Things to do in the Bay of Islands and the Far North
There is a wealth of fun to be had in the sunny Far North. You can explore by car or boat, or just hang out in one of the many cafes and restaurants from Kawakawa to Kaitaia and all points in between.
When you are in the Bay of Islands, it’s no surprise that out on the water is where it’s all happening! Fishing is very popular with good catches being brought in at Club Paihia’s boat park all year round. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent one at the wharf, as well as, hobbie cats, jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards from the beach and sailboats for hire at Opua.
If you’ve never been to see the Hole-in-the Rock at Cape Brett, make sure it’s high on your to-do list. The ferry operators take scenic day trips to the Cape and Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. Otehei Bay has a licenced restaurant to refuel and relax at, then there’s a pleasant walk up the lookout track to take in the incredible 360̊ views of the surrounding land and seascape.
Short on time? Take the scenic helicopter or parasail ride and get even higher on the panoramic views.
New Zealand’s European colonisation began in the Bay of Islands. Catch any of the regular ferries over to historic Russell, once known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific due to the lawless nature of international whalers and sealers during the early 1800s. Russell became the first European settlement and was New Zealand’s Capital for a short time. Seek out the local museum, Pompalier Mission & printery and climb Maiki Hill to see what’s left of the famous but ill-fated flagpole on the summit!
1840 saw the signing of Te tiriti o Waitangi and the historic treaty grounds are just a short walk past the beach front, Te Tii Waitangi Marae, the shipwreck museum, over the famous wooden bridge to soak up the culture and atmosphere of the beginning of our nation. Stand on the Marae and visit the restored treaty house, home of the first British Crown appointed NZ resident James Busby, then follow the path down to the beach to Ngatokimatawhaorua Waka, the largest Maori war canoe alongside the stump of one of the three kauri trees it was carved from. In keeping with the partnership that the treaty promised is the flagstaff of the Royal NZ Navy erected on the Waitangi foreshore, in 1934, one hundred years after the recognition of the three original flags of New Zealand. The are Te Kara (the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand) The Union Flag (from 1840 to 1902) and the New Zealand Flag (from 1902- present)
While Kerikeri may not have the heritage of Russell, or Waitangi it does have the Stone Store, NZ’s oldest stone building on the Kerikeri inlet, close by the Whitiora Marae. Along with Waipapa Landing it is also the largest shopping centre in the Bay area. A must-do is the Kerikeri Packhouse Market, which brings in more people than free coffee in Ponsonby Rd! Directly across the road from the Makana chocolate factory and cafe the main market is on every Saturday morning. The perfect spot for a hearty breakfast and the top-up of fresh provisions for the rest of your week’s holiday.
Keep heading north and you’ll pass Matauri Bay near the site of the sunken Rainbow Warrior, for amazing diving, plus the stunning swimming beaches of Tauranga Bay, Taupo Bay and Cable Bay. As you head up to Cape Reinga to see the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea clash together, don’t by-pass Mangonui or you’ll miss it’s World Famous fish and chips shop! There’s so much history and things to do on the way to Cape Reinga lighthouse including the Awanui fossil kauri factory, Packard Motor Museum, 90 mile beach, Aupouri forest, Te Paki stream & sand dunes and Rarawa Beach silica sands. Travel by car or book the tour that goes from Paihia township every day.
On the western side of Northland, the Hokianga Harbour is aa special place to visit. Bring your boat and fish the harbour at Opononi or drive on towards the Waipoua Forest to see Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest – NZ’s largest Kauri tree and a must see.
At the eastern end of Hokianga harbour is Wairere boulders, an amazing geological formation of giant basalt rocks & boulders. The formation was covered for centuries by a Kauri Forest which shed its leaves onto the forest floor. As the seasonal rains fell over thousands of years, the water and vegetation formed an acid solution which etched the normally impenetrable rock to create fissures and crevasses normally associated with limestone rock formations. Today it’s a private reserve with tourist trails and picnic areas up the side of the mountain stream that feeds into the headwaters of the Hokianga harbour. Wairere is a unique piece of pre-historic geology that is unique in the world and a genuine attraction for all outdoor lovers.
For the trail bikers there’s the Okaihau to Kaikohe Grade 1-2 open Bike trail. Built on disused railway corridor, it’s part of the Twin Coast Cycle trail, past Lake Omapere and through the original railway tunnel. Its 14 Kms of cycling fun and enjoyment for the trail bike enthusiast and beginners alike.
Closer to Paihia, you can visit Haruru Falls by road or kayak on the Waitangi river, walk the track from Paihia to Opua, play the Waitangi golf course, take the ferry from Opua to Russell and walk on to long Bay, not forgetting the Kawakawa steam train ride, or just kick back and enjoy one of the many beaches in Paihia and dotted around the Bay of Islands coastline.
There’s so much to see and do that it can’t all be accomplished in one visit. It takes regular trips over many years to make the most of our Far North playground. Whatever adventure you decide to do, you always have a comfortable resort apartment at Club Paihia to return and relax in at the end of yet another memorable day’s holiday.