The Budget Guide to the Bay of Islands
Lucky enough to be able to fit the Bay of Islands in your New Zealand itinerary? You’ll have a blast in the winterless north! Beaches, waterfalls and historical sites are plentiful and free to visit, so you don’t have to blow your bucks on a skydive or dolphin cruise every day (although they are fun to do too).
With a range of budget accommodations across Paihia and Kerikeri, the two main towns of the Bay of Islands, all you need to worry about is how ice creams you’ll have. So let us guide you through the activities, accommodations and the eats in this guide to the Bay of Islands on a budget.
Tips for Visiting the Bay of Islands on a Budget
- Visit in the off-season (June to October) to see discounted rates for some activities and accommodations
- Suck it up and stay in budget accommodations – they’re really not that bad, as Paihia and Kerikeri have some fantastic motels, holiday parks and hostels
- Choose accommodation with self-catering facilities to save money on food
- If you have you’re own vehicle, hit all the free attractions of the Bay of Islands Z1508
- If you don’t have a vehicle, get a ferry ticket to Russell to explore more of the Bay of Islands (and go at sunset for a cheap sunset cruise)!
Free Activities in the Bay of Islands
Sticking to your budget is easy in The Bay when there are so many free ways to enjoy it. A great place to start is the Rainbow Falls Walk just outside of Kerikeri. A short walk from the car park brings you to several viewpoints of the majestic Rainbow Falls plunging into the river below. Find the waterfall on Rainbow Falls Road, just 4.5km (3 miles) from Kerikeri town centre. You can also extend your experience by taking the Kerikeri River Track down to the Stone Store, taking about 1h30mins one way.
For those based in Paihia, a great waterfall alternative is Haruru Falls. While Haruru Falls is easy to access just off Haruru Falls Road, we recommend taking the Waitangi to Haruru Falls walk along the Waitangi River, which takes around 2h30mins to complete one way. The walk starts opposite the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
At the beach is always a good way to spend some time in the Bay of Islands, whether it’s for a stroll or a swim. Some of the best beaches in the area include Oneroa Bay behind the town of Russell, Paihia Town Beach and Te Tii Bay at the northern end of Paihia town.
In Kerikeri, we recommend popping into Makana Confections to watch the chocolatiers hard at work in the chocolate factory. Find them at 504 Kerikeri Road.
For more inspiration, see the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Bay of Islands and 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia.
Cheap Activities in the Bay of Islands
For those willing to spend a little, there are also some decent and affordable activities to treat yourself to in the Bay of Islands. While the Bay of Islands is steeped in history, one of the cheapest historical attractions is the Stone Store and Kemp House in Kerikeri. Visit one of the earliest stores in New Zealand, the Stone Store, which is free to browse or pay around NZ$15 to take a look around the Stone Store Museum and take a guided tour of the oldest surviving house in New Zealand, the Kemp House. Find these attractions on Landing Road in Kerikeri.
Combining history, scenery, food or whatever you decide to do, Russell is an interesting town once known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific”. The historic town can either be driven to or you can take the ferry (around NZ$13 return) from Paihia. Once there, take a look around Pompallier Mission, either around NZ$7 for the gardens or NZ$15 for a guided tour of the old printery, tannery and storehouse for the French Marist mission. You can also admire Christ Church, New Zealand’s oldest surviving church, for free, hike up Flagstaff Hill for the views, or indulge at the historic pubs or dessert places around town.
For more ideas, see the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Bay of Islands Z1508 and 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia.
Cheap Eats in the Bay of Islands
While cooking your own meals in self-catering accommodation is always a good way to stick to your food budget, if you can’t resist trying out some of the local eateries, then these are the ones that won’t empty your wallet too much…
One thing that the Bay of Islands has a lot of, that’s affordable, are bagels! Hell Hole (19 York Street, Russell) has a creative mix of bagels, croissants and baguettes, as well as locally-roasted coffee. Letz Cafe (9 Williams Road, Paihia) serves up hearty bagels, burgers, sandwiches and a wide range of gelato. Speaking of gelato, ice cream and gelato are kind of a big thing too, especially at Cellini’s Ice Cream & Espresso (Williams Road, Paihia) and Movenpick (Williams Road, Paihia).
While nothing glamorous, Vinnies Takeaway (Marsden Road, Paihia) does popular fish and chips and breakfast rolls, as does Haruru Falls Takeaways (9 Yorke Road, Paihia).
For more food-related stuff, head over to The Foodie Guide to the Bay of Islands.