Bay of Islands

Back in 1769, Captain James Cook extensively charted the coast of New Zealand, and gave the Bay of Islands its name. Renowned for its scenic beauty, subtropical climate, fishing and boating, the Bay of Islands is one of the nation’s most popular holiday locations. Historically, the area is very important also, as it is officially where the Treaty of Waitangi, the nation’s founding document, was signed by an assembly of Maori leaders and the British Crown in 1840. 
Take a leisurely harbour cruise or zoom across the water in a giant speedboat. Keen sailors are well looked after here, with 144 islands and secluded bays to explore. Abundant big-game and light-tackle fishing are one of the region’s biggest attractions. Across the bay from Paihia is Russell, where you can visit the Captain Cook Museum or Christ Church, complete with bullet holes made by Maori warrior chiefs 150 years ago, or take a day trip to Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach in the upper North Island.


The region’s capital Paihia, is an excellent base from which to explore the Bay of Islands. It has delicious dining options and a good-sized town centre. From the wharf, you can arrange a trip to the outer islands, hook into a fishing expedition or catch a ferry to Russell. Paihia is also a great place to swim with wild dolphins, or perhaps even a whale if you’re lucky.

Top local adventures include cruising to the ‘hole in the rock’ at the tip of Cape Brett, finding dolphins (and even swimming with them) and sea kayak tours. Paihia is also just down the road from the historic Treaty House at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation. Just west of Paihia is Haruru, where you’ll find an impressive waterfall and a boardwalk.



Historic buildings and a seaside setting full of cafes, restaurants and art galleries combine to give Russell a truly romantic quality. This charming town is the perfect base for exploring the Bay of Islands.

Russell holds an important place in New Zealand's history, being the country's first sea port, its first European settlement and New Zealand's first capital in nearby Okiato. The town's streets retain their original layout and names from 1843, and many of its historic buildings can still be visited today.



The Northland town of Kerikeri has a long, colourful history. The area was home ground for the fearsome Maori chief Hongi Hika, 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.

The Kerikeri Mission Station, also known as Kemp House, is New Zealand’s oldest standing European building. Built to house the Reverend John Butler in 1821, this elegant wooden home has the protection of the Historic Places Trust.

Nearby is the Stone Store, which dates back to 1832 and is New Zealand's oldest stone building. Designed by Wesleyan missionary John Hobbs and built by an ex-convict stonemason from New South Wales, the store was meant to house large quantities of wheat from the mission farm at Te Waimate. When the wheat failed, the building was used as a kauri gum trading store.


Maori Culture

Northland and The Bay of Islands is known as 'the birthplace of New Zealand', and offers fascinating Maori cultural experiences. It is also home to the world's largest Kauri Tree.

From historic sites such as the Waitangi Historic Reserve - where the treaty that made New Zealand a British colony was signed - to the mythical Hokianga Harbour and Kauri Coast; Northland is rich in Maori culture and historical places. Enjoy a spiritual experience on the west coast when you visit Tane Mahuta, the world's largest Kauri Tree, or experience the warmth of Maori hospitality with a local Marae visit and hangi (earth oven).

In the Waitangi National Reserve you can visit the Treaty House, a beautiful Maori meeting house, and see a traditional Maori waka (war canoe).

Destination Northland

The Infinity Experience

Birthplace of a Nation
In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between Maori and the British Crown. Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds during your visit to the Bay of Islands to learn more.

Content & assistance provided by Tourism New Zealand.