Bay of Islands and its cities, in the North of New Zealand

Bay of Islands and its cities, in the North of New Zealand

The Bay of Islands is in the Far North of the North Island of New Zealand.

This region of New Zealand is rich in history and a fantastic example of why New Zealand has much to offer the traveller. This area of New Zealand is where the first missionaries settled in the early nineteenth century.

- Paihia - The main town of the Bay of Islands, Paihia is known as the jewel of the magnificent Bay of Islands. With shimmering safe waters and superb beaches, Paihia is a good place to be based for your Bay of Islands experience. Take a relaxing walk along unspoilt beaches, take a guided tour through historical sites or go fishing. If adventure is what you seek, perhaps try skydiving, parasailing, scuba diving or kayaking. Paihia is the place of friendly locals, happy cafés and people enjoying life. Whether it is swimming with delightful dolphins, taking in a spot of retail therapy or just lazing under a tree, Paihia is the place for it.

- Russell - A quick ferry ride across the water from Paihia is the charming, elegant township of Russell. This tranquil place was once known as "the hell hole of the Pacific" when it was the shore leave destination for sailors, whalers and traders in the early 19th century. Today Russell is still a favoured spot for boaties who seek safe anchorage. You will find a wide range of accommodation available and you can also arrange sightseeing, adventure or fishing activity from the Russell waterfront. If you're planning to do any island or bush hiking, be sure to call into the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre. For self-drive explorers, take State Highway 11 to Opua and catch the vehicular ferry to Russell or leave State Highway 1 at Whakapara and travel the fully tar-sealed scenic coastal route via Oakura. There's also a passenger ferry service from Paihia.

- Waitangi - Truly one of New Zealand's most historic sites, being the place where Maori and European joined in signing the Treaty of Waitangi on 2 February 1840. Here the Treaty was signed by the representatives of the English Crown and a small number of Maori chiefs. Then the Treaty was circulated around New Zealand and further Maori chiefs added their signatures to it. The largest signing by chiefs took place at the Mangungu Mission House in Horeke on 12 February 1840. Not all tribes signed the Treaty!

The Treaty House is located on a vast peaceful estate which includes a fully carved Maori meeting house, one of the largest Maori war canoes and a Visitor Centre and Gallery. The estate is a must-see for any visitor interested in New Zealand's history and culture. The Waitangi Golf Course is located in a wonderful setting with majestic ocean views. And for a deeper understanding of how mangrove forests fit into coastal ecology, take a trek through to Haruru Falls or join a guided kayak tour.

- Kerikeri - Kerikeri was home ground for the fearsome Hongi Hika, a Maori chief who terrorised many tribes throughout the North Island in the early 1800s. Yet he was kind to missionaries - allowing Samuel Marsden to establish New Zealand's second mission station here. Kerikeri overflows with orchards and galleries, fruit and art. All along the roadside, orchards sell their delicious oranges, kiwi fruit and avocados. Follow the art and craft trail and you'll get to know some of the artisans. Visit the wineries, lunch in one of the many outdoor cafés, indulge in delicious handmade chocolates or locally made macadamia liqueur. Kerikeri also has excellent sporting facilities including golf, all-weather tennis and yachting. Expect a good choice of cafés and restaurants. Within minutes by car or an hour's walk from the Kerikeri Basin car park is the 27 metre Rainbow Falls. Further afield lies the Puketi Forest, an ideal place to tramp and view kauri trees from a boardwalk which also has wheelchair access.

- Opua - For those who arrive in the Bay of Islands by sea, Opua is your port. It's where the boats live - yachts, launches, ferries and runabouts of every description. On the wharf, a number of charter companies offer yachts you can sail yourself. A new 240 berth marina is now complete so with the friendly yacht club, the boat haul-out yards and extensive marine services, Opua is a delightful safe-haven for any sailor. It is also where you catch the car ferry if you want to drive to Russell.

- Kawakawa - Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Kawakawa is marked by its unique entrance sign, an arch constructed in the style of Frederick Hundertwasser. Kawakawa is home to the famous Hundertwasser-designed public toilets - a definite must on your itinerary. This is the only building in the Southern Hemisphere designed by the Austrian born artist and is the last building he designed before he died in 1999.

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