Rich In History and a must see when visiting New Zealand
Swim with the dolphins, fish, dive, golf or just take in the unspoilt scenery of New Zealand's famous Bay of Islands. A great holiday destination all the year round. The 144 islands are a haven for holiday makers who enjoy sea activities and the beauty of the un crowded sub-tropical sandy beaches and native forests. It is also an area of considerable historical significance and is popular with craftspeople. It is the cradle of European civilisation in New Zealand and has fine examples of Maori culture for you to experience.
Wherever you are in the Bay of Islands, it’s impossible to escape
the lure of the sea. There are almost endless opportunities for immersing
yourself in the blue-green world of island and beach. Charter a yacht or launch.
Dive or snorkel. Paddle a sea kayak in and out of the islands’ nooks and
crannies. Swim with dolphins.
The Maritime Park is a natural wonderland with an abundance of wildlife including marlin, whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets and many other species.
Average daily temperatures range from 26.8 C/80 F in summer to 16 C/61 F in winter.
In 1769, the English explorer Captain James Cook dropped anchor in the Bay of Islands and set the wheels in motion for its settlement by the English. It was Cook who named the place Bay of Islands and it was here that English settlers first set up home in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The birth of New Zealand nationhood is traced back to 1840 Waitangi when Maori tribal leaders and the English colonisers forged a treaty which despite some flaws remains a watershed document for uniting New Zealand's various peoples into one common nation. After the Treaty, the British established Russell as the nation's capital, which later moved south to Auckland, then farther south to Wellington.
A Maori settlement
First British Official Resident
Busby settled with his wife and children in a house built at Waitangi from a wooden frame shipped over from Sydney. At this time there were around 1000 settlers in the Bay.
First British Governor
The Treaty of Waitangi
The Treaty was signed on February 6, 1840, outside the home of James Busby by forty six Maori chiefs and later over 450 Maori leaders around the country added their mark to the agreement.
The Treaty House
Busby's house, now known as the Treaty House is open to the public daily. In 1844, only four years later, Hone Heke, together with another chief Kawiti, showed their displeasure by chopping down the British flagstaff at Maiki Hill in Russell. Skirmishes between the Maori and Europeans have continued in various forms. Today the Government is currently working on the settlement of land claims and fishing rights which have been disputed since the original Treaty.
Exploring places full of history
Waitangi National Reserve
You can then walk around the extensive grounds visiting the Treaty House, the Maori Meeting House and the Maori War Canoe.
The Treaty House, one of New Zealand's oldest surviving buildings, fell into disrepair after the Busby family left in the 1870s. It was not until 1932, when Lord Bledisloe bought the house and grounds and gifted it to the nation, that it was restored and rebuilt to its present standard.
If you have time you can take a stroll around the reserve which includes recreational areas, tidal estuary, mangrove forest, open coastline and native bush. It's a most enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
For those who like to do their own thing first visit the Visitor and Cultural Centre along the waterfront. The building was previously the site of Russell's post office and courthouse from 1875-1969. At the centre pick up a leaflet on local heritage trails and then you can work out what you want to visit and how to get there. For more details visit our Russell page
Don't forget to see Christ Church - the oldest existing church in New Zealand, built in 1836 and still showing some of the old musket ball holes from the early wars. The grave stones dating back to the first settlers and whalers make interesting reading. Russell also boasts New Zealand's first police station and first liquor license (The Duke of Marlborough hotel)
Pompallier House is just further along from the information centre. Built in 1942, it was used as a printery of the Roman Catholic Mission and later a tannery and private home.
For lunch, try the Duke of Marlborough also on the waterfront. This is the fourth hotel on the same site (earlier ones were burnt down) It holds New Zealand's number 1 licence dated August 1827. They serve wonderful fish meals so fresh and tasty - it just melts in your mouth
Kemp House and Maori village
Swim with the dolphins
Underwater cameras provide unique viewing of the marine life which is displayed on a large TV monitor. Wet suits, snorkels and fins are supplied when and if you are ready to get into the water - and when you return you can hop into a hot shower !! The trip takes around four hours and leaves twice daily in summer and morning only in winter. It could be your experience of a lifetime!!
The Cream Trip
A choice of ways to get there
Other Major Towns in the Bay of Islands Region
Paihia - Tourist centre for the Bay's activities, tours, cruises, motels, souvenir shops, restaurants, etc. all centrally located. Paihia is the main visitor centre for the Bay of Islands and is the starting point for many sightseeing cruises including the Cape Brett Hole-in-the-Rock cruise, boat hires, diving and swimming with the dolphins excursions. A popular day excursion is the Cape Reinga trip to the northernmost point of New Zealand and features an exhilarating drive along Ninety Mile Beach. Paihia remained isolated until the second world war. A road via Opua opened Paihia to people who didn't have boats. It quickly established itself as the most popular seaside resort in the north. From it's hard earned beginning, Paihia is now the main centre for the Bay of Islands. Adventure activities, sightseeing, cafes, bars and accommodation are all here. Whether you want to jump out of the sky, dive under the ocean or explore the shore, Paihia can point you in the right direction.
Where the British and Maori signed the 1840 Treaty. Waitangi is within walking
distance of Paihia, and it is here that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in
1840, joining the Maori and British peoples together as a nation. The Treaty
House is now a museum and is part of the Waitangi Reserve, along with a Maori
meeting house and an impressive 120 feet (37 metre) 150-man canoe launched each
Waitangi Day (February 6) - New Zealand's national day.
The Coastal Walking Path starts in Opua the Harrison Scenic Reserve (rain forest) is a twenty minute walk and the scenic trip to Paihia takes three Hours. (a 5 km trip by road, 10 minutes by car) The community of Opua is small and centered around its international recreational Port, Marina and the Wharf (fishing is permitted). There are three charter boat companies and several independent operators. There is a good restaurant and take-a-way, small convenience store , Port operations office and the Post Office is small, friendly and efficient. There is a small boat launching ramp and a dingy dock. There are two boat yards, sail repair, engine shop and other supporting services making Opua a surprisingly good place to work on your boat. Yacht moorings are available for short or long term rental. The Opua Cruising Club is a local center of social activity in this provincial community. A new 240 berth marina provides dockage for local and overseas vessels.
Haruru means “big noise”, which is a good indication that these falls are worth seeing. The water falls in a horseshoe shape – very rare and quite spectacular – and Maori legend states that a taniwha (water monster) lives in the lagoon below. You can walk to Haruru Falls along the Waitangi walking track, or drive to Haruru Falls township – which is only 3 kilometres from Paihia. In the 1800s, there were over 100 Maori villages along the Haruru Falls river.
The railway line running through the centre of town to Opua is a remnant of those times. Unfortunately major maintenance requirements mean that regular trips by Gabriel, the renowned steam train, may not be taking place, however the station is open and welcomes visitors. Also visit the Kawiti Glow-worm Caves at Waiomio which boast a galaxy of glow-worm lights, pure white limestone formations and 12 generations of history.
For a comprehensive list of attractions, boat trips, local history and day trip destinations whilst staying in the Bay of Islands visit our Attractions and Activities page
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The are many cruise options to seek Dolphins and even swim with them
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