Located at the far northern tip of New Zealand, the Bay of Islands remains one of New Zealand’s top holiday destinations, especially for lovers of sailing, fishing and spectacular coastal scenery.
Islands of Wildlife Under Blue Skies
The Bay includes 144 islands, located between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula. There are also many charming small towns, including Opua and Paihia. The real appeal of the region, though, is its wildlife. Dolphins, whales and marlins can be found in great numbers beneath the waves, while sea birds, like gannets and penguins, also flock around the Bay’s islands and shorelines.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do here, with many of the islands being criss-crossed with hiking trails. A 2006 revealed that the Bay of Islands possessed the second bluest sky in the world, after Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This sky also overlooks one of New Zealand’s most physically beautiful coastlines, making a boat trip essential to any visit. Tour operators such as ANZCRO should include this option in their packages. The Hole in the Rock on Piercy Island is particularly worth taking a boat trip to see, especially as dolphins are so plentiful nearby.
Maori History and Heritage
The Bay of Islands is also close to one of the most significant sites in Maori history in New Zealand. Waitangi offers a great opportunity to explore the culture and heritage of the Maori people. It was also where the significant Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. This agreement saw New Zealand become a British colony, and a replica of the original document can be seen at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. As well as the treaty, though, visitors can also experience Maori cultural events, like dances, and see wonderful carvings and canoes. All New Zealand tours should feature a stop here.
Small Town Life
The town of Paihia makes a great base from which to explore the Bay of Islands. As well as the great options which are available for sailing and fishing, visitors can also use a sea kayak to explore the nearby ocean. A short ferry ride away from Paihia is the town of Russell. Although very peaceful nowadays, this township was known as the ‘Hell Hole of the Pacific’ during the 19th century, due to the wild behaviour of the sailors who frequented it on shore leave, as well as the conduct of the locals. The local Christ Church still has bullet holes in its walls which date back to the Maori Wars.
With a sub-tropical climate to enjoy, as well as the sky and the sea, the Bay of Islands is one of New Zealand’s top tourist destinations, especially if you enjoy being outdoors.