The Bay of Islands

Photo of The Bay of Islands

About The Bay of Islands

Towards the far north of the North Island sits the famous Bay of Islands, where around 150 islands — many undeveloped and uninhabited — rise from shimmering turquoise waters. At the heart of New Zealand’s story, this protected region was the earliest place in which the Maori settled, and later the first place inhabited by the British. Accommodation options range from charming B&Bs to luxurious clifftop hotels, with the best places to stay in the Bay of Islands clustered around historic Russell or unspoilt, beach-side Paihia.

Once a lawless enclave of escaped convicts, whalers and sailors, Russell marks the site of the first permanent British settlement, as well as being where the Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up. Today, it’s an elegant heritage town, home to NZ’s oldest church and popular with keen sailors, kayakers and hikers. Paihia, a short ride across the bay, is a friendly beach town and the travel hub of the region, perfect for watersports enthusiasts who can go fishing, parasailing, diving, kayaking and swimming with dolphins.

Visit the headland of Waitangi to delve into the region’s complex history and better understand Maori culture at the meeting house, or venture inland to the fertile farmlands of Kerikeri. Sample oranges, kiwifruit and wine, enjoy hikes and horse rides, and discover the region’s cultural heritage. Popular during the summer months and the shoulder season, the best places to stay in the Bay of Islands fill up fast — book your trip well in advance!

The Best Places to Stay in the Bay of Islands

For History Buffs

  • The Duke of Marlborough Hotel, in the heart of Russell has been open since the early 19th Century. Renovated rooms are chic and inviting, with beautiful sea views, and the buzzy restaurant spaces open onto the waterfront and the beach. A brilliant base for history buffs eager to stay in the centre of a key cultural community.

For Grown Ups

  • Little Donkey Bay offers a gorgeous one-bedroom villa for couples looking to hide away in absoute bliss. Think spectacular sea views, a private stretch of beach, glamorous vintage interiors and two free-standing tubs for outdoor baths together. Very romantic.
  • The Sanctuary @ Bay of Islands offers four suites with spectacular views in forested surroundings near Opua. Feast on organic fare, go hiking and birdwatching, or head to the sea for sailing, kayaking and swimming. Great for couples or friends travelling as a group — there's space for 8 guests. Secluded, grown up and nature-focused.
  • Arcadia Lodge is a delightful heritage B&B with a small selection of characterful rooms, suites and a two-bedroom cottage overlooking Matauwhi Bay in Russell. Feast on chef-owner Peter's gourmet breakfasts of garden-grown ingredients or taste NZ wine on your private deck. The Tautoru Studio is particularly romantic. Guests aged 12+ are welcome and the property is well-placed for strolling or cycling around town.

For Families or Groups

  • Russell Cottages, 250 metres from the water’s edge in historic Russell, are pretty, white-painted clapboard residences with shared access to a heated pool and kids' playground. With up to four bedrooms, kitchens and decking, these are brilliant for families or groups of friends eager to explore Russell and the Bay of Islands.
  • Bay of Islands Beach House offers self-catering apartments overlooking striking Sullivans Bay. Great for families or small groups, the apartments have two bedrooms, well-equipped kitchens, BBQ areas and private balconies. Borrow dinghys and sea kayaks as you head out to explore. Set in bustling Paihia.
  • Paihia Beach Resort & Spa Hotel is a luxurious 21-room seafront property with light, airy suites, a saltwater pool and soothing spa. The Glasshouse Kitchen & Bar serves gourmet fare and there's stacks to do for guests of all ages. A family-friendly choice, with self-catering two-bedroom suites.

For Luxury

  • Eagles Nest is a collection of five sleek villas with infinity pools and private chefs. Tucked away within a 75-acre estate — including a private stretch of beach — this is a seriously special spot for a family holiday, honeymoon or escape with friends. Absolute bliss.
  • The Landing Residences offers four luxurious contemporary hideaways with beautiful views of vineyards and the coast. Unwind with top-notch personalised service, bespoke menus and a private jetty for local exploring by boat. Fabulous.


  • If you'd prefer a self-catering option, we suggest that you visit our online partner Booking.com.

Travel Information

  • Fly from Auckland Airport to Bay of Islands Airport and journey by car to your hotel.
  • The North Island is famously wonderful for a road trip. Contact our online partner Rentalcars if you would like to hire a car.
  • Travel during the spring or summer for the best weather, with temperatures peaking at around 24°C between December and April. For a quieter trip and great deals, look at May or October-November, though these months will be cooler. Expect frequent tropical rain from June to August.



