Islands of islands. The island country of New Zealand is comprised of two primary islands – the South Island and the North Island – plus a number of smaller islands. And within the North Island is a special location called “The Bay of Islands”, a location that has played a vital role in the history of New Zealand. And a place that today is one of the most popular tourist sites in the country.
New Zealanders and foreign travelers alike flock to the Bay of Islands during the New Zealand summer – from January through April – the months with the lowest rainfall and the warmest temperatures. Take note though – the temperatures are warm and comfortable, but not tropical - averaging in the mid to high 70’s. And if you want to swim, the water temperatures are a bit chilly – generally around 72 F.
The most popular activities in the Bay revolve around boats – yachting, sailing, kayaking, game fishing, and more. Many tour operators offer boat tours that cruise the bay in search of marine life. Dolphins, whales, and marlins as well as penguins and many other species of shorebirds can be found here. Swimming with the dolphins is especially popular. And longer tours sometimes combine the marine exploration with a stop on one of the picturesque islands for a traditional kiwi barbecue lunch. But if you’re more adventurous, a kayak will offer you a chance to float among the islands at your leisure and hopefully snag a close-up look at some of the marine and avian life.
Hiking is another popular activity in New Zealand, and the Bay of Islands is no exception. There are scenic reserves scattered all along the shores of the Bay and numerous guiding companies offer educational walks, especially through the magnificent kauri forests or to some scenic waterfalls. Birders will want to keep their binoculars handy to catch a sight of some of the uniquely New Zealand species such as the North Island weka, the New Zealand dotterel, the extremely rare kokako, or the legendary kookaburra. Another hiking option is to take a night hike through the forest and search for more unique wildlife that can’t be spotted during the day – best to do this with a guide, for sure!
And if you’re up for a slightly different form of excitement, how about trying “dune riding”? You climb to the top of some of the giant sand dunes and then boogie board your way back down.
For culture and history buffs, the Bay of Islands offers some interesting options. A great time to visit would be on February 6th – New Zealand’s “birthday”, called Waitangi Day – celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document. And this signing occurred here in the Bay of Islands back in 1840. At the Waitangi Treaty Grounds they hold a festival in celebration of the day with ceremonies, sports, various performances and concerts. Even if you are not there on February 6th itself, you can visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the Treaty House to learn more about the historic events that took place here. And on most evenings they hold a performance that tells the history of New Zealand through drama, music and dance.
Later in February, the town of Kerikeri holds their “Ocean and Orchard Festival” celebrating local produce, gourmet cuisine produced by local chefs, and award-winning wines from local vineyards. Foodies will love this!
So if you’re planning to be in New Zealand, and want a truly kiwi style vacation – check out the Bay of Islands.
Note: no promotional consideration was provided or paid for this article.