A subtropical paradise awaits three hours north of Auckland, New Zealand. The Bay of Islands consists of 144 islands situated between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula and the warm summers and mild winters make it a desirable destination to visit all year round.
The aquatic playground is home to a local pod of dolphins, gorgeous coastal scenery, lush forest walks, infinite water sports and is a significant cultural site marking the origins of the nation.
We’ve got the perfect itinerary to help you take a bite out of the sights and see all the top things to do in The Bay of Islands. This itinerary is best suited to guests staying in Paihia. So, pack your bags and grab the car keys – here is how you can spend 72 hours in the Bay of Islands.
Day 1: Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Discover the story behind the origins of New Zealand and enjoy an authentic cultural experience with a day pass to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on the shores of Paihia. This is a must-do New Zealand experience and the story of Aotearoa comes to life thanks to the warm welcome and friendly faces that greet you.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds day pass includes entry to The Treaty House, an award-winning museum, a sneak peek behind the scenes at a traditional carving studio and traditional Maori waka (canoes) plus a powerful cultural performance in the Carved Meeting House.
A guided tour of the grounds provides a richer experience filled with stories that share the traditional Maori customs and inside knowledge behind the historic signing of New Zealand’s founding document. Guided tours take place every hour and last for approximately one hour.
Inside the Museum of Waitangi, guests will find treasured objects and learn how the founding document of New Zealand came to be while nearby the first residence for British government officials known as The Treaty House is open to the public.
Don’t miss the cultural performance by the Te Pitowhenua arts group which is full of high energy dancing including a traditional Haka.
You’ll want to allocate at least half a day to enjoy everything the Waitangi Treaty Grounds has to offer which leaves time to explore Paihia and enjoy a relaxing afternoon ocean walk, a spot of souvenir shopping and a delicious dinner in town.
Day 2: Bay of Islands Hole in the Rock Cruise
You couldn’t pass through the Bay of Islands without setting sail on the glistening waters to explore the glorious islands, meet the local marine life and of course, see the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’ formation. Few cruises tick all boxes but we’ve found one.
Departing from Maritime Building in Paihia, join the morning adventure with a 9 am departure time. Fullers Great Sights will be your guide for the morning, taking you to view some of the 144 islands in the region with beautiful natural landscapes to admire along the way.
The luxury catamaran is purpose-built for dolphin and whale watching which is ideal because you will encounter many sea critters including common and bottlenose dolphins, whales (seasonal) and a myriad of birdlife. You are also perfectly positioned to admire the Cape Brett Lighthouse and the iconic Hole in the Rock which you’ll get to cruise right through the middle of. Upon your return, passengers will also see the Cathedral Cave before arriving back at Paihia around 12. 30pm.
PM: Rainbow Falls
After a lunch stop, jump in the car and drive 20 minutes to the Kerikeri River Track to chase some waterfalls. This track is going to lead you to the Rainbow Falls and you should allow at least 1.5 hours to walk each way.
The easy walk covers approximately 3.5km and will take you along the banks of the Kerikeri River to the luscious waterfalls. For those who aren’t keen on a bushwalk, you can park the car at the Rainbow Falls car park and take the gentle 400m wheelchair friendly pathway to view the falls and picnic area. Pack your swimmers as this waterfall is swim-friendly.
Day 3: Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach
Leave the car at your accommodation for the final day and take a back seat as you let someone else do the driving for the day. You’ll certainly see a beautiful part of the world on this full day to Cape Reinga and 90 Mile beach from the Bay of Islands.
The exciting adventure will see you travelling off-road along an untouched stretch of beach in the Far Northland and tackling some of giant sand dunes on a fun sandboarding experience.
You’ll then wet your appetite with fish and chips for lunch before a short nature walk in the Puketi Kauri forest and a scenic stop at the Cape Reinga Lighthouse. It’s an action-packed day with a lot of picturesque sights to explore.
Experience Oz has all the top things to do in the Bay of Islands available at your fingertips. To start planning your next Bay of Islands escape head to our main experiences page where you’ll find extraordinary experiences at the best prices online.