Monthly Weather in The Bay of Islands

Best Hotels in The Bay of Islands

  • The Duke of Marlborough Hotel Bay of Islands, The Bay of Islands 38 rooms from £72

    Historic  -  The oldest licensed hotel in New Zealand, the Duke opened as a 'grog shop' in 1827
    Local exploring  -  In the heart of Russell, this is a great base for explorers and heritage buffs
    Great walks  -  The annual Bay of Islands Walking Weekend takes place each October with 18 routes, and is based in Russell
    Restaurant  -  Expect delectable fare, with a focus on freshly caught seafood — including Waikare Inlet Oysters
    Air conditioningTennisRestaurantDisabled accessParkingNo pets

    Open since 1827, The Duke of Marlborough is a Russell institution — and the oldest licensed hotel in New Zealand. Renovated rooms are chic, there are two buzzy restaurant spaces and the waterfront location is fabulous. A landmark hotel for couples or families in the heart of town. See More

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

    Families  -  Multi-room apartments with self-catering facilities are great for relaxed family trips
    Beach Life  -  Superb location right on Sullivans Beach and with a private beach area
    Active Holiday  -  Swim, paddle, sail or fish in the waters surrounding Paihia
    Diving  -  Try diving and snorkelling with Paihia Dive
    GardenPet friendlyViewsParking

    Family-friendly self-catering apartments with fabulous views overlooking Sullivans Bay in the Bay of Islands. With ensuite rooms, private balconies and BBQ areas, just a short walk from Paihia's restaurants and shops. Use of dingy, sea kayaks and lifejackets for watersports enthusiasts. See More

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  • Arcadia Lodge Bay of Islands, The Bay of Islands 6 rooms from £130

    Total relaxation  -  A charming historic house for unwinding with welcoming hosts over blissful breakfasts & in spacious suites
    Romantic Break  -  Hide away in the Tautoru Studio, which has a private deck, separate entrance & cosy coastal feel
    Birdwatching  -  Spot two of New Zealand’s rarest birds – the North Island Brown kiwi & the North Island weka, and myriad others
    Sailing  -  Head out with Rick & Robyn on Phantom Sailing, or take a bigger boat to Urapukapuka Island & Hole in the Rock
    Air conditioningGardenDisabled accessViewsParkingNo pets

    A gorgeous collection of luxurious rooms, suites and a two-bed cottage overlooking spectacular Matauwhi Bay. Gather for chef-owner Peter's gourmet breakfasts of garden-grown ingredients on the terrace, explore Russell on foot, sail or sip a glass of NZ wine on your private deck. A heritage delight. See More

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  • Russell Cottages Russell, The Bay of Islands 7 rooms from £167

    Families  -  Families will appreciate the multi-room cottages with self-catering facilities, as well as the shared pool and playground
    Self catering  -  Full kitchen and laundry facilities are available in each cottage, plus there's access to a BBQ
    Local exploring  -  The cottages are a short stroll from the wharf, restaurants, cafes and two beaches
    Great walks  -  Full Circle – Bay of Islands Walkway is a scenic 4.5 hour walk
    Swimming PoolGardenParkingNo pets

    Self contained three and four bedroom cottages in the historic village of Russell. With full kitchen and laundry facilities, outdoor decking areas, a swimming pool and kids' playground, this is a great pick for families or groups. Contemporary and good value. See More

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  • The Sanctuary @ Bay of Islands Bay of Islands, The 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 picture-frame windows letting the surrounds take centre stage. Home-cooked food focuses on healthy dining paired with excellent wines. A chic stay. See More

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

    Families  -  Two-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens and private terraces are great for families
    Diving  -  Take a day trip with the resort's experienced dive staff and marvel at the Pacific Ocean's biodiversity
    Restaurant  -  The Glasshouse Kitchen & Bar features rom the Middle East, South Asia & Kiwi classics
    Great walks  -  Guided walking tours of Russell are ideal for discovering NZ's history
    Air conditioningSpaRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenDisabled accessViewsParkingNo 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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  • Little Donkey Bay The Bay of Islands 1 rooms from £530

    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 and a nearby naturist beach
    Honeymoons  -  A private oasis for romantic couples - complete with outdoor freestanding baths. A honeymoon dream
    Outstanding location  -  With unparalleled sea views over the bay, in leafy and secluded settings, a short walk from Russell
    Air conditioningGardenViewsParkingNo pets

    With just one indulgent suite, Little Donkey Bay is an exclusive and intimate seaside hideaway. Interiors are bright and funky, the property even boasts its own private beach. A chic, adults-only escape for honeymooners or romantic couples. See More

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  • Eagles Nest The 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 is minutes away, with range of a museum, galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants
    Restaurant  -  Personal chefs use fresh local ingredients to create dishes specially for you
    Swimming Pool  -  Private infinity swimming pools or jacuzzis at each of the villas
    Air conditioningSpaRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenViewsParkingNo pets
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith

    Five opulent contemporary villas nestled on a 75-acre private headland in the Bay of Islands. With 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, The 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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