Top walks in the Bay of Islands

From lush forests and rivers to stunning coastlines and islands, walks in the Bay of Islands allow you to truly get a feel for how special the area is. We’ve put together our list of top walks in the Bay of Islands, from short easy forest strolls to a two-day coastal expedition.

Kerikeri river track: This easy-going 2-hour trail along the riverbank is shaded by regenerating kauri and totara forest, making it the perfect option on a hot day – you also get to see two waterfalls! It begins near the stone store, and not far into the track you’ll come across the remains of the historic Kerikeri hydro-electric station, which you can go inside. Soon after that you can take a dip at the bottom of the Wharepuke Falls. The walk ends at the roaring Rainbow Falls, an impressive 27m high – the return track is back along the way you came. Easy walking for kids, you could also do it with a sturdy pushchair.

Puketi Night walk: The New Zealand bush comes alive at night, especially one as biodiverse, vast and ancient as Puketi Forest. Beginning at twilight, the bird song changes from day calls to night calls, and the bats start to fly overhead in their nightly hunt for insects. The puriri moth (or ghost moth) with a massive wingspan of up to 15 cm, found only in the North Island, heavily flutters and bumps its way through the bush. Kiwi and morepork start calling through the darkness. To walk Puketi Forest at night with us at Adventure Puketi is one of the most unique walks you can do in the area – especially with our guide pointing out the unique creepy crawlies, the night flowers, the birds and trees, and of course to have you return safely from your excursion.

Puketi Nature Trail Loop: Also in the ancient Puketi Forest, this 1 hour loop is flat and leads you through beautiful kauri forest (look out for the kauri grove halfway through), with numerous signposts along the way identifying the flora. You are likely to hear some gorgeous native bird song and if you go in the evening, you can see the glow-worms where the boardwalk begins.

Cape Brett Track: This is walk for the epic views, extreme drop offs and strong leg muscles! The 16-kilometre trail traverses native and regenerating bush and takes you over dramatic cliff faces plunging down into the ocean, all the way out to the Cape Brett lighthouse. The old lighthouse keeper’s house is now a 23-bed DOC hut you can book to stay at. Rather than walking from Rawhiti, some people take a water taxi from Rawhiti to Deep Water Cove, and walk the remaining 2-3 hours to the lighthouse. Then the next day they might walk the full distance back to Rawhiti. One for the bucket list!

Bay of Islands coastline walk: This 6-hour loop takes you full circle in the Bay of Islands, using a combination of walkways and ferries. The first leg, Paihia to Opua, is part of the Te Araroa Trail – the well-formed path is undulating and gives you excellent views over the water across to the Russell Peninsula. At Opua, fuel up on food and drinks and board the ferry to Okiato. The track from here to Russell has a few flat sections but also involves a hill with a lot of steps. Once you get to Russell, enjoy a well-deserved drink at the Duke before catching a passenger ferry back to Paihia.

Flagstaff Hill Track, Russell: Te Maiki/Flagstaff Hill was where the Union Jack was first flown in New Zealand, in 1840 (it was chopped down four times in the next 5 years as a gesture against the rule). The 360-degree views from the top of the hill are absolutely breath-taking. The walk takes you through regenerating manuka and kanuka, across a stream and wetland, before climbing the steep hill. You might be lucky enough to see the endangered North Island weka (no dogs allowed).

Urupukapuka: It wouldn’t be a trip to the Bay of Islands without heading out to at least one island. Our pick is the beautiful Urupukapuka. Take a ferry to the island’s Otehei Bay, where you can swim, kayak, picnic or enjoy a drink at the restaurant/bar there. The rest of the island has gorgeous walking tracks and secluded bays galore. It’s also a predator-free bird sanctuary – check out the BOI blog  for where on the island to spot birds from endangered ducks to kakariki.

We hope you manage to tick one or two of these off your list when you visit our beautiful Bay of Islands – we’d love to hear how you found them. If you’d like to include the Puketi Night Walk on your itinerary, get in touch!