Bay of Islands

Overview

Introduction

As many as 150 islands are scattered around the Bay of Islands in Northland, New Zealand, 150 mi/240 km north of Auckland. In addition to the Far North, the region merits a three- to four-day visit. We like the area's fabulous beaches, sport fishing, scuba diving and gigantic kauri trees.

The village of Waitangi (not to be confused with the tiny town on the Chatham Islands) has a carved Maori meeting lodge, a shipwreck museum, the world's largest war canoe (made from the trunks of two kauri trees) and Treaty House, where the British and Maoris signed a peace treaty in 1840. The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand's founding document and is still a source of controversy today.

If you're interested in game fishing or sailing, head for bustling Paihia. Stop by the information office on the pier to arrange fishing trips, kayaking, a scenic flight or boat trip. We highly recommend taking an island cruise. Our favorite is the "Cream Trip," which used to pick up dairy products from the islands (hence the name) but now is mostly for sightseeing and mail delivery. It takes a full day but is well worth it. At the very least, take a half-day cruise. Swim-with-dolphins excursions, with wild-dolphin pods, are also very popular in the area. This is also a popular destination for kayakers.

The tiny, peaceful town of Russell, a ferry ride across the bay from Paihia, was the country's very first capital and has its fair share of sights, too, including the Captain Cook Museum, Pompallier House and Christ Church.

If your schedule permits, take a day tour to Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of the North Island, where you can see the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea merge. Buses leave from Kaitaia for impressive "90-Mile Beach," a vast untamed coastline (actually, it's only 55 mi/88 km long). Equally impressive are the enormous sand dunes seen from the walking trail through Te Paki Reserve.

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