A Bay of Islands Cruise lets you enjoy the raw natural beauty of New Zealand at its finest. A land known for its dramatic landscapes and exciting adventure activities, a New Zealand cruise promises to be an experience like no other. The Bay of Islands is often referred to as the birthplace of New Zealand, with the nation’s first permanent European settlement located in the area.
The Bay of Islands is a subtropical region off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It is made up of more than 140 islands. A top spot for tourism, cruises in the Bay of Islands incorporate the area’s fascinating history, stunning scenery, varied activities both on and off the boat, and plenty of time for relaxation. Plenty of wildlife call the area home too, and, as you sail through past interesting creatures, there will be many excellent photo opportunities. Cruises to the Bay of Islands really do offer an opportunity like no other.
Top things to do and see in the Bay Of Islands
One of New Zealand’s most fabulous playgrounds, here’s a taster of what you can expect on a cruise around the Bay of Islands:
Motuarohia-Roberton Island - Motuarohia-Roberton Island has been inhabited for hundreds of years, with Maori groups likely having lived there since pre-history. The island is rich with archeological sites, some of which you can visit from your Bay of Islands overnight cruise. Hike to a significant Maori pa (a village or hill fort) that is perched high above the island and provides extensive vistas of the beautiful lagoon and surrounding islands. The calm lagoon is a top spot for snorkelling and observing an array of underwater life, and you can enjoy kayaking around the lagoon too.
Urupukapuka - Urupukapuka is the biggest island in the Bay of Islands. A favourite stop for adventure cruises, it offers diverse activities and experiences. History lovers can take in the views as they learn more about the past with hikes to historic Maori pas. If you’re looking for some peaceful downtime, the sandy beaches are perfect for basking in the sun and burying your nose in a good book. Paddle in the warm waters and feel the serene atmosphere wash all over you. Snorkelling lets you get closer to marine life, or you can try your hand at fishing from a smaller vessel.
Deep Water Cove - A beautiful nature reserve, Bay of Islands small ship cruises let you fully appreciate the wonder of Deep Water Cove. A place known for its plentiful friendly dolphins, you may even get to swim with these intelligent aquatic creatures if you’re lucky! Lush forests surround a picturesque waterfall; enjoy the views!
Whangaroa Harbour - Formed by rising seawaters that submerged a village, you’ll see a number of gorgeous dwellings, picture-perfect coves, and enchanting beaches as you sail to Whangaroa Harbour. Volcanic rocks jut out from the terrain and it’s a fantastic spot to witness one of nature’s finest performances with a spectacular sunset. You’re sure to be in awe as you watch the changing colours of the sky and the light gradually yield to darkness.
Cape Reinga - A highlight for many on a New Zealand cruise, Cape Reinga is a place where two oceans spectacularly meet. The Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea come together in a flurry and swirl of mixing waters. It is also an important place for native Maori peoples. Look for an old and gnarly pohutukawa tree; Maoris believe that it is from this very tree that the spirits of the deceased make their final leap into the oceans to return to their homeland. Known as the place of leaping, it offers a great insight into the local culture.
Russell - Russell was where the first European settlement in all of New Zealand was located. It was also the nation’s capital for a short time. A former place of debauchery and immorality, Russell presents a cleaner image today. Enjoy a shore excursion to wander around the charming town, stopping to look in craft shops, local churches, and museums.
Hiking - Cruises in the Bay of Islands offer plenty of opportunities to go off the vessel and explore the islands by foot. Hiking is a fantastic way to learn more about the historical sites, culture, flora, and fauna, as well as giving you access to some unbeatable views. It’s also terrific exercise!
Kayaking - If you’re feeling active there are several opportunities to switch into a smaller craft and set forth for some independent discoveries in a kayak. Feel at peace as you make your way around beautiful lagoons and coastal waters.
Wildlife Spotting - Myriad creatures call the islands and waters of the Bay of Islands home. Dolphins playfully swim through the waters and you’ll see gannets diving to catch their dinner. Penguins, seals, and migratory whales can sometimes be spotted. The penguins that live here are the smallest species in the world, the little blue penguin. Birdlife includes the beach-dwelling New Zealand dotterel, black shags, and two types of oystercatcher.
Top Tips for visiting the Bay Of Islands on a cruise
- Don’t forget your hiking boots if you plan on exploring the landscapes.
- Make sure you have dry clothes handy for after your kayaking adventures.
- A zoom lense will help you to get the best photographs of distant wildlife.
- Although provided, you may want to bring your own snorkelling gear to ensure the perfect fit with maximum comfort.
- Have your camera to hand when visiting Deep Water Cove to capture the beautiful waterfall and dolphins.
Best time to cruise the Bay Of Islands
A Bay of Islands cruise is a great experience at any time of the year. Weather wise, December to February is the best time to visit the Bay of Islands, with warm sunny days. Summer is also the peak tourist season though, so visiting in the shoulder seasons can help to beat the crowds. June to August is the rainiest period in the Bay of Islands.
A Bay of Islands cruise in winter (June to August) is an ideal time to swim with dolphins. The landscapes are filled with colourful blooms in spring, and this is the perfect time for hiking and relaxing on the beaches. Plan ahead and book your memorable Bay of Islands cruise.
Where do Bay of Islands cruises depart from?
New Zealand small ship cruises to the Bay of Islands generally depart from Opua Wharf. The closest airport is Kerikeri Airport (KKE), which is well connected to Opua by road. Regular bus and shuttle services connect the two locations in around 30 minutes. There are regular flights to KKE from Auckland, the country’s largest city and a primary gateway to New Zealand. Connecting flights take less than an hour. Alternatively, if you are flying to Auckland Airport (AKL) you can travel to Opua by road. The 220-kilometre trip takes around three hours by bus or rental car. Auckland Airport welcomes international flights from all around the globe on a daily basis.
Please contact our reservations team to book your next adventure cruise to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.