Things to do in Bay of Islands

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

Embark on a catamaran tour of the Bay of Islands from Paihia or Russell. Enjoy insightful commentary as you visit famous sights, including the "Hole in the Rock" and make a stop at Urupukapuka Island. 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).

From Paihia: Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach with Lunch

3. From Paihia: Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach with Lunch

Learn more about Māori traditions at Cape Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua, by visiting the place where spirits are said to depart on their long journey back to their true homeland on this group tour.  Stand at the northernmost point of New Zealand and drink in the panoramic views. Snap a picture beneath the iconic lighthouse, look out at the point where the Tasman Sea collides with the mighty Pacific Ocean, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, try sandboarding. Travel in the local partner's purpose-built 46-seat tour bus designed for cruising along 90 Mile Beach, where some other tours can’t reach. Listen to entertaining and thought-provoking insight into the culture, history, and natural wonders of the far north from your local guide. Have a delicious locally prepared lunch to keep you fueled throughout the day. Try sandboarding at Te Paki Stream. Feel closer to the nature and culture of New Zealand on this tour. 

From Paihia: Bay of Islands Small Group Cruise & Island Tour

4. From Paihia: Bay of Islands Small Group Cruise & Island Tour

Discover the remote islands of the Bay of Islands on this guided cruise. Get to know the local flora and fauna, dive underneath the waves, snorkel alongside colorful fish, and try your hand at other fun water activities. Check-in 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 walk along the native bush to a breathtaking 360-degree lookout over the bay.  After the walk, explore the tidal lagoons before stepping back on board the boat and continuing your cruise along the Bay of Islands, keeping an eye out for wildlife. Then, stop at one of the bay’s 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 day your own, with the activities that interest you most. Finally, board the boat for the return scenic cruise back to Paihia.

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

5. 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.

Paihia: Glass Bottom Boat Tour to the Hole in the Rock

6. Paihia: Glass Bottom Boat Tour to the Hole in the Rock

Explore one of the most popular tourist destinations on New Zealand's North Island the way it's meant to be enjoyed – from the water. See golden beaches, secluded coves, and colorful fish on this boat tour. The tour leaves from the Main Wharf in Paihia and takes you to the Hole in the Rock. If weather conditions allow, your captain will take you right through this natural tunnel. Admire the views in Deep Water Cove and sail through the Okahu Passage. The last stop is at Otehei Bay where the boat's floor is lifted to reveal the blue water below. Feed the fish and admire them through the boat's glass floor.

Bay of Islands: Island Hopper Day Sailing Cruise from Paihia

7. 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. 

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

8. 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.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds 2-Day Pass

9. Waitangi Treaty Grounds 2-Day Pass

Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, New Zealand’s premier historic site, with a 2-day pass. Valid for two consecutive days, your pass includes an informative 50-minute guided tour, introductory film, and 30-minute cultural performance. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are where New Zealand’s most significant document was signed. Watch an introductory film about the Treaty of Waitangi. Embark on a 50-minute tour with a local guide, with headsets provided so that you can hear clearly. Stroll through the beautiful grounds and admire panoramic views of the Bay of Islands. See the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe, and stand in the spot where the treaty was signed. Visit the Museum of Waitangi Te Kongahu to see permanent and changing exhibits, and explore the educational center. Make use of multimedia and visual displays as you admire taonga (treasures). Enjoy a 30-minute cultural performance at the magnificently carved meeting house. Te Pitowhenua, a performing arts group, will invite you inside with a traditional Maori powhiri (welcome). Poi twirling, Maori weaponry, stick games, heavenly harmonies, and a traditional haka dance will leave you spellbound.

Russell: Sundowner Tall Ship Sailing Adventure with Snacks

10. Russell: Sundowner Tall Ship Sailing Adventure with Snacks

Help sail the tall ship, R. Tucker Thompson, around New Zealand's beautiful Bay of Islands at sunset. This shorter, family-friendly trip is perfect if you don't have time for a full day at sea but still want the unique tall ship experience. You'll have a chance to take the helm, help hoist the sails, or ride the bowsprit.  Meet your guide in Paihia or Russell and jump on board. After you set sail and you'll be able to relax and enjoy the views, learn about the history of Paihia, Waitangi, and the Black Rocks, or snap perfect sunset photos.   While onboard you can snack on a shared antipasto platter, or purchase local wines or beers from the licensed cash bar. If you want to help with sailing the ship, just ask your guide.  Your tour includes ferry tickets to Russell, so you can head over earlier in the day and explore the town before boarding the tall ship back to Paihia.

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 934 reviews

Great experience! It was a present to myself for my birthday and it was the best I could have done. We saw dolphins and even cruised through the hole of the rock. It was magical. The time at the island was beautiful as well. Definitely would do this trip again.

This is an absolute must do! What an amazing experience and incredible views. The water sports and secluded beach was such a highlight as well! Huge shoutout to skipper and tour guide Nick and Bluebell who made the day even more memorable!

This tour was excellent. Our Admiral Andy - very knowlegable, skilled and funny. Enjoyed every part of this tour. Thankyou so much Edi & Neil

Such an incredible experience with an experienced and friendly crew. Sailing was amazing and the island was paradise! Highly recommend

Such a fantastic day! Absolutely loved our adventure with Tim and Luke