Things to do in
Bay of Islands

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Our most recommended things to do in Bay of Islands

From Paihia or Russell: Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise

1. From Paihia or Russell: Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise

Board your vessel in Paihia or Russell and glide out through the islands. Cruise along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse watches over the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’.  The natural sculpture, one of New Zealand's most popular attractions, was created from centuries of sea and wind erosion. According to Maori legend, local warriors paddled through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof were a good omen. Take in the Grand Cathedral Cave before heading back into the bay. Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales, and other marine life.  Cruise in comfort aboard the Dolphin Seeker with indoor and outdoor seating and the Bay of Island's largest outdoor viewing decks. Treat yourself to snacks and a licensed bar on board, or enjoy the Otehei Bar Café and Bar on Urupukapuka Island.

Bay of Islands: Bay Discovery Cruise with Island Stop-Over

2. Bay of Islands: Bay Discovery Cruise with Island Stop-Over

Set off on a scenic 4.5 to 5-hour cruise to discover the very best of the Bay of Islands. Experience the spectacular scenery and encounter diverse wildlife in an area soaked in rich culture and history. Board the black and yellow power cat at Paihia Wharf and be welcomed aboard by the friendly crew. Your crew will deliver a full safety briefing and overview of the trip. Cruise among the 144 islands and enjoy entertaining live commentary from your local knowledgeable skipper. Visit the iconic Hole in the Rock and when conditions permit, you can even travel through it. Spot local wildlife including dolphins, birds, seals and even the occasional whale with a success rate of over 90%. Your trip will also include a 1.5-hour island stop at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. Enjoy free time to explore the island. If you wish, you can hire kayaks, or paddleboards (available during summer only) or just relax on the beach. You can also choose to extend your stay on the island and return on a later ferry (only available during summer).

Paihia: Bay of Islands Trike Tour Experience

3. Paihia: Bay of Islands Trike Tour Experience

On the scenic tour, you'll climb aboard your trike, buckle up, and settle in for one of the most exciting tours of your life. Venture out onto the open road, take a short burst out to the half moon-shaped Haruru Falls, and then continue back to Waitangi Lookout. Capture the breathtaking, 360-degree views of the Bay of Islands on your camera, plus get your picture taken behind the handlebars of the big beast.  The thriller tour includes an action-packed, 30-minute tour on the V2 Chek Trike. Zip off to the picturesque Opua and return with photos and even more adrenaline-pumping thrills as you cruise down this awesome, winding coastal road. The combo tour includes a one-hour tour around the scenic Bay of Islands. Visit the beautiful Haruru Falls before continuing to Waitangi Lookout for breathtaking views. Wind your way through the hills of the idyllic Opua before a thrilling ride back to Paihia. This option works as combination of the first two and is the best choice for adrenaline-seekers.

Bay of Islands: 5-Hour Day Cruise and Island Getaway Tour

4. Bay of Islands: 5-Hour Day Cruise and Island Getaway Tour

Escape the crowds and experience the Bay of Islands on a personalised, small-group, interactive boat cruise. Combine the best activities of the Bay of Islands with interactive and informative commentary for an amazing day excursion. Stop at Roberton Island and disembark for a 10-minute walk along a native bush trail. At the end of the trail discover a breathtaking 360-degree viewpoint over the bay. Enjoy a complimentary beachside morning tea provided by the crew and have the opportunity to explore the tidal lagoons. Climb back on board and continue cruising among the 144 islands of the Bay keeping a lookout for marine wildlife and unique shorebirds. Your second island stop takes you to one of the Bay of Islands’ most secluded and unfrequented bays. Snorkel and explore the underwater reefs, take a walk along the island trail and try stand-up paddleboarding. Relax on the beach or jump in the water for a swim, do as much or as little as you want.

Bay of Islands: Island Hopper Day Sailing Cruise from Paihia

5. Bay of Islands: Island Hopper Day Sailing Cruise from Paihia

Embark on a magical day sailing adventure in the Bay of Islands. Experience the Kiwi barefoot culture for yourself as you step straight from Paihia's beachfront onto a modern catamaran.  Set sail through the bay's 144 islands to a remote island stopover aboard Kopiko, a 33-foot performance catamaran built for speed, comfort, and style. Lend the friendly crew a hand with sailing the boat, or spread out with plenty of deck space where you can grab a bean bag and chalk up some leisure time. Discover a wealth of wildlife from seabirds, stingrays, seals, penguins, to dolphins.  Arrive in a stunning bay, where you'll anchor close to the beach. Step off onto the island and enjoy a delicious packed lunch at a stunning picnic spot of your choice. Enjoy short walking trails, picturesque views, snorkeling, paddleboarding, swimming, or digging your toes into the sand. After your island adventures, set sail and watch the wind fill the sails as you relax on the return trip. 

Bay of Islands: Tandem Skydive Experience

6. Bay of Islands: Tandem Skydive Experience

Combine a thrilling adrenaline buzz with spectacular views of clear turquoise water, long stretches of pristine golden beaches, and lush countryside in the Bay of Islands. Self-drive to Kerikeri Airport or arrange for courtesy pick-up. Meet the friendly ground staff who’ll look after you before and after your jump. Board the plane for the cruise up to 9,000, 12,000, 16500, or 20000-feet (depending on which option you book) and admire the 144 stunning islands that make up the Bay of Islands. Be harnessed to a highly trained tandem instructor who’ll ensure your safety and fun throughout. At altitude, jump from the plane for adrenaline buzzing freefall that is anywhere between 20 to 85 seconds, depending on which altitude option you choose. Enjoy a relaxing flight under canopy before landing back at the drop zone.

