Undeveloped beaches and Maori cultural hotspots
Equally beautiful and historically significant, the bay is peppered with 144 vastly untouched islands that are renowned for their inviting clear waters, subtropical climate and diverse marine life.
- Cruise around the beaches and bays on a boat tour.
- Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for a tour that explains this site’s history.
- Charter a catamaran for a private tour and swim, snorkel, kayak the nearby islands.
- Take a helicopter tour of Cape Reinga and the 90-mile beach.
- Enjoy a private tour of the Waipoua Forest with a Maori guide.
The Bay of Islands is one of New Zealand’s most popular travel spots, drawing locals and international visitors alike. The lure of the sea is impossible to ignore here, with virtually endless opportunities to explore the archipelago. Paddle through its turquoise inlets in a sea kayak, try your hand at deep-sea fishing, discover the underwater world on a diving excursion, embark on a sailing venture or head into the maritime playground to swim with dolphins and spot blue penguins, marlin and whales.
On land, take to the walking trails that weave through dappled verdant forests and past secluded beaches on Urupukapuka Island, or try to wrap your arms around the mighty trunk of the native kauri tree. For those who want to do very little at all, take your pick from some of the country’s best beaches that are fringed with New Zealand’s iconic, red-flowered pohutukawa trees.
Dotted around the islands are a cluster of seaside settlements, each with their own quintessential kiwi charm. From the peaceful Opua to the social hub of Paihia and the historic charm of Russell, they all offer a taste of classic New Zealand beach culture with low-key cafes, chatty locals and shop fronts that are reminiscent of the 50s. You’re sure to see the creative side of the community with local artworks on display in eateries throughout the region.
But the Bay of Islands is not just a coastal getaway, it has also played a significant role in the history of New Zealand, marking the spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and signed in 1840. This agreement between the local Maori tribes and Europeans is still the cornerstone of race relations in the country today.
A visit to this archipelago serves up a rare concoction of exploration, restoration, culture and history, and without the crowds that typically flood a subtropical destination, it’s all the more alluring.
Island hop between some of New Zealand’s best kept secret beaches, enjoying the best weather New Zealand has to offer at its northernmost point. Stop at Paihia and learn about the historic significance this stunning area had in bringing two peoples together as one.
Our top Bay of Islands example trips
Whatever you want your luxury tour or safari itinerary to include, we’ll create something fully bespoke for you… and only you.
Our top accommodation in the Bay of Islands
Eagle's Nest$$$$$Set within a 75-acre estate on its own private ridgeline dropping into a valley is Eagle’s Nest, a collection of five luxury villas in the heart of the Bay of Islands. Dotted along the peninsular and hidden among the native bush, each of the villas enjoy sweeping views across pristine landscape, the calm oceans waters and surrounding islands. Contemporary in design, each villa offers plenty of indoor and outdoor space and four of the five come with their own private pools. With up to four bedrooms, the villas are perfect for families and groups while those looking for a secluded getaway will love the First Light Temple villa, an idyllic getaway for two. The Bay of Islands is an outdoor lover’s dream with everything from fishing, kayaking and diving to mountain biking and helicopter rides on your doorstep. There is also the nearby town of Russell just a few minutes away, and a team of spa therapists offering in-room treatments for when you want to simply relax and unwind.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs$$$$$Located within 6,000 acres near Matauri Bay, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs enjoys uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean and native forest. 22 suites are located within guest cottages dotted around the grounds, with each cottage housing two suites. Guests will have the feeling of staying in a private home, with a spacious bedroom and living area, open fireplace and oversized bath tub. There are suites specially designed for families that feature a large private balcony. The Owner’s Cottage is perfect for families or groups with two en-suite bedrooms, each with their own fireplace, a living room and a beautiful private infinity pool and outdoor Jacuzzi. In the main lodge you’ll find the dining room where chefs create a mouthwatering menu using locally sourced produce. Breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and dinner are all included with a stay at Kauri Cliffs. Guests can also choose to dine on the verandah overlooking the ocean, or enjoy a truly unique dining experience with a picnic on a secluded beach or by a waterfall. A day spa is set within the native Totara Forest and there is a fitness centre with indoor lap pool and Jacuzzi, as well as an outdoor swimming pool and two tennis courts.
