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 Maoris settled, and the first place inhabited by the British. 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, it was also where the all important Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up. It was actually a pretty lawless place full of escaped convicts, whalers and sailors on shore leave. Today it’s a rather elegant town 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 just across the bridge from all important Waitangi. Paihia is a great place for fishing, parasailing, diving, kayaking or swimming with dolphins. It 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 Maori meeting house and a huge war canoe on display. As well as being a controversial spot, it also has 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.

What not to miss:

  • Visit New Zealand's oldest church in Russell.

  • Get back to nature and experience swimming with dolphins.

  • Head to Paihia for ample opportunity to fish, dive, parasail or kayak.

  • Explore the breathtaking terrain on scenic hikes.

  • Sample the wines grown in the Kerikeri region.

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.

The Best Places to stay in the Bay of Islands

For a special occasion

  • The Paihia Beach Resort and Spa Hotel is a luxurious 21 room hotel with light and airy suites that have large balconies. You’re metres from one of Paihia’s most beautiful beaches and the hotel has a spa and pool. There’s a restaurant specialising in seasonal delicacies.
  • Eagles Nest offers total luxury throughout. Five opulent villas offer infinity 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.

For an apartment or villa

  • If you've decided that a self catering property would be more suitable for your holiday, then we recommend you visit our online booking partner Booking.com where they have a wide selection for all tastes and budgets.

Travel information

  • The closest airport is at Kerikeri, 23km northwest of Paihia and flights are just 40 minutes from Auckland.
  • Best time to visit - Bay of Islands weather is dominated by a sub tropical climate with summer temperatures averaging at 24°C while the winter average temperature is 16°C. Rain is at times severe in the winter months of June, July, and August.
  • If you plan to hire a car, we recommend you visit our online partner Rentalcars for the best prices.

Still not sure?


Monthly Weather in Bay of Islands

Best Hotels in Bay of Islands

  • Te Whare Ma Northland, Bay of Islands 3 rooms from £95

    Groups  -  With just three rooms this is a great option for small groups to rent out in its entirety
    Active Holiday  -  From ocean to mountains, there's a host of outdoor pursuits in the region
    Sailing  -  Charter a boat and spend a day exploring the coastline
    Swimming Pool  -  Outdoor pool
    Swimming PoolGardenParking

    A family-run boutique B&B offering just three rooms in rural Kerikeri. The accommodation is simple and contemporary with whitewashed walls and indulgent bathrooms. Sliding glass doors lead onto private terraces overlooking the large pool. A homely base to explore the region from. See More

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  • Bay of Islands Beach House Bay of Islands from £112

    Active Holiday
    On the beach  -  Sullivans Beach
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
    GardenPet friendlyViewsParking

    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. See More

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  • Russell Cottages Russell, Bay of Islands 15 rooms from £112

    Swimming Pool  -  Heated pool (seasonal)
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Swimming PoolGardenParkingNo pets

    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. See More

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  • The White House Bay of Islands 3 rooms from £144

    Great walks  -  Okiato to Russell walkway, Cape Brett Walkway
    Back to Nature
    Swimming Pool  -  Indoor/outdoor
    Fishing  -  Excellent fishing nearby.
    Swimming PoolGarden

    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. See More

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  • The Sanctuary @ Bay of Islands Bay of Islands 4 rooms from £175

    Back to Nature  -  Escape to nature in this secluded spot with wonderful views of the islands and native rain forest
    Groups  -  Sleeping up to eight guests this is a great choice for a small group
    Swimming Pool  -  Infinity plunge pool and surrounding deck with wonderful views
    Great walks  -  Explore Rainbow Falls and Puketi Rainforest on long walks
    Swimming PoolViewsParkingNo pets

    Contemporary accommodation in the Bay of Islands in an area known for its watersports and beautiful scenery. Interiors are minimalist and light with the picture-frame windows letting the surrounds take centre stage. Homecooked food focuses on healthy dining paired with excellent wines. A chic stay. See More

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  • Tiki Tiki Ora Bay of Islands 3 rooms from £193

    Sights nearby  -  4km from historic Russell town, with museum, restaurants, cafes and craft galleries
    Views  -  Mountain and sea views across the bay
    Secluded setting  -  For escaping.
    Full of character
    GardenViewsParkingNo pets

    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. See More

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  • Donkey Bay Inn Bay of Islands 4 rooms from £230

    Hideaway  -  Off the beaten track, guests emerge from a hidden alleyway to the secluded grounds, with their own stretch of private beach
    Beach nearby  -  As well as their private stretch, guests have easy access to popular Long Beach, as well as a naturist beach further down
    Back to Nature  -  The grounds are abound with lush vegitation, brave guests can get back to nature on the nearby naturist beach
    Country Escape  -  Escape to the rugged and beautiful coastlines of the Bay of Islands
    Air conditioningGardenViewsParkingNo pets

    With just 4 rooms, the Donkey Bay Inn is an exclusive and intimate seaside hideaway. The property casts an eco-conscious eye over its energy usage, and the living rooftop and gardens is a nice added touch. Interiors are bright and funky and the property even boasts its own private beach. Very chic. See More

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  • Paihia Beach Resort and Spa Hotel Bay of Islands 21 rooms from £272

    No pets
    Restaurant  -  Poolside, seasonal menu
    Views  -  Out to Bay of Islands
    Swimming Pool  -  Heated saltwater
    Air conditioningSpaRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenDisabled accessViewsNo pets

    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. See More

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  • Eagles Nest Bay of Islands from £1468

    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
    Air conditioningSpaRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenViewsNo pets
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith

    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. See More

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  • The Landing Residences Bay of Islands 4 rooms from £2104

    Groups  -  The spacious private residences at this luxury hotel are perfect for a group trip, with multiple bedrooms and sit-out decks
    Country Escape  -  Set within acres of private grounds which include vineyards and beaches, book this hotel for a unique escape to the country
    Local exploring  -  Set on the beautiful Bay of Islands, this hotel offers excellent packages to assist with your local exploring
    Fishing  -  Head out on the hotel boat with a skipper and fishing guide to collect pots of crayfish and enjoy world-class fishing
    GardenViewsParkingNo pets
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith

    This hotel offers luxury accommodation in the vineyards of the Bay of Islands. The four, individually designed residences offer privacy and personalised service in a spectacular natural setting, with bespoke, chef-created menus and a private jetty for local exploring by boat. See More

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