From impressive views and fascinating cultural history to chocolate treats and hidden beaches, we pick the best spots to visit in the Bay of Islands.
1. Best view east
Regardless of what you might think or know about the famous treaty, this place has a special atmosphere, and when you look out over the bay it’s easy to imagine what it must have looked like in the early days (except when there’s a giant cruise ship off the port at Ōpua).
2. Best view west
The best sunset view won’t cost you a million dollars either. The beachfront at Russell looks almost due west to where the sun disappears behind Waitangi, and lights up the pohutukawa along the front with a golden glow.
Sit at one of the picnic tables at the base of the wharf by the shingly beach with a parcel of fresh fish and chips from the Crusty Crab, or grab a drink and sit on the front porch of the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel. Pure magic.
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3. Chocolate heaven
Kerikeri might be known as a citrus capital, but we always stop for chocolate as well as fresh mandarins. At Makana Confections, on the main road into Kerikeri township, you can watch chocolates and other treats being made on site – a big vat of popcorn being coated in caramel is hard to look away from – then buy some to take home, or sit down for something sweet in the new café.
Note: the macadamia butter toffee crunch is seriously addictive. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
4. Rail trailing
The road to Ōpua from Kawakawa bends and winds its way up a mangrove-lined inlet, but once upon a time, a railway line took a much more straightforward route. The rails have been lifted but a cycleway has taken its place, providing a unique tour of the Waikare Inlet, away from roads and people.
At this stage the cycleway ends just short of the timber Taumarere viaduct, but the plan is to link it up with the vintage railway track on the other side, so riders can steam into Kawakawa.
5. Oke Bay
It’s worth the winding road journey to find this spectacular beach in the outer Bay at the base of Cape Brett, near Rāwhiti. This big white-sand bay has some of the clearest water in the Bay for swimming and snorkelling and is popular with cruisers and day-tripping boaties – and dolphins, who make regular visits to check out the locals.
Keep an eye out for the little set of steps leading from the road down to the beach beyond, just before the settlement at Rāwhiti.