The Bay of Islands is an area in the Northland Region of the North Island of New Zealand. Located 60 km north-west of Whangarei, it is about 210 km by road to Cape Reinga at the northern tip of the country.
It is one of the most popular fishing, sailing and tourist destinations in the country, and has been renowned internationally for its big-game fishing since American author Zane Grey publicised it in the 1930s.
The bay itself is an irregular 16 km-wide inlet in the north-eastern coast of the island. A natural harbour, it has several arms which extend into the land, notably Waikare Inlet in the south and Kerikeri and Te Puna (Mangonui) inlets in the north-west. The small town of Russell is located at the end of a short peninsula that extends into the bay from the southeast.
Several islands lie to the north of this peninsula, notably Urupukapuka Island to the east and Moturoa Island to the north. The Purerua Peninsula extends to the west of the bay, north of Te Puna Inlet, and Cape Brett Peninsula extends 10 km into the Pacific Ocean at the eastern end of the bay.
Some areas of the park are very tidal. Watch out in particular for the estuaries at Torrent Bay and Awaroa - these can drain almost completely at low tide! So be aware of this before anchoring your boat in some places. In fact, at low tide it is possible to walk from Torrent Bay to Anchorage by walking across the empty estuary - this takes about 25 minutes, whereas the track around the outside of the estuary takes closer to 2 hours.
Undeniably pretty, the Bay of Islands ranks as one of NZ's top tourist drawcards. The footage that made you want to come to NZ in the first place no doubt featured lingering shots of lazy, sun-filled days on a yacht floating atop these turquoise waters punctuated by around 150 undeveloped islands. The reality is that NZ has many beautiful spots and this bay, while wonderful, could be a teensy bit overhyped.