The Bay of Islands in 2-3 days
Head across to Russell by ferry for the morning and explore the township’s numerous historic buildings, including Christ’s Church, Pompallier House and the Russell Museum. Continue to the Waitangi Treaty House Reserve and explore the marae (meeting house), waka (canoe) and grounds. You can either have dinner in Paihia or take the ferry to Russell and dine at the atmospheric Duke of Marlborough – the first hotel in New Zealand to receive a licence. Stay overnight in Paihia.
Spend a half or full day on the water. Operators include Dolphin Encounters, the Cape Brett ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise, the Cream Trip, the tall ship R Tucker Thomson and Dolphin Discoveries. Lunch is often included during an island stopover. Stay the night in Paihia.
Take a fishing, diving or kayaking adventure with Tornado, Coastal Kayakers or Dive North – Rainbow Warrior. Alternatively, take to the skies with Flying Kiwi Parasail for a bird’s eye view over Paihia. Stay the night in Paihia.
The Bay of Islands in one week
Start with the 2-3 day intinerary
Drive to Kerikeri and visit the Kerikeri Historic Basin, which incorporates Kemp House, New Zealand’s oldest house; the Stone Store and Rewa’s Village. The more active travellers can take a walk to the 20m Kerikeri (Rainbow) Falls 2km upstream from the Basin. From there you can tailor visits to the various arts and craft outlets and call at some of numerous roadside fruit stalls to sample the region’s produce.You can stay in Kerikeri or at one of the surrounding bed and breakfasts.
Head inland towards Kaikohe (30 minutes from Kerikeri) along SH12 and call in at Monument Hill, which has a Memorial to Maori chief Hone Heke (1869-1909).Visit the Pioneer Village with its 19th century buildings, sawmill and fire station. Head west to Ahipara, the gateway to Ninety Mile Beach. Visit the beach (famous for its fishing) and call at Ahipara Hill, four km south-east of Ahipara township. The land at the base of the 150m high hill is a former kauri gum field, now a historic reserve. On your return to Kaitaia, call at the Nocturnal Park which features kiwis, glow-worms, short-fin eels and bush walks. Night tours start at dark.
Drive or take a tour to New Zealand’s most northerly point, Cape Reinga. Pack a picnic lunch if driving yourself. See the famous lighthouse, Spirits Bay and the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. On your return visit Te Paki with its impressive sand dunes. There are many tour companies supplying toboggans and all supply lunch.
Head south to Dargaville and call in at the Dargaville Maritime Museum to see the Rainbow Warrior masts and shipwreck artefacts. Continue along State Highway 12 to the Kauri Museum which has displays about the kauri tree, its gum and timber and pioneering New Zealand. Stay for lunch at the Gumdiggers Tearooms and Matakohe House Café. From there you can drive to either Whangarei or Auckland to continue your travels around the North Island.