13 May, 2019
Last updated on 10 February, 2022
Posted by Spaceships Crew
A road trip to Bay of Islands and around New Zealand’s Northland is one of the most popular and exciting ways to experience this sub-tropical region. The Northland features numerous beaches and islands to explore, as well as excellent hiking and cycling trails. It is ideal for a leisurely road trip in a campervan. You’ll have the ability to stop, sightsee, and spend as long as you want in each stunning location.
Visiting the Bay of Islands
As you circle the coast, make sure to spend time in the Bay of Islands. Situated on the eastern coast, this bay is speckled with 144 islands. They offer endless opportunities to try water sports, take cruises, or just swim in the beautiful waters. With so many islands, it can be difficult to decide what to do. Here are a few activities that are sure to make your vacation memorable.
Cruise the Islands from Paihia
Paihia is the main tourist town in the area, and it’s a great place to start your adventure. From Paihia, you can take reasonably priced cruises out to the various islands. A popular destination is the famous “Hole in the Rock” on Piercy Island. If the waves and tides are right, your boat may even jet through the hole.
Another island you can ferry to is Urupukapuka. This is the largest island in the bay, and it is full of birds and wildlife. Spend a day hiking the trails, taking in the incredible views, and discovering ancient Maori pa sites.
Robertson Island in Bay of Islands | photo: Andrea Lai (CC BY 2.0)
See the “Hell Hole of the Pacific”
While you’re in Paihia, you can also ferry to the town of Russell. This was New Zealand’s first capital, and it’s rich in fascinating history. There are a lot of New Zealand firsts in Russell, including the first church, the first pub, and the first hotel. A museum helps visitors learn the local history. Don’t leave before finding out why this town received the nickname, “Hell Hole of the Pacific.”
Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
In 1840, Britain and the Maori chiefs signed a treaty that made New Zealand a nation. You can view the treaty at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, only a short drive from Paihia. The grounds are award-winning and interesting for people of all ages. You can browse the museum, watch a Maori cultural performance, wander the gardens, or go on a fun tour. Buy your Waitangi Treaty Grounds day pass online.
Engage with Wildlife
Wildlife is everywhere in the Bay of Islands. One of the most popular ways to interact with animals is dolphin swimming. The Northland is home to a large population of dolphins, and they love romping around boats of tourists. You are almost guaranteed to see tons any time you go out. If conditions are right, you can even slip out of the boat and play with them! Book this activity at a great price and you'll experience these amazing creatures on your road trip to Bay of Islands.
In Kerikeri, you can drop by the Parrot Place to pet and feed over 300 species of parrot. If wild birds are more your thing, go on one of the bay’s many excellent hikes to hear birdsong accompanied by stunning views of waterfalls and sub-tropical forests. Rainbow Falls, also in Kerikeri, is a gorgeous waterfall you can easily hike to. It’s great for beautiful photos, and if you’re daring, you can climb behind the waterfall.
Relax on a Beach
As you continue your road trip around the Bay of Islands, there are many beaches to relax on. Be sure to get there early on nice days though, as they fill up! Don't forget to bring your snorkelling gear to explore below the surface. Some of the lesser known beaches include Donkey Bay in Waitata and Opito Bay in Kerikeri. If you’re willing to drive a bit further for really fantastic scenery, head to Oke Bay near Rawhiti. This beach is ideal for sunbathing, dolphin swimming, and romantic strolls.
Bay of Islands: so much to do and see
There are many more exciting things to do on your road trip to the Bay of Islands and through Northland. Whether you are adventurous and want to try parasailing or just take photos of the gorgeous, panoramic views, this area has activities you will enjoy. So grab a map, hop in your campervan, and see where the Bay of Islands takes you!