The Bay of Islands are a paradisal collection of holiday islands set in tranquil waters teeming with dolphins and other forms of marine life. Boat cruises to explore the idyllic islands are very popular and cater to all tastes. Take an ocean safari to swim with dolphins, sail on a yacht, cruise straight to an island for a walk and a picnic, or go on a fishing charter. You can even paddle a traditional Maori canoe.
The Bay of Islands was the first piece of New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. Key historical attractions here include New Zealand's first capital, Russell, and the house where New Zealand's most important document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in 1840.
Popular onshore activities in the Bay of Islands:
- Visit Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. Catch an authentic Maori cultural performance at the Visitors Centre there
- Look around Pompallier in Russell-a Catholic missionary house made from rammed earth.
- Walk to Haruru Falls from the Treaty House (about 6km or 3.2 miles). Here, the water falls in a horse-shoe shape - very rare and quite spectacular.
- Choose between a sedate 'Hole in the Rock' cruise or an exciting speed boat ride to the tip of Cape Brett.
- Encounter nature up close by swimming with dolphins in the wild.
Cruise ships will tender at Waitangi Wharf for all shore excursions. The wharf is on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and it's just a 10 minute walk from there to the Treaty House. A number of cruise ships also tender to Russell. This is for independent travellers only. Russell is 50 metres (164 feet) from the tender pier.
At Waitangi, free shuttles can take you to Paihia i-SITE Visitor Centre, which is less than 5 minutes' drive or 2.1km (1.3 miles) away. From here, you can explore the town of Paihia or take a short ferry trip to Russell. Ferries to Russell cost NZ$6 one-way and NZ$10 return; they depart every 20 minutes from 7am to 10pm daily.