In the turquoise waters of the bay, 144 natural and wild islands stand between an irregular shaped land. The Bay of Islands is stunning. Good surprise: dolphins and seals love it as well!
We went to Bay of Island during our long weekend trip in the Northern part of New Zealand. We only had an afternoon to spend in Bay of Islands, which was just enough for a nice cruise. There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained longer if you have more time.
Dolphin Cruise & Hole in the Rock
When visiting the North region of New-Zealand, a cruise in Bay of Islands appears as a must-do. There are different tour operators offering tours in the bay in various styles: big motor boat, sailing, kayaking, jet boat… Click here to have a look*.
But we had no choice in the end. Indeed, as we left Auckland in the morning and options during the winter season are restricted, we could only make it on time to Paihia to board the Great Sights afternoon cruise*.
The cruise description was highly focused on dolphins. I have to admit that I was not that excited about the dolphin spotting. I am spoiled in Brisbane region with dolphins, and although it is always nice to see some, I would not think of doing a cruise in New Zealand just for them. However, I was looking forward to discovering the views of the reputed bay.
And the scenery did reach my expectations. The area is very wild and natural, a real beauty. We went quite far to the famous Hole in the Rock just in front of Cape Brett. I loved this area, and it was good fun to go through the hole on the big boat.
Cape Brett is impressive, maybe the place I preferred in the entire bay we visited.
The marine life was better than I expected and surprisingly ended up being my highlight of the cruise. As planned, we did see dolphins. A lot of dolphins. Some came very close to the boat; it was a great encounter. Charlie, a young dolphin, made it very special. He jumped many times as high as around 1 meter out of the water. I did have many opportunities to see dolphins before, but it was the first time that I was seeing a wild dolphin jumping like that. The talk was also very interesting and educative.
During our cruise, we did not get the opportunity to swim with the wild dolphins. I’m not sure it happens often. The dolphins we saw were feeding, and there were calves in the group hence it was not allowed to swim with them because of the strict regulation by the government. I was actually satisfied to see that there are strict laws of conducts to limit the impact of tourism on the animals. Anyway, we were already cold on the boat, in winter the water temperature is around 16°, and they were only providing shorty wetsuits so I would have for sure passed my turn!
After the dolphins, on our way to Hole in the Rock, we spotted seals resting on a rock forming one of the numerous islands. Although the boat was big, we could get close to the rock to admire them. Later, on our way back from Hole in the Rock, I quickly spotted three curious little heads popping out of the water when the boat was passing by. This was unique and unexpected.
Sunset at Russell
After the cruise, we wanted to add a night safari kayaking but only day kayaking is available during winter. Instead, we decided to jump out of the boat in Russel (with a complimentary ferry ticket to go back to Paihia later).
Russel is only 10 min away by boat from Paihia, but much further by car as it is on the other side of the bay on a peninsula. Our objective was to reach Waihihi Bay, a beach facing west, to enjoy the sunset. Days are very short in June, so we had to walk fast to arrive just in time for the magic hour.
Back on The Strand, the few restaurants & bars were busy. We stopped for a drink before catching the ferry back to Paihia.
Have you been to the Bay of Islands? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is the Bay of Islands?
The Bay Of Islands is in the Northland area of New Zealand, approximately 230km at the north-west of Auckland. It took us just a bit less than 4 hours to drive from Auckland to Paihia following a scenic road.
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Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.