The Guide to the Bay of Islands for Families©
The Guide to the Bay of Islands for Families

The Travel Guide to the Bay of Islands for Families


The Family Guide to Paihia, Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands

Venture north to New Zealand’s land of endless summer, the Bay of Islands. Made up of the seaside towns of Paihia and Russell and the quaint inland communities of Kerikeri and Kawakawa, the Bay of Islands is an idyllic family escape for a long weekend. Cruise the bay and its 144 islands while looking out for dolphins, visit towering waterfalls and even-more towering kauri trees, be awed by glowworms and enjoy some relaxing family time at the beach – it’s what a holiday in The Bay is all about! You’re also spoiled for choice with hotels, holiday homes, motels and holiday parks, so let us guide you through it all in this travel guide to the Bay of Islands for families.

Things to Do in the Bay of Islands with Kids

  • Look out for dolphins on a Bay of Islands cruise
  • See the giants of the forest on the Manginangina Kauri Walk
  • Soar over the Bay with Flying Kiwi Parasail
  • Learn about New Zealand history and the Maori culture at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Walk to the beautiful Rainbow Falls
  • Do a nature cruise and kayak under a waterfall with Bay of Islands Cruise & Kayak
  • See the glowworms at the Kawiti Glowworm Caves
  • Do a day trip to Urupukapuka Island
  • Watch chocolate being made at Makana Confections
  • Enjoy some family beach time.

For more details on each experience, check out the 10 Things to Do in the Bay of Islands with Kids.

The Guide to the Bay of Islands for Families©

Family Adventure Activities

Admittedly, most family-friendly adventures in the Bay of Islands is out on the water, whether it’s looking out for dolphins on a cruise or parasailing high over the islands. Nevertheless, we’ve compiled a few ideas to get you started.

Jump onboard one of the Bay of Islands’ popular cruises, like The Cream Trip with Fullers GreatSights. This full-day experience is a great way to see some of the 144 islands in the bay, including a short stop on Urupukapuka Island with a stunning beach and bar/cafe. Along the way, your guides will be on the lookout for dolphins, whales and seals, giving you time to watch them if you’re lucky enough for an encounter. Make sure your kids can handle a seven-hour trip before deciding if this is right for your family. Trips depart from Paihia and Russell wharves. Find out more about cruises with Fullers GreatSights on Viator and Tripadvisor.

An alternative way to see the islands is high above the water with Flying Kiwi Parasail. Children only need to weigh over 20kg (44lbs) to join in, which with tandem and triple flights available, makes for a fun shared family experience. See the many islands scattering the bay, as well as the town of Paihia as you soar over the water. Trips depart from Paihia Wharf and last approximately 1h30mins. Find out more about Flying Kiwi Parasail on Viator and Tripadvisor.

Another way to entertain the kids is on a cruise and kayaking tour with Bay of Islands Cruise & Kayak. Enjoy a relaxing nature cruise down the Waitangi River up to the amazing Haruru Falls where your family can get up-close to the falls on kayaks or stand-up paddleboards. Trips depart from Paihia Wharf. Find out more about Bay of Islands Cruise & Kayak on Viator and Tripadvisor.

For more adventures for families, check out the 10 Things to Do in the Bay of Islands with Kids.

The Guide to the Bay of Islands for Families© David Kirkland - Northland Inc

All-weather Activities for Families

Yes, even in the sunny Bay of Islands the weather doesn’t always play ball. Whether you’re caught in the rain or not, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds have plenty of all-weather attractions that are fun and educational for the whole family. Visit the on-site museum to learn about how New Zealand became a nation, check out some heritage buildings to see how people would have lived in the 1800s, and watch a Maori cultural performance in a carved meeting house. Find out more about the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on Viator and Tripadvisor.

For a magical and mainly undercover experience, check out the Kawiti Glowworm Caves near Kawakawa. Delve into a 200m (660ft) limestone cave with stalactites, stalagmites and thousands of glowworms on this tour that lasts approximately 45-60 minutes and also includes a short bushwalk. Note that the tour is not suitable for baby strollers. This experience is also included in the half-day Bay of Islands Highlights Tour with Bay of Islands Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), as well as the full-day tour to the Waipoua Forest with Fullers GreatSights (on Viator and Tripadvisor).

For more suggestions, check out the 10 Things to Do in the Bay of Islands with Kids.

The Guide to the Bay of Islands for Families© Unsplash

Free Family Activities

Stick to your travel budget in the Bay of Islands by also adding some free experiences to your family itinerary. One of the highlights in the Rainbow Falls Walk in Kerikeri. Admire a stunning 27m (89ft) waterfall on this easy 10-minute walk that is suitable for baby strollers. From Rainbow Falls, you can enjoy a 1h30min walk along the Kerikeri River Track should you want to extend the experience.

Another easy trail suitable for families and even strollers is the Manginangina Kauri Walk, approximately 20km (12 miles) from Kerikeri. Be in awe of kauri trees, the largest types of tree in New Zealand, on this 15-minute boardwalk loop in the Puketi Forest. Alternatively, the Puketi Nature Trail, a little further south, is a similar walk but taking about an hour to complete.

For more ideas, see the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia and 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Bay of Islands.

More About the Bay of Islands for Families

That’s it from the travel guide to the Bay of Islands for families. Discover even more family trip tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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