Helena Bay Lodge$$$$$Helena Bay Lodge is nestled in its cove in the top corner of New Zealand’s North Island, an intimate and exclusive luxury retreat backed by forest and looking out on its private length of coastline. There are just five individual suites, each named after native birds, with balconies and views to the South Pacific Ocean. The two larger villas have their own fireplaces and bathtubs. Leica binoculars are provided for the opportunity to spot visiting whales and dolphins. In the Main House, which forms a U-shape around the heated outdoor swimming pool, discover the owner’s eclectic artwork and treasures, which have been collected on travels around the globe, as well as a gym, sauna, library, lounge areas and an outdoor fire pit. Dining here is a highlight, Helena Bay having tempted Head Chef Michele Martino from Italy’s Michelin-starred Ristorante Don Alfonso to create an incredible ‘estate to plate’ menu of lamb, beef and honey come from the on-site farm and home-grown organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. Explore the Helena Bay Estate on hiking and cycling trails (two of the latest mountain bikes here feature assistive electric motors), nature walks and farm tours. Spend the day relaxing on the beach of take to the water paddle boarding, kayaking or spend some time fishing from the pontoon.
The Landing$$$$$Hidden away in the waters of the Bay of Islands, The Landing is set in one of the most historically and culturally significant places in New Zealand. With six private beaches, verdant hills and oceans stretching off towards the horizon, this private residence is a haven of tranquility amongst coastal wilderness. The four beautifully appointed houses focus on being distinctly private and exclusive spaces, individually tailored to their idyllic surroundings and designed to be environmentally friendly by an award-winning architect. Guests can choose from The Boathouse, the Cooper Residence, the Vineyard Villa and the Gabriel Residence. Seaside panoramas and private landscaped gardens accompany each lodge. Chefs use local produce in their outstanding menus while pairing dishes with superb regional wines grown at The Landing’s own vineyard. Walk down to one of the various beaches to soak up gorgeous New Zealand sun in privacy or take out the kayaks, paddleboards or mountain bikes available to guests to discover more of this stunning region. Work on your forehand on the tennis court, let off some steam in the sauna or drift away under the instruction of a yoga or Pilates instructor. Kauri Cliffs, an internationally-renowned golf course, is also a short helicopter trip away.
Sanctuary at Bay of Islands$$$$$The Sanctuary at Bay of Islands enjoys an idyllic location on Opua Hill, between Paihia and the small town of Opua. It is nestled among native bush and enjoys cliffside views out to Russell and the surrounding bays. There are just four rooms at the Sanctuary, with private balconies and decorated in soft, earthy tones. The entire lodge is clad in cedar and blends seamlessly into the natural surroundings. The wood-burning fireplaces flanked by leather sofas provide a welcoming focus to the lodge and Maori weavings and local artwork are dotted throughout. Guests can enjoy wholesome and hearty food during their stay at Sanctuary and fresh, locally sourced produce is at the heart of the lodge’s philosophy. There is lots to do while you’re here, so set aside some time to swim in the infinity pool, unwind with a massage treatment or take a yoga class.
Te Koha Lodge$$$$$Bright and comfortable, the rooms at Te Koha Lodge are contemporary and stylish. The wide decks offer views over golden beaches, rocky promontories and towards the Cavilli Islands. It’s the perfect place from which to explore the Bay of Islands, but if all you want to do is relax, some rooms even allow you to enjoy the sunrise from the comfort of your bed. Dinner at Te Koha also comes with a view, whether you choose to enjoy your meals at the dining table or out on the decks. Be it a romantic dinner for two, or a celebration with friends, tuck into fresh produce from a farmers market, with a panoramic view of Te Ngaere and Piapia bays. Make the most of the beautiful scenery and soak up the sun or enjoy a picnic. The lodge’s garden features native and exotic plants, creating a fragrant home for a variety of birds.