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πŸš— self-drive itinerary

πŸ›οΈ minimum 2 night stay recommended

🍽️ dining suggestions offered

πŸ“… visit any time of year


A favourite for many that travel to New Zealand, this aquatic playground with 144 islands to explore and umpteen opportunities for fun and adventure within a micro-climate that includes the towns of Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri.


Highlights can include:

  • experience stunning scenery and amazing wildlife with Carino Sailing + Dolphin Adventures where the highlight has to be your chance to swim with wild dolphins, in their ocean habitat πŸ¬πŸŠβ›΅
  • get a sense of history at New Zealand's oldest existing church Christ Church in Russell, and enjoy its tranquility and its wairua (spiritual atmosphere) β›ͺπŸ”Ž
  • escape to a quiet remote place with Phantom Sailing on a trip that always features sheltered anchorages, beautiful bays and white-sand coves with crystal clear water for swimming and snorkelling β›΅
  • visit The Parrot Place and take a 'Parrot Safari' through glorious subtropical gardens while witnessing the entertaining antics and colourful plumage of the many exotic parrots from around the world πŸ¦œ
  • thrill the senses with a memorable scenic helicopter view over the spectacular coastline and island scenery with Salt Air, or head further as far as Cape Reinga on a fixed-wing aircraft πŸšπŸ›©οΈ
  • even if nature isn't calling make a point to take in the colourful modern-art-meets-convenience wonder of the Hundertwasser Toilets in the small town of Kawakawa, designed by Austrian artist that made this region his second home πŸš½πŸŽ¨
  • paddle to Haruru Falls on a kayak β€˜Night Safari’ to take in the captivating waterfall, the setting sun, millions of stars, rising moon, jumping fish, screeching Owls, Kiwi and other eerie night calls πŸ›ΆπŸŒŒ
  • scuba dive with Paihia Dive to explore the spectacular Rainbow Warrior shipwreck and the underwater wonders in this beautiful part of New Zealand - great for experienced and first-time divers πŸŸ
  • take the short walk to the three different viewing platforms to admire beautiful Rainbow Falls, a spectacular 27 metre waterfall that tumbles into a swimming hole surrounded by native bush πŸ‘Ÿ
  • visit Te Waimate Mission, NZ's second oldest building that preserves stories of important early encounters between Maori and settlers as well as farming, architectural and missionary history πŸ” 
  • delight in the atmospheric ground-floor gift shop of the Stone Store, NZ's oldest stone building and enjoy its picture-perfect setting πŸ“ΈπŸ”Ž
  • set sail and help the crew command the iconic tall ship, R. Tucker Thompson, a traditional gaff-rigged schooner with her own unique story, then step ashore to explore a secluded island or take a swim while your barbecue lunch is prepared πŸ”β›΅
  • set off on a Dolphin Cruise in search of marine life enjoying coastal views right to the edge of the bay's Cape Brett Peninsula to the famous Hole in the Rock on Motukokako Island πŸ¬πŸ›₯️
  • absorb pioneer history recounted at French-style Pompallier Mission and Printery, and experience hands-on old-fashioned fun when you use the curious printery and tannery equipment πŸ”Ž
  • take time to soak up the scenery and story of New Zealand’s most historic site the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and learn of the momentous events which shaped our nation πŸ‡³πŸ‡ΏπŸ”
  • soar high above the Bay at New Zealand's highest Parasail experience 



πŸ“ # of Visitors 7.0

🐚 Beaches 5.0

🌦️ Chance of Rain 3.5

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘¦β€πŸ‘¦ Family Fun 6.0

πŸ›’ Shopping 4.5

🍽️ Food + Wine 8.0

πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ LGBTQI+ friendly πŸ‘

Note: the highest possible score is an 8.0


πŸŽ₯video courtesy of 100% Pure New Zealand on YouTube


Length of stay
  • Sit back and relax. We've planned it all for you.


    Day 1 : Arrive in the Bay of Islands

    You'll travel to this region by car, coach or by flying into Whangrei Airport. Upon arrival you'll check in to your accommodation, settle in and get acquainted with your surroundings for the next 2 nights.


    Spend the afternoon checking out the best of Kerikeri with a visit to the Stone Store for a classic photograph and to get you in the mood for the countless opportunities you'll have to step back in time and learn about the earliest days of European settlers to New Zealand.  Drive a loop to take in beautiful Rainbow Falls before spending time in the colourful world a Parrot Safari provides at The Parrot Place.


    Later visit historic Russell and visit Christ Church and the quaint historic village that oozes charm in its idyllic setting, the perfect place for dinner or enjoying refreshments at The Duke of Marlborough


    As twlight begins, jump into a kayak and join the night safari to Haruru Falls with an evening soundtrack of nature, and hopefully the stars high above, and if you're lucky a chance to see the bioluminescence in the sea as you paddle through the water.


    Day 2 : drift the day away in an aquatic playground

    You really have to get on the water to appreciate the best of this marine environment.  You've got a range of options available to you, each of them offering something a little different, but all offering the chance to see spectacular coastal scenery and secluded island beaches and coves.


    The Hole in the Rock is always a highlight, especially aboard the Dolphin Cruise which offers the best vantage point.  If you're keen to feel like you've stepped back in time, the R. Tucker Thompson will appeal, where you can join the crew sailing a tall ship to a secluded island.  If you've always dreamed of swimming with wild dolphins the best opportunity for this is aboard Carino Sailing + Dolphin Adventures aboard their yacht purpose built for day sailing, and the only yacht licensed by the Department of Conservation to interact with dolphins in the Bay of Islands.


    Whichever aquatic adventure you've elected to do, we've arranged for you to delight in dinner and celebrate your last night in this region at one of our favourite restaurants in the area.  If you've timed it right, we'll include a Maori cultural performance and hangi feast at the birthplace of New Zealand, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.


    Day 3 : Depart the Bay of Islands

    On your way out of the region, stop in the town of Kawakawa and admire the Hundertwasser Toilets, which sounds a little daft, but there's always method in my madness and there's good reason these have been voted amongst the best in the world's loo's.  We'll let you know the best way to get from this region to the next part of your New Zealand trip, wherever you want that to be.