Between Auckland and Kaitaia there is so much to see and do and though it would be great to take your time over 7 days, sometimes other commitments just don’t allow the time.
The key is to not spread yourself too thin, experience what you can and enjoy the break. We’ve broken things down to sizeable itineraries for a weekend, an extended weekend, and short breaks. And if you do have the time to take a week – do!
This area is well endowed with cafes, history, scenery, thrill sports, tours, markets, beaches, golf courses, vineyards and cruises – but all enjoying a slower pace of life. Far North Rentals can get you to where you want to go in comfort with picking up and dropping off at different locations giving you extra flexibility.
When you have 2 Days (1 night)
In the Bay of Islands, Kerikeri and Paihia are only 25-minute drive apart, and nearby Russell within easy reach, there are masses to see and do between these destinations.
From Paihia wharf head across to Russell by ferry for the first morning and explore the township’s numerous historic buildings, return to the Russell waterfront for lunch with spectacular views and people watching.
Catch a ferry back to Paihia and take a stroll along the Paihia beachfront to Waitangi (30 minutes). The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are significant in terms of New Zealand’s history, here the signing of the first accord between the British Crown and the Māori people took place in 1840. These treaty grounds have won various awards over the past years. For anyone wanting to learn about Maori culture and early New Zealand this is a “must visit destination” Waitangi website
The Bay of Islands has the warmest waters in New Zealand and swimming with the dolphin tours leave from Paihia every day. If you want to see the dolphins but stay dry the local catamaran cruise has large viewing decks offering perfect photo opportunities. And if you’re lucky enough – orcas, whales, seals, penguins and other wildlife can be seen as well.
There are also fishing charters, cruises to the famous Cape Brett Hole in the Rock. If water sports are more your thing, talk to the extremely helpful staff at the Paihia I-site about sea kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing and diving.
Stroll around Paihia until a restaurant catches your eye before heading to one of the countless hotels and motels for a good night’s sleep.
Rise and shine, it’s time to get in a morning swim before your drive to Kerikeri where you’ll visit the Kerikeri Stone Store and Kemp House, before a scenic bush walk to the Kerikeri (Rainbow) Falls, 2km upstream from the Basin (1 hour).
Kerikeri is a fantastic place full of arts, markets, and excellent local food. On Saturday mornings The Old Packhouse Market (Bay of Islands largest market) will be the perfect place to meet the locals, sample excellent coffee, and produce, then sit back and slow down.
Pick up an arts and craft trail brochure from your accommodation host and spend the afternoon browsing for art prints, pottery, jewellery, paintings, Kiwi ana and Māori crafts. For lunch try the Marsden Estate winery and restaurant. Grapes were first planted in this area almost 200 years ago which was very insightful of Samuel Marsden as the Bay of Islands gorgeous warm weather produces award winning wines. What could be nicer than relaxed courtyard dining overlooking the lake and vines, set amidst the citrus-covered slopes of Kerikeri.
When you have 3 Days (2 nights)
Once you’ve enjoyed the 1-night itinerary above, book yourself into one of the excellent Bed and Breakfasts dotted around Kerikeri for your second night.
On Day 3 take a drive 90km north from Kerikeri Village to Karikari Peninsula. Golf courses are never very far away with international standard courses amongst the Bay of Islands including Kauri Cliffs, Bay of Islands Golf Club, Peppers Carrington Resort, and Waitangi Golf Club.
Karikari Peninsula has the stunning Matauri, Cable, and Maitai Bays and Coopers Beach. Being surrounding by all this water is sure to put you in the mood for the freshest fish & chips at the famous Mangonui Fish & Chip shop built over the water. Mangonui is a quaint historic settlement from the whaling days that has a charming seaside atmosphere.
When you have 4 Days (3 nights)
After a day of sunshine, beaches and fresh fish, Mangonui and Doubtless Bay have some great accommodation options including beautiful colonial hotels and motels or choose an apartment.
You’re now less than 2 hours away from the top of the country.
Next morning drive to New Zealand’s north-eastern tip, Cape Reinga. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on 90 Mile Beach and if you’re feeling adventurous the quad biking or blokarting on this beach are fantastic fun.
Next, a trip to Gumdiggers Park in Awanui (100 km south of the Cape) is a worthwhile place to stop, backed by many positive reviews on TripAdvisor and features on the Must Do New Zealand website.
Many people reach the Bay of Islands on flights from Auckland, or by mooring a boat at the Bay of Islands Marina and after a day at Cape Reinga most head south again to the Bay of Islands.