Bay of Islands

10th March 2023

The Bay of Islands region is made up of a collection of quaint towns positioned on or close to a beautiful coastline, and each with its own character and appeal. Off the coast, 144 islands give the region its name and offer an exciting landscape to explore. Famous for beautiful golden sandy beaches and clear water, the Bay of Islands offers some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in New Zealand alongside a warm “winterless” climate.  

A visit to this region is never complete without some time spent out on the water, and with a huge array of water-based activities available, there is plenty to choose from, including fishing, sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, wildlife encounters, diving, and parasailing.  Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, with dolphin pods often spotted splashing around in the waves.  For days when you want to give your sea-legs a break, you’ll find hiking, biking and golfing are popular options, or simply some relaxing days spent by the beach or wandering the shops.  

There are a number of historically and culturally very significant locations of interest in the Bay of Island’s region, and the area is rich in Maori history.  Day trips to the beautiful and spiritually important Cape Reinga and the Waipoua Kauri Forest can be taken from the Bay of Islands and you’ll also find Waitangi in this area and New Zealand’s first capital city, Russell.

Bay of Island’s Highlights

  • Water activities
  • Warm climate
  • Historic locations of interest
  • Golden sandy beaches
  • Beautiful coastal scenery
  • Different coastal towns to explore

Bay of Islands in Summer

Bay of Islands enjoys a semi-tropical climate and visitors are in abundance in the summer months when the weather is hot and reasonably dry and the days are long.  Most summer visitors are visiting for a dose of vitamin ‘sea’, with boating and beaches high on the agenda – just make sure to remember your sunscreen!  Accommodation can be busy, particularly in January and February, when we recommend booking with plenty of notice.  

Bay of Islands in Autumn

If you prefer a quieter holiday, plan to visit the Bay of Islands in the Autumn months, when the peaceful streets offer a relaxing haven to escape.  The climate is mild and comfortable in Autumn (although do come prepared for some rain days), making it a great time to get outdoors and explore the region without masses of other visitors. You can often find some good deals on accommodation as there is less demand in these months.

Bay of Islands in Winter

Being known as the ‘Winterless North’, the winter months are probably not as bad as you are expecting, and a Winter holiday in the Bay of Islands can be a great alternative option if ski holidays are not really your thing. The average temperature is a balmy 15 degrees during the day in the winter months, just with a little more wind and rain being blown in from the northwest coast.  You may not wish to take a dip in the ocean, but that shouldn’t stop you from hopping on a boat to explore out on the water, and it is a great time to explore some of the local historic sites to really immerse yourself deep under the skin of New Zealand’s rich history. Winter is a very peaceful time in the Bay of Islands, so you will skip most of the crowds.

Bay of Islands in Spring

Spring is a magical time of year in the Bay of Islands, where pops of Spring colour light up the landscape and the temperatures start to creep up ahead of the rest of the country – enjoy warm weather and beat the summer crowds for a Bay of Islands Spring holiday!  Wildlife encounters are particularly good in Spring when animals are more active and you might get lucky enough to spot some baby bottlenose dolphins.  Make the most of the glorious northern weather to spend time outdoors hiking, biking, golfing, and exploring this beautiful part of the country.

Accessing Bay of Islands

The closest airport is Keri Keri Airport (KKE) which offers domestic flights to and from the major cities and also welcomes private and charter flights and helicopter landings.  By vehicle, the Bay of Islands region is approximately 3-4 hours drive from Auckland.  If you are driving to Russell, please note that there is a car ferry from Opua which is the quickest option, but some GPS navigators don’t recognise this route and will suggest the much longer coastal road instead!

Bay of Island’s Busy Periods

During these dates, when the area fills with visitors, it will pay to plan ahead and book early to avoid disappointment:

  • January & February
  • Labour Weekend
  • Easter Holidays

MajorDomo’s Top Bay of Island’s Restaurant Picks

A selection of some of our favourite places to dine out in Bay of Islands for a special treat:

  • The Gables
  • Omata Estate Vineyard
  • Duke of Marlborough
  • Hones Garden
  • Zane Greys
  • Charlotte’s Kitchen
  • Cafe Jerusalem

Popular Bay of Islands Activities

Bay of Islands is a sun-seekers paradise, popular for a relaxing beach holiday but if you want to book some activities for your stay, some of the most popular options are:

  • Boat charter trips
  • Scenic flights (helicopter and fixed-wing planes)
  • Historic tours
  • Wildlife encounter tours
  • Golf
  • Snorkeling & diving

Popular Bay of Islands Hikes

There are some beautiful short walks around Bay of Islands.  Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Paihia to Opua Coastal Walkway (low fitness level required)
  • Waitangi to Keri Keri foot trail (moderate fitness level required)
  • Paihia View Track (moderate to high fitness level required)
  • Bay of Islands full circle day walk (moderate to high fitness level required)

Ready to start planning your Bay of Islands holiday?

If you’d like some help planning a Bay of Islands holiday, you can browse our luxury Bay of Islands properties here or contact us now to discuss your needs and we’ll do all the hard work for you.

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