Bay of Islands
Bird watching enthusiasts, beach revelers, fishing fanatics, and scuba diving devotees will all enjoy a trip to New Zealand's Bay of Islands. Bay of Islands trips are all about fun and relaxation, and though it gets pretty busy up here in December and January, there really isn't a bad time to visit. Bay of Islands New Zealand is found in the country's most northern region, which is known appropriately as Northland, and you can expect to find some of the best beaches in New Zealand here. In fact, this area boasts what seems like an uncountable number of beaches. The Bay of Islands are just 145 miles north of Auckland, and there are roughly 144 islands that are found here, hence the name. There are three main Bay of Islands townships, and they are Russel, Kerikeri, and Paihia (Waitangi). While there is more than plenty to keep you busy on Bay of Islands trips, if you have some extra time to spare, you might consider heading further north for a day or more to Cape Reinga.
The famous American author, Zane Grey, helped to bring notoriety to the Bay of Islands. Grey wrote many adventure novels, and was quite the accomplished fisherman. After sailing around Cape Brett, Grey entered the Bay of Islands to find a destination that he would revere for the rest of his life. Zane Grey would return to the islands here to enjoy world-class game fishing, which he also helped to establish in New South Whales, Australia. Grey first visited Bay of Islands New Zealand over 80 years ago, and though it is busier here than it was then, you'll still find it to be pretty quiet for most of the year. As mentioned, December and January are the peak months for Bay of Islands trips, and so it's a good idea to book your accommodations in advance. Some of the many Bay of Islands tours also fill up quickly during these months, so you might also choose to arrange those in advance as well, especially if you have your heart set on one or more.
If you want to enjoy some of the best fishing in New Zealand, the town of Russell is an ideal Bay of Islands destination. It has the area's most charter boats, and you can easily hop on a ferry to get here from Paihia (Waitangi). Pahia and Waitingi make up one settlement, really, and this is the main travel hub for the area. Most of the Bay of Islands tours start in Paihia and Waitangi, as do the various bay cruises. The Bay of Islands New Zealand waters are home to dolphins that can often be seen playing in the waves of the warm, blue waters. If you'd like to swim with them, you can arrange a tour to do so. Various charter yachts can be hired for Bay of Islands tours that can include lunch on an island. Scenic cruises are among the favorite activities that visitors enjoy on Bay of Islands trips, and the views are nothing short of fantastic. Scuba diving charters are in good supply here, and if you like diving, you'll love New Zealand diving. It's hailed by some to be the best in the world, among its biggest fans, the late, great Jacques Cousteau. Bay of Islands tours not only include the immediate area, but other Northland destinations as well.
If you're interested in enjoying some fun events and festivals in New Zealand, the Bay of Islands has its fair share to offer. For a few days in August, the Bay of Islands Jazz Festival is in full swing. There are some great New Zealand wineries found in Northland, and you can sample them on a wine tour, or at the September Taste Bay of Islands festival. This is only a one-day affair, so if you miss it, you'll have a wonderful excuse to return again, not that you'll need one. Between the towns of Russel, Paihia, and Keriki, there are certainly enough attractions to enjoy year round, so whenever you schedule Bay of Islands trips, you're sure to find enough to keep you busy. Kerikeri is the largest of the towns found here, and it's where you can visit the oldest stone house in the country. At some point during your Bay of Islands vacation, you might consider hopping aboard a steamship for a 1-hour cruise, or heading to the Kerikeri wineries. The smaller town of Russell is full of historic sites that are prime for interesting Bay of Islands tours, and perhaps no trip to Russell is complete without a visit to the Russell Museum. After learning all about the history of Maori and European relations at the Russell Museum, you can pick up a brochure that highlights the town's best historic sites.
Bay of Islands tours can be arranged in Auckland, as well as with the numerous tour operators that are located at the Bay of Islands. To get here on your own, you can rent a car and drive from Auckland, or book a flight to Kerikeri. Daily flights from Auckland are usually the best way to go. For those that fly in and want to rent a car, there is an airport shuttle to Paihia, where you can find a rental car dealer. There are a wide variety of Bay of Islands accommodations to choose from, including bed and breakfasts, resorts, motels, hotels and lodges. Paihia has the most to offer in the way of hotels and motels, and is a good place to stay if you intend to enjoy one or more of the great Bay of Islands tours. Paihia is definitely the first place to look for backpackers, and Russell is the place for those looking for a quieter stay. Dining will be a pleasure during your Bay of Islands vacation, as will everything else you choose to experience. It's really a wonderful destination worthy of making room for in your New Zealand vacation plans.
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