Top things to do in Northland and the Bay of Islands

A subtropical wonderland of islands, marine life, kauri forests and Māori myths and legends, Northland is an incredible place to visit.

Discover the top things to do in the Bay of Islands, Tutukaka Coast, and the rest of Northland. 

1. Learn about the Treaty of Waitangi

Take a guided tour through the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds where you can be challenged by Māori warriors, admire the giant waka (Māori war canoe) and expansive views over the Pacific Ocean before enjoying a hearty meal cooked in a hangi (earth oven). Discover fascinating exhibitions and state-of-the-art learning spaces at Te Kōngahu - Museum of Waitangi.

2. Dive into the Poor Knights Islands

Just offshore from Tutukaka lies the Poor Knights Islands – rated one of the top 10 diving sites in the world. Explore a mecca of diverse fish life, colourful underwater plants and rocky volcanic outcrops. Go snorkeling or diving with Dive! Tutukaka, or explore via stand up paddle-board.

3. Explore the very top of the North Island

The Tasman Sea meets the mighty Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand, a must-see when in New Zealand. Tours are operated by a number of companies, including Fullers GreatSights. Near the tip of Cape Reinga are the Te Paki Sand Dunes, the largest of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere. While the climb to the top is a challenge, it’s made all worth it with the adrenaline rush of surfing down them via boogie board. Not far is Ninety Mile Beach, a seemingly never-ending stretch of sand stretching along the western tip of the North Island. Officially a highway, the best way to explore the beach is by guided coach tour from Kaitaia or Paihia.

4. Discover the Waipoua Forest

Embark on an intimate tour with Footprints Waipouaone of two New Zealand experiences featured in Lonely Planet’s guide to authentic travel ‘Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime‘. Come face to face with Tāne Mahuta – God of the Forest and New Zealand's largest Kauri tree. Experience the ancient forest with local Māori guides and learn how the forest plays an important role in the lives of local Māori and the eco-system. Learn more about our kauri forests and kauri trade at the Kauri Museum. 

5. Walk in the footsteps of great ancestor, Kupe

Manea, on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour, shares the stories and traditions of the great ancestor, Kupe. Experience a 75-minute multisensory journey of guided storytelling – through large scale artworks, film, performance, digital interaction, and the spectacular Hokianga environment. Explore more of the Hokianga.

6. Cycle from Coast to Coast

Soak up the sun by peddle power as you explore old historic settlements, coastal views, lush forests and fascinating cultural sights on the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, stretching from the Bay of Islands' east coast to the Hokianga Harbour in the west.

7. Explore the Islands

Glide across the glistening waters of the Bay of Islands on Explore's Discover the Bay Trip. See the spectacular scenery, get up close to the Cape Brett cliffs and travel through the iconic Hole in the Rock. Stop at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island to explore the islands swimming spots and fully licensed cafe. 

The Bay of Islands has a vast range of activities including scenic heli-flights, boat cruises, walking tracks, kayaks, paddle boarding, and sailing.

8. Enjoy a drink at the Duke of Marlborough in Russell

A short ferry ride from Paihia, Russell a charming seaside town steeped in early New Zealand history. The country’s first capital, Russell is home to the Duke of Marlborough bar & restaurant – which holds New Zealand’s first liquor license. Enjoy a glass of New Zealand wine while overlooking views of the bay. Northland has a range of food and beverage offerings including wineries, produce stalls, and farmers markets. With its subtropical climate, the North makes for a great place to source fresh produce. 

9. Visit the Whangarei Falls

Located 10 minutes drive from Whangarei City centre, you'll find the wonderous Whangarei Falls. A 26m high waterfall surrounded by park, native New Zealand bush and walkways. Other renowned walking tracks and waterfalls in the Northland region include Rainbow Falls, Mount Manaia, Te Paki Coastal Track, and the Cape Brett Track.

10. Northland Journeys

Explore the region more with Northland Journeys on the Twin Coast Discovery HighwayChoose from one of seven half-to-full day road and water-based journeys that give self-drive visitors a reason to stay longer, see more, and do more along the way. Discover the roads less travelled - spectacular coastlines, marine reserves, kauri forests and two oceans that collide make the North an iconic destination. 

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