a river, the fertile town of Kerikeri is a historic little town with a swag of natural attractions.
Walkways follow the course of the Kerikeri River as it meanders inland from the Bay of Islands, passing recreation reserves, pretty pools and Wharepoke and Rainbow waterfalls along the way.
Kayaking on the river is popular here, along with visiting winery cellar doors to sip local wines and sample local produce grown in the area’s rich agricultural soils.
There’s plenty of history here, including the 1830s Stone Store and 1822 Mission House, New Zealand’s oldest buildings. The furnishings and displays date from the early 19th century when missionaries first settled the area. Nearby, Rewa’s Village re-creates a pre-colonial Maori village.
The town of Kerikeri is on the northern edge of the Bay of Islands on New Zealand’s North Island, straddling the River Kerikeri winding in from the bay.
The resort town of Paihia services the villages and islands of the Bay of Islands.
Boasting the area’s best accommodation and restaurants, Paihia Harbour is the ideal place to base yourself while you explore this lovely part of New Zealand.
Hire a kayak to paddle out to the islands, follow the rivers winding in from the bay, or take a walk through kauri forest to lookouts over the water.
To walk from Paihia to neighboring Waitangi is a pleasant 40 minutes one way.
Paihia is 3 kilometers (2 miles) south of Waitangi on Te Ti Bay in the Bay of Islands.
Ferries leave from here to sail to nearby Russell on the facing peninsula.