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Bay of Islands

Photo of Bay of Islands

About Bay of Islands

In the far north of the North Island, the Bay of Islands is a superb turquoise bay, dotted with around 150 islands, the vast majority of them undeveloped and uninhabited. These protected waters are extremely important historically, being both the first place the M?oris settled, and the first place the British did. There are a number of settlements in or on the bay, but the best places to stay in the Bay of Islands seem to be largely grouped around historic Russell or unspoiled and beach-y Paihia.

Russell was the site of the first permanent British settlement, and it was also where the all important Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up, but it was actually a pretty lawless place full of escaped convicts, whalers and sailors on shore leave. Today it’s a rather elegant town, though still very popular with the sailing community, and a great place for walkers and kayakers to stay.

Russell is also home to New Zealand’s oldest church, which was part paid for by Charles Darwin.

Paihia is a short ferry ride across the bay from Russell, and is a friendly place with beautiful sandy beaches and plenty of visitor infrastructure. It’s also just across the bridge from all important Waitangi. Paihia is a great place for fishing, parasailing, diving, kayaking or swimming with dolphins. And is the hub of the Bay of Islands as far as travel is concerned.

The headland of Waitangi is definitely worth a visit, there’s a fantastic M?ori meeting house and a huge war canoe on display, and as well as bing a controversial spot, it’s also a fascinating story.

If you’re arriving in the Bay of Islands by sea then you’re likely to land at Opua, which is a lovely safe haven for sailors.

Kerikeri is also an option for accommodation, this is rich, fertile farmland, known for its oranges, kiwifruit and wine. This is also a historically significant spot, home of the powerful chief Hongi Hika, and of the early mission of the Reverend Samuel Marsden.

This region is popular with visitors year round, so don't forget to book early, the best places to stay in the Bay of Islands get snapped up quickly.

For a special occasion

  • The Paihia Beach Resort and Spa Hotel is a luxurious 21 room hotel, with light and airy suites with large balconies. You’re meters from one of Paihia’s most beautiful beaches, but the hotel also has a spa and pool. And there’s a restaurant specialising in seasonal delicacies.
  • The Flagstaff Lodge & Day Spa is a historic lodge in charming Russell, which has been converted into a four room hotel. There’s local art on the walls, a lovely garden and outdoor deck and of course the luxurious day spa.
  • Eagles Nest offers total luxury throughout. Five opulent villas offer infintiy edged pools, private cinema rooms, jacuzzis and private chefs. There is nothing that they haven't thought of!

For families

  • The Russell Cottages, in the historic village of Russell, is a collection of 1,2, 3 and 4 bedroom cottages with full kitchens, laundry facilities and outdoor decking areas. There’s also a heated pool and a kid’s playground.
  • The Bay of Islands Beach House is a collection of luxurious, self-catering apartments overlooking beautiful Sullivans Bay. As well as ensuite rooms, private balconies and BBQ areas, the House also offers free use of its dingys, sea kayaks and lifejackets.
  • The The White House is a three ensuite roomed renovated heritage villa in pretty Russell. The decor is modern and there’s a sundeck, spa pool, BBQ facilities and a lovely subtropical garden.

For B&B

  • Tiki Tiki Ora is a beautiful boutique B&B just 4kms from Russell, overlooking the bay. There are just three suites, decorated with colourful and eclectic artefacts, and a gorgeous garden and outdoor dining area.
  • The wonderfully named Bed of Roses is just inland from the Bay of Islands, in a quaint village with views onto the river basin. There are just three, French-themed, suites with antiques, and an extensive breakfast menu and colourful garden. Perfect for wine tasting and golf.

Still not sure which to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in the Bay of Islands, or contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice. Or widen your search and check out all our North Island recommendations.

Best Hotels in Bay of Islands

  • Bay of Islands Beach House from $146

    Bay of Islands

    Luxury self-catering apartments with fabulous views overlooking Sullivans Bay in the Bay of Islands. With ensuite rooms, private balconies and BBQ areas. Short walk to Paihia's restaurants and shops. Use of dingy, sea kayaks and lifejackets. Family friendly.

    Active Holiday
    On the beach  -  Sullivans Beach
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
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  • Russell Cottages 15 rooms from $146

    Russell, Bay of Islands

    Self contained 1,2,3 and 4 bedroom cottages in historic village of Russell in Bay of Islands. With full kitchen and laundry facilities and outdoor decking areas. Kids playground, outdoor swimming pool (seasonal) and conference room. Good value, contemporary and comfortable.

    Swimming Pool  -  Heated pool (seasonal)
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
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  • Bed of Roses 3 rooms from $185

    Bay of Islands

    Luxury B&B with three French-themed suites. Double beds, antique furnishings and glorious colourful garden. Extensive breakfast menu and all dietary requirements catered for. In quaint village with views to river basin. Wine tasting and championship golf courses close by.

    Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
    Restrictions on children
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Fishing  -  Excellent fishing nearby.
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  • The White House 3 rooms from $188

    Bay of Islands

    Renovated heritage villa with three ensuite rooms, a kitchen, laundry, lounge and dining area. Modern, contemporary furnishings. Sun deck, spa pool, BBQ facilities and subtropical gardens. Great location for walking, watersports and fishing. Ideal for a group of six.

    Great walks  -  Okiato to Russell walkway, Cape Brett Walkway
    Fishing  -  Excellent fishing nearby.
    Swimming Pool  -  Indoor/outdoor
    Back to Nature
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  • Tiki Tiki Ora 3 rooms from $251

    Bay of Islands

    Boutique B&B 4km from Russell overlooking Bay of Islands. Three suites with colourful and eclectic artefacts, a landscaped garden and gorgeous outdoor dining area. Friendly and accommodating hosts. Great beaches and walking routes nearby.

    Sights nearby  -  4km from historic Russell town, with museum, restaurants, cafes and craft galleries
    Views  -  Mountain and sea views across the bay
    Restrictions on children
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  • Paihia Beach Resort and Spa Hotel 21 rooms from $354

    Bay of Islands

    Luxury hotel with light, clean and spacious suites with features such as French oak floors and large balconies. Only metres from Paihia's most picturesque beach, completed with spa, swimming pool and restaurant serving seasonal food. Ideal for tours of Bay of Islands, golfing and fishing trips.

    No pets
    Views  -  Out to Bay of Islands
    Swimming Pool  -  Heated saltwater
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
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  • Flagstaff Lodge & Day Spa 4 rooms from $369

    Bay of Islands

    Luxury lodge in historic century old building in the heart of Russell with four ensuite rooms. Local art on the walls, use of environmentally friendly products and large comfy beds. Gardens, outdoor deck and baths, as well as luxury day spa.

    Views  -  Across Russell to bay
    Restrictions on children
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
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  • Eagles Nest from $1912

    Bay of Islands

    Five contemporary and opulent villas nestled on a private headland in the Bay of Islands. With private pools, saunas, gyms, kitchens, chefs, personal trainers and breathtaking views. Access to private beaches and opportunities to see rare native birds. Stunning exclusivity and NZ hospitality.

    Birdwatching  -  Estate home to rare NZ birds including North Island Brown Kiwi, North Island Weka and Korora
    Sights nearby  -  Russell minutes away, with range of a museum, galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants
    Outstanding location  -  75 acre private estate on headland with panoramic views of Bay of Islands
    Swimming Pool  -  Private inifinity swimming pools
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith
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