From Paihia or Kerikeri: Bay of Islands Wine Tour

7. From Paihia or Kerikeri: Bay of Islands Wine Tour

Indulge and have fun in Kerikeri with a small group tour of some of New Zealand's finest quality wines. Taste and savor different wines at several wineries in the area, and enjoy a platter lunch. After getting picked in the Kerikeri, make the first stop at the Fat Pig Vineyard, one of the older vineyards in the Kerikeri area. The owners Richard and Jenny love hosting customers and showing off their products. Taste from a selection of different wines, such as Fat Pig Bubbles 2021, Fat Pig White Diamond 2021, Fat Pig Rosé 2021, Fat Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2020, and the S&J Chardonnay 2018. Their wines are produced exclusively from grapes grown on a small 3-acre property. They work closely with local winemakers to produce a unique small batch run of wine. Next up is the Sovrano Estate vineyard, a family-run boutique operation which is located just outside Kerikeri. Here, customers will sample their organically grown wines, which include Chambourcin, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, and Sauvignon Blanc. A recent addition is a range of Limoncello liqueurs which are made by Andrea and Marzia Loggia (Estate Owners) who have a rich history in liqueur making. The couple based in Kerikeri, emigrated to New Zealand from Italy in 2007, with a mission to create the best and finest Limoncello Liqueur in New Zealand. While delicious on its own, Sovrano Limoncello is a versatile liqueur. It’s the perfect touch for cocktails and desserts. You can find recipes ideas on their website. Finally, arrive at the Marsden Estate, which was started by the McIvor family some 20 years ago. Here customers can enjoy six wine tastings, plus a platter lunch in the relaxed atmosphere of its courtyard which overlooks the lake and vines. Planted in the early nineties, Marsden Estate’s 10 acres of vineyards comprise Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Muscat, Merlot, Pinotage, Chambourcin, Syrah, and Tempranillo.

From Paihia: Scenic Heli Tour to the Hole in the Rock

8. From Paihia: Scenic Heli Tour to the Hole in the Rock

See the breathtaking Bay of islands on this unforgettable helicopter flight. Upgrade to one of the two landing options to experience the iconic natural landmark ‘Hole in the Rock’ up close and on foot.  Departing from the Paihia Office and Helipad, you will fly over the crystal clear turquoise waters of the main island group to the world famous “Hole in the Rock.” The flight features stunning island and coastline views including the townships of Russell, Paihia & Waitangi. There is no doubt that seeing the Bay of Islands from the air is one of the best ways to experience this beautiful area and appreciate the scenery it has to offer. Your pilot will provide a detailed commentary during the flight, highlighting points of interest and historical facts about the area. You will be provided with a headset with voice activated microphone in order to communicate with the pilot and your flightmates while in the air. Select an upgrade to land by helicopter on a newly built helipad on top of the ‘Hole in the Rock’. Very few people in history, including Maori, have ever ventured on the island in this way before. Be surrounded by steep cliffs and admire stunning scenery looking towards Cape Brett. You have the option to land on the island with a brief stop on the viewing platform or to be hosted on the island by a local Maori Guide who will share the islands’ unique history plus its cultural and ecological significance. 

Paihia: Bay of Islands 30-minute Adventure Jet Boat Trip

9. Paihia: Bay of Islands 30-minute Adventure Jet Boat Trip

Head out on a 30-minute water adventure on a jet boat in the Bay of Islands. Feel the adrenaline as you experience 360-degree spins, tricks, and high-speed maneuvers while taking in the beautiful views of the bay. Rest assured that this is a safe experience, with all life jackets, splash jackets, and glasses provided to protect you. You'll also benefit from a guide who will be with you the whole time. Weather permitting, pass some of the Bay of Islands; iconic sights, such as Russell, Tapeka Point, Motoroa Island, and Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Get your heart going with quick turns, sweeping turns and spins, and speeds of up to 45 knots. Enjoy the experience in the only jet boat in the bay, powered by a 510 HP V8 LSX-454.

Bay of Islands Small Group Afternoon Cruise & Island Tour

10. Bay of Islands Small Group Afternoon Cruise & Island Tour

Check-in at the Salt Air Office at 3.20 PM, before setting off along the sheltered coastline for a scenic cruise. Stop off at Roberton Island (also known as Twin Lagoons) for a 10-minute native bush walk to a breathtaking 360-degree lookout over the bay. After the walk, explore the tidal lagoons before climbing back on board. Cruise among the stunning islands of the Bay, keeping an eye out for wildlife.  Then, stopover at one of the Bay of Islands’ most secluded and unfrequented bays to try some new activities. Snorkel and explore the underwater reefs, stroll on an island trail, give stand-up paddle-boarding a try, relax on the beach or jump in the water for a swim. Make the afternoon your own with the activities that interest you most. Finally, board the boat for the return scenic cruise back to Paihia, arriving at 6:30 PM.

Frequently asked questions about Bay of Islands

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What people are saying about Bay of Islands

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 900 reviews

We had a guided tour with Mr Busby he was very knowledgeable had a lively relatable non threatening delivery style. The museum had a great flow very interesting held our attention and delivered historic information that was easy to understand for adults and children.

Great experience staff were welcoming and attentive to the needs of their passengers. The captain was great, his commentary was delivered with humor. I felt very safe as the captain would direct us as to where to sit what to do for our safety an comfort.

What an awesome experience. We done the hole in the rock boat cruise one week and the hole in the rock helicopter landing the following week. Would highly recommend both

Yes it was awesome everyone should go on the wine tour trip. The last place we went we had the cheese platen my husband love the goat cheese. Thanks again.

Perfect day and we saw Killer Whales so a priceless trip!