When planning a trip to New Zealand's North Island, you'll probably find scores on the effortless charm of Auckland and the capital city buzz of Wellington. But, as you'll soon discover, it always pays to delve a little deeper when travelling through New Zealand. By all means, get your fill of cosmopolitan flair in the North Island's most famous cities, but make sure you set aside some time to get off the beaten path, starting with the Bay of Islands.
Sitting approximately three hours north of Auckland (by car), this subtropical micro-region is like another world. It encompasses approximately 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula along with a string of small towns that are as alluring as they are numerous. Though, perhaps the biggest drawcard of this northern North Island region is the incredible natural beauty awaiting tenacious explorers to revel in its ocean vistas, underwater treasures and thick forests. How will you discover the Bay of Islands?
There's hardly a more rewarding way to explore this region than by foot. Being among the nature to marvel at these incredible landscapes up close. Luckily, the Bay of Islands is no stranger to a fine walking track. In fact, there are kilometres upon kilometres of trails to choose from, whether you're looking for single or multi-day experiences with trails to suit all fitness levels. You can even opt for a guided journey!
The Urapukapuka Island Archaeological Walk showcases area's history, with numerous archaeological sites visible along the route. For serious hikers that are up for an overnighter, the Cape Brett Walkway runs the length of Cape Brett, crossing seven peaks in a challenging eight-hour hike. Just make sure to stop off at Deep Water Cove for a swim and a snorkel. Visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is another must-do. It is New Zealand's most important historic site and offers incredible insight into the history of the country and its indigenous people.
One of the best ways to get a full picture of just how amazing the Bay of Islands is by taking to the skies for a bird's eye view. Scenic flights over the islands are readily available, be it by helicopter or airplane. Why not try a helicopter wine tasting tour, or land on access remote locations that are otherwise unreachable. Or, simply skim the skies, taking in the incredible views of the islands below.
If you consider yourself a bit of a dare devil, book yourself in for a sky dive. It may be the ultimate test of the nerves, but it will reward in spades with absolutely amazing views of the surrounding islands as you gently glide back to the earth.
When discovering remote islands, it only makes sense to get in the ocean. There are plenty of ways to discover the Bay of Islands by sea, offering options to suit all types of traveller. For those that like to explore at a more leisurely pace, a sailing or boating tour may be right up your alley. Sit back and enjoy the breezes in your hair, or keep your eyes peeled for dolphins. If you'd like to take a more active approach to your boating, kayaking tours are a fantastic option.
Don't forget, the Bay of Islands is just as much about what's below the water's surface as what's above. It's home to countless dive sites that range from purpose-sunk shipwrecks to natural corals and marine-life. Poor Knights Marine Reserve is held in high regard by experienced divers around the world. This reef offers beautiful coral and brightly coloured fish, with incredible visibility ensuring you can take it all in.