An ideal spot for both Kiwis and international visitors to spend a few days or even weeks, Bay of Islands is best explored from Paihia. Let’s take a look at what’s on offer in the birthplace of New Zealand as we know it.

It’s Not Just a Clever Name

The eponymous Bay of Islands is made up of 144 pristine islands, most of which are untouched and look like something out of a movie. With distances between them varying greatly, it’s best to call on some local knowledge to see them. An independent kayak tour or an idyllic cruise around the amazing beaches and bays of Urupukapuka or Otehei Bay islands will serve up a feast for the eyes. Stories of the rich and colourful history can accompany this magical region’s island scenery.

New Zealand’s Most Significant and Controversial Historical Site

The award-winning Treaty of Waitangi Grounds historical experience and Museum of Waitangi are must-sees to understand the history of this young country. Waitangi, a stone’s throw from Paihia is where the Treaty of Waitangi – the contentious document that shaped the future of NZ – was signed in 1840.

Watch the Sunset from New Zealand’s Oldest Pub

A 15-minute ferry ride from Paihia is Russell, once the capital of New Zealand. Before the 1840s it was full of rowdy and poorly behaved whalers, sailors and traders, and was commonly referred to as ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’. Despite this infamous past, Russell is now a quaint and quiet settlement and contains some fascinating historical buildings including the Pompallier Mission and Printery. It’s home to the seaside Duke of Marlborough – New Zealand’s oldest licensed pub. Enjoy a refreshing beverage while watching the sun set over Paihia, across the water.

See Dolphins Flourish in Subtropical Waters

Not just a must-see for humans, Bay of Islands is also a hotbed of sea life with dolphins and whales aplenty. Visitors can encounter these awe-inspiring creatures in their natural habitat on a cruise safari. If you’re lucky you can even join them in the warm, subtropical waters.

Witness a Hole in a Rock Like No Other

The naturally formed ‘Hole in The Rock’ on Percy Island has a ceiling extending an almighty 18 metres above sea level. Formed over centuries by lashing wind and waves, the hole in the rock can be seen up close and personal during a leisurely boat cruise, or a hair-raising (or flattening) jet boat ride.