Things to do in Bay of Islands

Itineraries for Your Trip to Bay of Islands

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2 Days in Bay of Islands for First Timers

Curated by Nicole ZimmermanNicole R. Zimmerman, born in São Paulo, Brazil and raised (mostly) in Northern California, is a queer Bay Area–based travel journalist, copywriter, and essayist. Nicole has written for Viator/Tripadvisor, Hipcamp, TripSavvy, Grove Collaborative, Insider, and the Los Angeles Times. Her work appears in anthologies such as The Best Women’s Travel Writing and in numerous literary journals including Creative Nonfiction and The Rumpus.

With two days in the Bay of Islands, you can enjoy lots of the activities that have made this area one of Auckland locals’ favorite holiday destinations. You can go cruising, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, fishing, and dolphin watching, and also learn about the country’s origins. Here’s how to spend two days in the Bay of Islands.

Day 1: Morning

Hop on a bike, and explore the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, a series of mostly flat dedicated bike paths and country roads extending all the way to Hokianga Harbour. Rent a bicycle for a self-guided trip, or opt for a guided excursion with stops to learn more about the region.

Day 1: Afternoon

This afternoon, explore the Bay of Islands on a scenic cruise. You have your choice of setting sail from Russell or Paihia aboard a sailboat, high-speed catamaran, or wildlife-viewing boat. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and little blue penguins, and don’t miss a chance to swim, snorkel, or hike.

Day 1: Night

If a 2- to 6-hour sail simply isn’t enough time on the water, book an overnight cruise around the Bay of Islands, and drop anchor in a tucked-away cove. Enjoy evening fishing and night kayaking along with stargazing, then wake up to the sunrise for another swim.

Day 2: Morning

Start your day with an excursion that takes you out of town and off the beaten path. Guided tours of the area’s natural features include kayaking trips to waterfalls on the Waitangi River or hiking excursions into a kauri forest. Less active travelers can stroll and sightsee in historic Kerikeri.

Day 2: Afternoon

See the Bay of Islands from above: You can take a scenic flight and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the coastline all the way to Cape Reinga, board a helicopter bound for the Hole in the Rock, or experience the thrill of parasailing or free falling on a skydiving adventure.

Day 2: Night

The controversial treaty between the Maori people and the British Crown was signed at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and the historic site is only a half-hour stroll along the beach from Paihia. Explore the grounds, then learn more about Maori culture with a concert and a hangi dinner.

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