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How to Spend 1 Day in the Bay of Islands

How to Spend 1 Day in the Bay of Islands

At the northernmost end of New Zealand lies one of the country's top destinations: the picturesque Bay of Islands. There are about 150 islands in the bay, some uninhabited and barely explored. Whether experienced by land, sea, or sky, the bay offers something for everyone. Here are a few ways to spend a day in this subtropical wonderland.

Morning: Going Sky-High

Start by getting the lay of the land—from above. Take a scenic helicopter flight over the Bay of Islands to Cape Brett, and land on top of the Hole in the Rock, where you can go hiking with a Maori guide and learn about the island’s cultural and ecological significance. Or view the Northland coast on a scenic flight to Cape Reinga, then visit the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, stroll along Tapotupotu Bay, and sink your toes in the sand at Ninety Mile Beach. Alternatively, get your thrills on a tandem skydive over the bay and enjoy unobstructed views. 

Afternoon: Cruising the Bay

Day visitors have multiple options for getting onto the water: Set sail on a century-old schooner, or cruise through the Hole in the Rock while exploring the bay’s many golden shorelines. Some cruises include water activities like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and even swimming near the wild dolphins that frequent these waters. If you’d rather explore on land, opt for a tour on a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, and head to a winery for lunch before visiting waterfalls, rainforests, and the local farm country. 

Night: Maori Culture

There are lots of great places to eat and excellent wines to taste in the Bay of Islands. In the evening, you can head for the waterfront seafood restaurants in Russell or Paihia, and enjoy a meal while watching sailboats anchor at sunset. Another excellent option is to book an evening at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for a traditionalhangi dinner followed by a Maori cultural show featuring music and dancing. Arrive before closing hours for a pre-dinner tour of this historic site, and see a war canoe and interactive exhibits on the interactions between New Zealand’s indigenous peoples and the first British settlers. 

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7 Tours and Activities | All Bay of Islands Tours

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Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on 'R. Tucker Thompson' Including BBQ Lunch

Bay of Islands Tall Ship Sailing on 'R. Tucker Thompson' Including BBQ Lunch

star-5
203
Sail the Bay of Islands on a working tall ship aboard the famed ‘R. Tucker Thompson,’ built in the tradition of a 100-year-old Northland schooner. Ply the waters of the pristine bay, where you can help hoist the sails, climb the rigging or simply relax on board, then swim while anchored in a sheltered bay in the maritime park. Enjoy morning tea and a barbecue lunch, with an optional complimentary ferry ride from Paihia to Russell, where your vessel departs.
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  • 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$115.78
From
$115.78

Half-Day Bay of Islands Discovery Tour from Paihia

Half-Day Bay of Islands Discovery Tour from Paihia

star-4.5
126
Explore subtropical islands, Maori heritage sites and golden beaches on this cruise around the Bay of Islands from Paihia. Soak up the scenery as you float between the bay’s 144 islands, sail straight through the iconic Hole in the Rock (weather permitting) and tuck into a BBQ lunch or dinner at the stunning Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. Along the way, spot dolphins swimming and playing alongside the boat.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$87.38
From
$87.38

Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour

Bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock Scenic Helicopter Tour

star-5
47
Discover the Bay of Islands by helicopter, with an optional landing at the Hole in the Rock. See Cape Brett from above during an aerial tour from Paihia, narrated by a professional pilot. Fly over Russell and Waitangi en route to the Hole in the Rock. Upgrade to land atop the iconic natural landmark, with an optional walk led by a Maori guide.
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  • 20 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$194.17
From
$194.17
Taking safety measures

Cape Reinga Half-Day Tour Including Scenic Flight

Cape Reinga Half-Day Tour Including Scenic Flight

star-5
68
Fly over the Northland coastline on a scenic flight between Paihia and Cape Reinga. Soar above Ninety Mile Beach before landing for a minibus tour at the top end of New Zealand's North Island. Visit Cape Reinga Lighthouse, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, then stroll along the beach at Tapotupotu Bay and surf the sand dunes of Te Paki. Look down on remote Parengarenga Harbour and Great Exhibition Bay on your return flight. Includes morning tea and round-trip hotel transfers.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$336.07
From
$336.07

Bay of Islands Waterfall Cruise Kayak or Paddle board

Bay of Islands Waterfall Cruise Kayak or Paddle board

star-4.5
49
Experience nature is at its best on a 40-minute Bay of Islands cruise followed by a kayak excursion. Paddle past mangrove forests to a wondrous waterfall, with the option to depart in the morning, afternoon or at sunset. If you’d like, opt for a paddleboard instead. You’ll view birdlife and learn the cultural history of the Maori people with commentary by a knowledgeable guide.
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  • 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$50.79
From
$50.79

Scenic Escape with Winery Lunch

Scenic Escape with Winery Lunch

star-5
2
To tourists, the Bay of Islands is best known for its beaches and cruises. On this full-day tour, you’ll be able to get out of the area’s tourist hotspots in a luxury Jeep and explore some of its hidden gems. Discover seaside Opua and vibrant Kawakawa, walk between the ancient kaura in Opua Forest, and get stunning photo-ops at Waitangi Valley and Haruru Falls.
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  • 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$196.60
From
$196.60
Taking safety measures

16500ft Skydive - 70 Seconds of free fall

16500ft Skydive - 70 Seconds of free fall

star-5
167
For the ultimate adventure in New Zealand, go skydiving above the Bay of Islands. From up to 16,000 feet (4,880 meters) in the air, you'll have up to 70 seconds of free fall as you look down on the 144 islands that make up this region of the North Island.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$312.92
From
$312.92