The Bay of Islands packs a punch with the sheer range of epic activities on offer – from getting airborne parasailing or adventuring round the islands yacht sailing, to sampling delectable wines and dishes at world-class vineyards, carving some dirt tracks mountain biking, walking through ancient forests and much more. We’ve put together our top things to do in the Bay of Islands so you can get the best out of your next trip.
Reach dizzying heights parasailing
Jump on New Zealand’s highest parasailing flight with Flying Kiwi Parasail, taking you to the heady heights of 1,300 feet (almost 400m, the same as a 100-storey building)! The scenery from up here is breath-taking, floating above the calm azure waters of the Bay of Islands, forested islands, golden beaches, peninsulas and settlements – and you might even see dolphins or orca below. If you like, you can go up solo, or with one or two friends (kids weighing more than 20kg can go up too, accompanied by an adult).
Sail one of the best sailing spots on the globe
The Bay of Islands attracts people from all over the world just for its sailing – with hundreds of hidden bays and beaches, calm waters, and chance marine wildlife encounters, you’ll feel like a true explorer on the water. Jump on a modern 33-foot catamaran with Barefoot Sailing, or the 50-foot vessel Carino NZ, and you’ll be part of a small intimate group, help hoist the sails, learn about the area from the local hosts, and see the Bay of Islands from a spectacular viewpoint: the water.
Venture into darkness with Adventure Puketi
Exploring a vast, ancient forest brimming with flora and fauna at nightfall is one of the most unforgettable nature experiences you could have. The melodies of familiar day birds fade as they settle in to roost, and the noises of the night emerge: the bats as they swoop out to hunt insects for the night, the territorial calls of the ruru (morepork) and kiwi, the rustling of weta and other creepy crawlies, and the gentle silent glow of the glow worms. On a night walk tour with us here at Adventure Puketi, we take you out for up to three hours. Under the light of head torches we share our stories and knowledge on the unique flora and fauna of Puketi Forest, and leave you with some very special memories and appreciation of the nightlife of the forest.
Sample Bay of Islands vineyards
The first grapevines in New Zealand were planted in Northland (Kerikeri), and today the legacy continues with many a gorgeous winery pumping out world-class wine. With a subtropical climate, the wines are from varieties of heat-loving grapes, and with this you get some beautiful whites, syrah and cabernet/merlot blends. Head out for lunch at Omata Estate on its gorgeous peninsula near Russell, or perhaps you’d like to sample organic wines with lunch or dinner, including Chambourcin, at Akeake Vineyard. Marsden Estate is another gem on the list, the beautiful grounds make for a great stroll before lunch and wine tasting. For an exclusive, boutique experience you could head to Sage Restaurant at the beautiful Paroa Bay, which uses traditional viticulture techniques to create handcrafted wines.
Rip it up at Waitangi Mountain Bike park
The Waitangi Mountain Bike park has over 40km of trails, from easy and beginner-friendly tracks to epic downhill and jump trails, and all have the most beautiful berms you could wish for, for the ultimate flow. The network was designed by Jeff Carter, who designed the Redwoods trails in Rotorua, as well as other trails around the world. For the kids there’s a pump track near the café, which in turn serves a great coffee and has stunning views of the Bay. There’s a mechanic on site for any bike issues.
Ride horses through wild places
Ever taken a horse for a swim? At Horse Trekn you’ll ride your horse to Wairoa Bay, remove the saddles, and take your horse into the water for a splash and possibly a swim with you aboard, if the horse feels comfortable with it on the day. You can also ride through Waitangi pine forest, or up Mount Bledisloe and Te Puke for incredible Bay of Island views – all in the company of friendly horses and guides.
Try some mouthwatering local kai
The Bay of Islands has no shortage of epic dining spots. Head over to Alfresco’s for a great sampler of local Bay of Islands produce (they draw from their own restaurant garden too). For a colourful tapas bar, head to the Tipsy Oyster – the fresh oysters here are incredible and come as-is or in flavours from South East Asia, India and the Middle East. Bad Habits in the Paihia Lanes is a trendy spot, a fusion of deli and cocktail bar and a guaranteed great evening (look out for their street-front décor: the rustic moss-covered wooden batons at Bad Habits come from our Puketi farm here at Adventure Puketi, hand-split many moons ago by Ian’s grandfather).
Explore Maori culture and history at the Treaty Grounds
No trip to the Bay of Islands would be complete without visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – it’s a must-do for any New Zealander, to fully appreciate this nation’s heritage. There are fabulous performances showcasing poi and weaponry, waiata and haka, there’s a carving workshop in action, and you must check out the contemporary museums of Te Rau Aroha (commemorating Maori soldiers in the wars) and Te Kongahu Museum of Waitangi (exploring the signing of the treaty).
We hope you enjoy taking advantage of all the great activities the Bay of Islands offers – do get in touch if you’d like to add the Puketi Night Walk to your itinerary.