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

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).

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

3. 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

4. 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

5. 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.

Bay of Islands Small Group Afternoon Cruise & Island Tour

6. 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.

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

7. 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. 

3 Hour - Hole in the Rock Cruise with Island Stopover

8. 3 Hour - Hole in the Rock Cruise with Island Stopover

Departing from Paihia or Russell, join us on a small group cruise through the Bay of Islands. Keep an eye out for Marine Wildlife as we cruise along the coastline making our way out into the islands. Listen to commentary from your tour guide as they relay the history of the area, and visit the landing site of Captain James Cook on Roberton Island. Experience Cathedral Cave on Motukokako Island and the Hole in the Rock - if weather permits, we will even CRUISE THROUGH the Hole in the Rock! Take in the scenery of the stunning Cape Brett Peninsular and Lighthouse Enjoy a stopover on one of the 144 Remote Islands in the Bay of Islands, take a short walk to one of the island lookout points, and help feed the schools of fish in the Voluntary Marine Reserve.

Paihia: Bay of Islands Trike Tour Experience

9. 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.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds 2-Day Pass

10. 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.

Other Sightseeing Options in Bay of Islands

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What people are saying about Bay of Islands

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 900 reviews

Booked this trip on my own while in the Bay of Islands. Great trip to see the Hole in the rock, and plenty of time to explore the islands. Boat was comfortable and the guides were really informative!

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

It was the best trip. Had everything. Great weather. Good commentary. Hole in the rock. And many dolphins

Great trip. Highly recommended. Gd commentary and cafe on island

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