The Bay of Islands is a true pearl of New Zealand. This subtropical micro-region is situated on the East coast of the North Island within 240 km from Auckland. The mild climate, white sand beaches, hundreds of picturesque islands scattered along the coast make the Bay of Islands one of the most visited places in New Zealand.
The Bay of Islands can boast many little bays which attract tourists in search for stunning seascapes. In the southern part of the bay, for instance, there is a Waikare inlet, which is known for its natural beauty. Located on both sides of the Bay of Islands, Cape Brett peninsula and Purerua peninsula make this place especially charming. In addition, the local waters are considered the best place for shark and large ocean fish hunting.
A little bit of history
Famous English explorer James Cook was the first European person to visit the Bay of Islands. Moreover, it is James Cook, who has actually given this place a name.
The first European settlement in New Zealand was the city named Russell, which for a long time was called Kororareka. Even to this day, Russell has a lot of preserved historical monuments. For instance, the city can boast the first stone house built in New Zealand back in the distant 1830. Furthermore, you can even take a look at the first wooden house built in 1822 by the Ngāpuhi tribe.
Distinctive beauty of the Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is reminiscent the shape of a fjord. Its narrow part is deeply crushed into the rocky shores. Due to this natural formation, the area of the Bay of Islands is strewn with numerous small bays, about 150 islets and wild beaches. For this reason, the Bay of Islands is often called New Zealand’s marine park.
The beauty of this place can fascinate even the pickiest traveler. The beaches here are exceptionally amazing and picturesque. Soft waters of the Pacific Ocean wash the numerous bays. And the trees here grow so thickly that they descent directly into the water.
The Bay of Islands is well known for its pristine coasts, relict forests and kiwi bird nesting. This place is a true paradise on Earth. There are even some parts of the bay that have not yet been explored.
Sandy beaches as the main attraction of the Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands and its surrounding areas can boast some of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand. Endless sandy beaches with a wall of virgin forests and clear azure water attract tourists from all over the world.
The Bay of Islands has three main beach clusters: Paihia, Oneroa and Oke. Despite the fact that none of them offer sunbeds or umbrellas, an urban infrastructure of the neighborhood compensates these shortcomings. Moreover, on many beaches, you can easily find boat and diving equipment rentals.
The beaches near the city of Paihia are perhaps the most popular. This is a great place for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking. Families with children will also have fun here since there is a large playground on site.
Another popular beach called Oke is located within about 30 km from Russell. It is especially beautiful at low tide and an ideal place for swimming and dolphin watching. Oke is also a nice place for a romantic date during the sunset.
Located in Russell, Oneora or Long Beach is the favorite place of not only tourists but also local residents. The Long Beach stretches along the eastern part of the city for about 1 km. The descent into the water here is very smooth, therefore most visitors are families with children. After swimming, you can enjoy sunbathing on velvet sand and admire the view on the nearest islands.
Other popular tourist attractions
One of the very popular tourist attractions of this unique marine area is Haruru Falls, which is a waterfall in the form of a horseshoe. During the nighttime, the waterfall looks even more significant due to the powerful artificial illumination. Another tourist spot is the Wharepuke Subtropical Garden. This place will surprise you with its large collection of exotic flowers and plants.
You can also visit the Waitangi village. It is here on February 6th of 1840 the historic Treaty of Waitangi was signed. This agreement guaranteed the special status of the Māori and their peaceful coexistence with European settlers.
Those who love wine can take a tour to the Ake Ake Vineyard and get acquainted with the best New Zealand’s varieties of fortified wine. Besides the wine tasting, tourists are offered a 30-minute excursion along the vineyards, where a guide tells all about the wine production methods.
Transportation and accommodation in the Bay of Islands area
Most people prefer visiting the Bay of Islands as a part of a tour group, where a package deal includes accommodation, entertainment and transfer services. However, if you are a solo-traveler there are several transportation options you may consider. You can travel between the towns by either a bus or a taxi. Car renting is also available at the Kerikeri airport. In addition, cargo and passenger ferries can be used for transferring between large islands.
Despite the fact that the Bay of Islands is a truly heaven-like place, the cost of recreation here is pretty significant. When choosing budget accommodation, you have to be prepared to live relatively far away from the beaches. On the other hand, the most expensive options are rooms and bungalows overlooking the sea.
The Bay of Islands area offers absolutely different eatery formats. Expensive hotels usually have excellent restaurants with terraces and sea view on site. Simple cafes and coffee shops can be found in all towns. Local dining facilities mostly serve freshly prepared seafood. Even fast-food here is based on seafood. A typical dish is a deep-fried fish with potatoes.
Sports activities and relaxation
Extreme sport has always been popular in these places. For instance, bungee jumping is a common activity almost everywhere in this area. However, water sports are not less popular. Tourists and locals enjoy windsurfing and rafting. In addition, you can ride a kayak, go down to the caves or simply play golf.
A variety of cruises attract a large number of tourists who came here to admire the bay from the water area and get acquainted with the flora and fauna of the nearby islands. Furthermore, there is a high chance to spot dolphins, who are the permanent inhabitants of the local waters.
And at last, the Bay of Islands is a favorite spot for divers and those who love underwater fishing. Multicolored coral reefs and unique underwater inhabitants amaze imagination with their sizes and shapes.
In conclusion, needless to say, that despite all of the variety of entertainment, the Bay of Islands, is simply a great place for a calming and relaxing recreation away from the city bustle. Coming here you have a chance to restore your physical and mental health as well as feel the taste of life.