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Cruises to Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands (Photo:DmitrySerbin/Shutterstock)

About Bay of Islands

Blame 18th century explorer Captain James Cook for the understated name: Bay of Islands. He stumbled into this little piece of heaven in 1769, but perhaps his choice wasn't such a no-brainer, after all.

The bay has 144 islands that pop up as you pass through the channel to reach the tendering spot off Waitangi. These bays and inlets are actually 'drowned' valleys, and the islands are peaks of what were the highest 'hills'.

If you aren't keen on exploring the area by boat, there are many interesting sights to visit on land, including the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

  • Why go to Bay of Islands?

  • Bay of Islands Cruise Port Facilities?


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Why go to Bay of Islands?


Exquisite scenery, historical landmarks and insights into Maori culture


Weather can be cold and windy, even in summer

Bottom Line:

Bay of Islands features some of New Zealand's most breathtaking scenery and wildlife

Bay of Islands Cruise Port Facilities?

Ship tenders drop passengers off at Waitangi Wharf, and from there it's an easy 25-minute walk to the town centre of Paihia along the scenic waterfront. Walk in the other direction for about 15 minutes -- with a few steps to climb -- to get to Waitangi Treaty House. If you choose to drive, there are a few tight and twisting turns and several one-lane bridges in the area.

Good to Know?

Bay of Islands' three main towns are not large, but they are all quite different. Village-like Paihia has amenities such as banks, shops, cafes and an information centre. It's the jumping-off point for Russell, a 15-minute ferry ride away.

Historic Russell is a sleepy, relaxing, place with a stay-forever feel. Kerikeri, further north, is the largest town, with a rich cultural vein of arts and crafts (come here for pottery, art and sculptures), artisan food producers and a vineyard trail.

The Paihia i-Site Visitor Information Centre is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Seasonal hours apply for extended closing. Public holidays vary, ring the centre (0800-363-663) for opening times.

Getting Around?

On Foot: It's an easy walk to Paihia and you might spot wildlife along the way.

By Taxi: Taxis are rare, but there are many other transport options

By Bus: There is a complimentary local shuttle bus, which will deliver you to Paihia in a few minutes. The Waitangi Treaty House is also included on its return loop. There's also a commercial bus to Kerikeri, the largest town in Northland, about 30 minutes' north of Paihia.

By Ferry: Three different passenger ferries service the area and crossings between Paihia to Russell depart every 20 minutes. Tickets are purchased onboard or from the booking office and the ferry crossings take about 15 minutes.

By Helicopter: For those who want the best views in the area, a helicopter is the way to go. Salt Air (0800-472-582) takes off and lands next to the Paihia I-Site Visitor Information Centre at the wharf.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The local currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), which has 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, and gold one and two dollar coins. New Zealand notes are coloured and come as $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.

ATMs can be found in Paihia and Russell, and there's a Bureau de Change at the ASB Bank in Paihia (37 Williams Rd; 09-4020-033; open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.)


English is the main language spoken in New Zealand; however you will see most signs also written in Maori, which is often presented in the first instance as a mark of respect. Maori words are increasingly being used in everyday conversation. It's perfectly fine to ask the meaning of Maori words, actually it is welcomed by New Zealand's Indigenous Polynesian peoples.

Bay of Islands Cruise Reviews
The ship was anchored off Bay of Islands for several hours and we took the tender to the shore. No excursion needed - free shuttle bus to Paihia where a remarkable craft market operates when the cruise ships are in. Read More
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Mary Faith
5 star before leaving the ship!! Walked around Paihia before getting the Ferry to Russell. More walking before a great meal at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel and retracing our steps to the ship.Read More
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Nice little scenic place.Read More
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We went our own way and had a good time :)Read More
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Mary Faith

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