Isobel Benesch takes her family on a journey through New Zealand’s history in the Bay of Islands.
The Bay of Islands, an archipelago with more than 144 islands, is New Zealand’s most tropical destination, with transparent turquoise waters that stretch as far as the eye can see, rolling green hills that curve down to meet the ocean, impressive sand dunes that span entire landscapes, and forest-clad mountains rich in ferns and kauri trees.
Where to stay in the bay of islands
The Boathouse via booking.com
Nestled beneath the cliffs in the sleepy little marine hub of Opua you will find The Boathouse, a two-story holiday home perched on stilts that hovers over beautiful, clearwater extending out into the bay. The Boathouse has two separate apartments, one on the top floor and one on the bottom floor, both of which contain two expansive bedrooms, large lounge and dining areas, and full kitchens.The ability to fish directly off the balcony and for those lucky enough, to catch their own dinner, in addition to the Russell car ferry which is located just next door and runs throughout the day, makes for all-day entertainment and enjoyment for any age.
If your children love the ocean, then The Boathouse in Opua, where they can fish off their own balcony, is a dream come true!
We used booking.com to find and book The Boathouse. The best thing about booking.com is the wide range of properties available, meaning you are able to compare both hotels and vacaction homes to decide what is going to work best for your family.
Historic Russell is a beautifull seaside town
What to do in the bay of islands
The Parrot place
Located in KeriKeri, the Parrot Place offers a unique opportunity to visit over 300 birds in a wide variety of species from all over the world. You’ll be able to feed and hold some of the birds as you make your way through the garden-like grounds.
Explore Group Discover the Bay
This boat tour takes you out into the Bay of Islands insearch of dolphins and marine wildlife, a visit to the Hole in the Rock, and an Urupukapuka Island stopover for lunch.The four-hour boat ride is ideal for families as it has enoughsightings and stopovers to break up the trip. With azure waters, powdery sand, and tide pools along the rock wall brimming with sea life, Urupukapuka Island is a beautifulplace to spend a few hours of treasure hunting.
There is a 90% chance (with a return ticket guarantee if you don’t see any) that you will be serenaded by larger than expected bottle-nose dolphins. We were incredibly lucky to gather at the very front of the boat for a once-in-a-lifetime experience as a large pod of dolphins swam right below our noses alongside the boat and performed a dazzling acrobatic show in front of us with graceful jumps into the air and twists and turns across the water’s surface.
The Hole in the Rock is a highlight of the Explore Group Discover the Bay cruise
Fullers GreatSights Giants and Glowworms tour
Set off on a full-day cultural adventure up to the WaipouaForest to visit Tane Mahuta, the largest-known and most famous kauri tree, before heading back south to the Maori-owned Kawiti Glowworm Caves. With multiple stops for activities and meals, it’s a great way to see a lot of the area in one day and makes it possible to do so with kids in tow.Serenaded with children’s te reo Maori songs and simplelanguage lessons, and stories of the land we passed through, our driver transported all of us to another time and place.
A visit to Kawiti Glowworm Caves
Waitangi Treat Grounds
There is so much to see and do at the Treaty Grounds, with several picturesque spots to relax and let the kids run free. Stop in to the woodcarving workshop, and don’t miss the authentic cultural performance. With 180° unobstructed views of the bay, a large green space for little ones to run free, white sand beaches for treasure hunting, and native bush to explore, there’s ample space for kids to be kids.
Make sure you visit the flagstaff that has been erected to mark the exact placement where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, stop in to the Treaty House to learn more about the British colonisation of New Zealand, check out the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe, and stop in to The Museum of Waitangi to learn more about New Zealand’s most defining moments in history.
Visiting the flagstaff where the Treaty was signed at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Carving workshop at Waitangi
Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
With over 50km of trails for complete beginners to advanced riders, there is something for all ages and abilities at the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park. It offers bike rentals on site, as well as a shuttle service taking riders from the bottom of the tracks back to the top, a café, info centre, and even an amazing new pump track. With spectacular views right over the Bay of Islands, it’s a great place to spend the afternoon.
Where to eat
Charlotte’s Kitchen, located at the very end of the Paihia Wharf, is a picturesque spot to enjoy dinner and the sunset with kids in tow. With an incredibly friendly staff, a varied kids menu with crayons and colouring sheet, and a delicious array of wood-fired pizzas, Charlotte’s Kitchen makes dining with kids an enjoyable and exciting experience. Little ones will love looking out at the water as the sun goes down and all of the colourful flashing harbour lights begin to appear out in the bay.
Whare Waka Cafe
Refuel at the Whare Waka Café at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which includes a kid-friendly menu and offers a wide array of delicious and beautifully prepared food, as well as freshly made coffees and teas, with outdoor seating alongside a pond filled with Jurassic-like freshwater eels that emerge from the depths when you peer your head over the water (just watch those fingers!).
Aye aye Captain, that was an amazing holiday indeed!