Get Out on the Water in the Bay of Islands
Since the early Maoris, New Zealand has always had a significant relationship with the ocean. What better place to discover the magic of New Zealand’s waters than in the Bay of Islands?! The bay is a coastal paradise with 144 islands. The waters are teeming with dolphins, fish and all sorts of fascinating sea creatures. And with scorching summers and mild winters, there’s never a bad time to test out the waters in the Bay of Islands.
Whether you want to cruise around the unusual rock formations of the bay or get stuck in with some dolphin swimming or scuba diving, there is a whole range of ways to experience the water in the Bay of Islands. Most trips depart from Paihia and Russell. Additionally, the Waitangi River, just a short drive or walk from Paihia, holds more awesome water activities in the Bay of Islands usually ending with the spectacular finale of the roaring Haruru Falls.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your water adventures in the Bay of Islands!
1. Scuba Diving in the Bay of Islands
It doesn’t get anymore watery than in scuba diving! The Bay of Islands is one of the best dive spots in New Zealand for both beginners and experienced alike. Get among the kelp forests, home to a colourful array of fish species. Those who are qualified can check out shipwrecks like the famous Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, as well as the HMNZS Canterbury. Check out more dive locations in 10 Places to Scuba Dive in New Zealand.
Location: Location: Paihia Dive, Dive North and Dive Zone Bay of Islands all operate in the Bay of Islands.
2. Sail Away in the Bay
Sailing trips in the Bay of Islands really is a way to make an activity your own. Get as involved or relaxed as you want with opportunities to learn sailing techniques. After a day exploring the bay by the power of the elements with Barefoot Sailing Adventures (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), R. Tucker Thompson (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Vigilant Yacht Charters (on Viator and Tripadvisor) you’ll understand why sailing is such a favourite Kiwi pastime. There are options to take an all-day island-hopping cruise, a sunset cruise or an overnight cruise. See more experiences like this in the 8 Luxury Activities in the Bay of Islands.
Location: Paihia Wharf and Paihia Beach
3. Go Kayaking, Paddle-boarding or Waka Paddling
You have heaps of options when it comes to paddling yourself around the Bay of Islands. Either hire a kayak and go on your own little mission around the bay join a guided tour down the wildlife and culture-filled Waitangi River. The Waitangi River is home to mangrove forests leading to the impressive Haruru Falls. Get stuck in there and kayak right underneath the falls! Waka paddling tours also take you down the Waitangi River where you can immerse yourself in the Maori culture while learning to paddle a traditional Maori canoe.
Location: Kayaking operators can be found on Paihia Beach and at the mouth of the Waitangi River. Book your trip with Bay of Islands Cruise & Kayak (more in on Viator and Tripadvisor), Coastal Kayakers (on Viator and Tripadvisor), The Rock Adventure Cruise (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Bay of Islands Kayaking (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
4. Cruise Around the Bay and Outer Islands
Cruises depart daily from Paihia and Russell to go and explore some of 144 islands that are scattered throughout the bay. Check out the gargantuan Hole in the Rock where, if conditions allow, the boat with cruise right through the middle. While some cruises simply show you the quick highlights of the Bay of Islands, others allow you to hop off the boat and spend time hiking, snorkelling or kayaking on the islands.
Location: Tours from the Paihia Wharf & Russell are available with Explore NZ (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Fullers GreatSights (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Additionally, Albatross V Expeditions offers tours from Russell (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
5. Parasail Over the Bay of Islands
How does seeing the bay from 1600ft sound? Get a whole different perspective out on the water with a parasailing flight! The Bay of Islands is one of the premier spots in New Zealand to try out this thrilling experience. It’s not necessarily a “water” experience, but it’s certainly an adventurous experience out on the water.
6. Go Fishing
There’s no better “local” experience than going out on the water for a fishing trip. Your guide will share the best fishing spots in the bay with you to catch some whopping snapper. What’s more, you’re likely to go back to your hostel with fresh fish for dinner. For more information, check out Fishing in New Zealand.
Location: Paihia Wharf
7. Swim with Dolphins
[Update: swimming with bottlenose dolphins is now prohibited in the Bay of Islands. Dolphin-viewing cruises still operate in the afternoons].
Marine mammals often occupy the waters of the Bay of Islands, the most common of which are the bottlenose dolphins. Some cruises, like Fullers GreatSights and Explore NZ, departing from Paihia and Russell give you the opportunity to throw on a wetsuit, mask and snorkel if you’re lucky enough to spot dolphins leaping from the water. Alternatively, there are cruises dedicated to seeking out whales and dolphins for you to observe and to swim with the latter. Miss out this time, try these other locations in 5 Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in New Zealand.
Location: Departing from Paihia and Russell