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Things to do in

Northland

Our most recommended things to do in Northland

From Paihia or Russell: Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise

1. From Paihia or Russell: Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise

Embark on a catamaran tour of the Bay of Islands from Paihia or Russell. Enjoy insightful commentary as you visit famous sights, including the "Hole in the Rock" and make a stop at Urupukapuka Island. Board your vessel in Paihia or Russell and glide out through the islands. Cruise along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett, where a historic lighthouse watches over the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’.  The natural sculpture, one of New Zealand's most popular attractions, was created from centuries of sea and wind erosion. According to Maori legend, local warriors paddled through the Hole in the Rock in their canoes before departing for battle. Drops of water from the cave roof were a good omen. Take in the Grand Cathedral Cave before heading back into the bay. Keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins, whales, and other marine life.  Cruise in comfort aboard the Dolphin Seeker with indoor and outdoor seating and the Bay of Island's largest outdoor viewing decks. Treat yourself to snacks and a licensed bar on board, or enjoy the Otehei Bar Café and Bar on Urupukapuka Island.

Bay of Islands Small Group Afternoon Cruise & Island Tour

2. Bay of Islands Small Group Afternoon Cruise & Island Tour

Check-in at the Salt Air Office at 3.20 PM, before setting off along the sheltered coastline for a scenic cruise. Stop off at Roberton Island (also known as Twin Lagoons) for a 10-minute native bush walk to a breathtaking 360-degree lookout over the bay. After the walk, explore the tidal lagoons before climbing back on board. Cruise among the stunning islands of the Bay, keeping an eye out for wildlife.  Then, stopover at one of the Bay of Islands’ most secluded and unfrequented bays to try some new activities. Snorkel and explore the underwater reefs, stroll on an island trail, give stand-up paddle-boarding a try, relax on the beach or jump in the water for a swim. Make the afternoon your own with the activities that interest you most. Finally, board the boat for the return scenic cruise back to Paihia, arriving at 6:30 PM.

Bay of Islands: Bay Discovery Cruise with Island Stop-Over

3. Bay of Islands: Bay Discovery Cruise with Island Stop-Over

Set off on a scenic 4.5 to 5-hour cruise to discover the very best of the Bay of Islands. Experience the spectacular scenery and encounter diverse wildlife in an area soaked in rich culture and history. Board the black and yellow power cat at Paihia Wharf and be welcomed aboard by the friendly crew. Your crew will deliver a full safety briefing and overview of the trip. Cruise among the 144 islands and enjoy entertaining live commentary from your local knowledgeable skipper. Visit the iconic Hole in the Rock and when conditions permit, you can even travel through it. Spot local wildlife including dolphins, birds, seals and even the occasional whale with a success rate of over 90%. Your trip will also include a 1.5-hour island stop at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. Enjoy free time to explore the island. If you wish, you can hire kayaks, or paddleboards (available during summer only) or just relax on the beach. You can also choose to extend your stay on the island and return on a later ferry (only available during summer).

From Paihia: Scenic Heli Tour to the Hole in the Rock

4. From Paihia: Scenic Heli Tour to the Hole in the Rock

See the breathtaking Bay of islands on this unforgettable helicopter flight. Upgrade to one of the two landing options to experience the iconic natural landmark ‘Hole in the Rock’ up close and on foot.  Departing from the Paihia Office and Helipad, you will fly over the crystal clear turquoise waters of the main island group to the world famous “Hole in the Rock.” The flight features stunning island and coastline views including the townships of Russell, Paihia & Waitangi. There is no doubt that seeing the Bay of Islands from the air is one of the best ways to experience this beautiful area and appreciate the scenery it has to offer. Your pilot will provide a detailed commentary during the flight, highlighting points of interest and historical facts about the area. You will be provided with a headset with voice activated microphone in order to communicate with the pilot and your flightmates while in the air. Select an upgrade to land by helicopter on a newly built helipad on top of the ‘Hole in the Rock’. Very few people in history, including Maori, have ever ventured on the island in this way before. Be surrounded by steep cliffs and admire stunning scenery looking towards Cape Brett. You have the option to land on the island with a brief stop on the viewing platform or to be hosted on the island by a local Maori Guide who will share the islands’ unique history plus its cultural and ecological significance. 

From Paihia or Kerikeri: Bay of Islands Wine Tour

5. From Paihia or Kerikeri: Bay of Islands Wine Tour

Indulge and have fun in Kerikeri with a small group tour of some of New Zealand's finest quality wines. Taste and savor different wines at several wineries in the area, and enjoy a platter lunch. After getting picked in the Kerikeri, make the first stop at the Fat Pig Vineyard, one of the older vineyards in the Kerikeri area. The owners Richard and Jenny love hosting customers and showing off their products. Taste from a selection of different wines, such as Fat Pig Bubbles 2021, Fat Pig White Diamond 2021, Fat Pig Rosé 2021, Fat Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2020, and the S&J Chardonnay 2018. Their wines are produced exclusively from grapes grown on a small 3-acre property. They work closely with local winemakers to produce a unique small batch run of wine. Next up is the Sovrano Estate vineyard, a family-run boutique operation which is located just outside Kerikeri. Here, customers will sample their organically grown wines, which include Chambourcin, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, and Sauvignon Blanc. A recent addition is a range of Limoncello liqueurs which are made by Andrea and Marzia Loggia (Estate Owners) who have a rich history in liqueur making. The couple based in Kerikeri, emigrated to New Zealand from Italy in 2007, with a mission to create the best and finest Limoncello Liqueur in New Zealand. While delicious on its own, Sovrano Limoncello is a versatile liqueur. It’s the perfect touch for cocktails and desserts. You can find recipes ideas on their website. Finally, arrive at the Marsden Estate, which was started by the McIvor family some 20 years ago. Here customers can enjoy six wine tastings, plus a platter lunch in the relaxed atmosphere of its courtyard which overlooks the lake and vines. Planted in the early nineties, Marsden Estate’s 10 acres of vineyards comprise Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Muscat, Merlot, Pinotage, Chambourcin, Syrah, and Tempranillo.

Bay of Islands: Island Hopper Day Sailing Cruise from Paihia

6. Bay of Islands: Island Hopper Day Sailing Cruise from Paihia

Embark on a magical day sailing adventure in the Bay of Islands. Experience the Kiwi barefoot culture for yourself as you step straight from Paihia's beachfront onto a modern catamaran.  Set sail through the bay's 144 islands to a remote island stopover aboard Kopiko, a 33-foot performance catamaran built for speed, comfort, and style. Lend the friendly crew a hand with sailing the boat, or spread out with plenty of deck space where you can grab a bean bag and chalk up some leisure time. Discover a wealth of wildlife from seabirds, stingrays, seals, penguins, to dolphins.  Arrive in a stunning bay, where you'll anchor close to the beach. Step off onto the island and enjoy a delicious packed lunch at a stunning picnic spot of your choice. Enjoy short walking trails, picturesque views, snorkeling, paddleboarding, swimming, or digging your toes into the sand. After your island adventures, set sail and watch the wind fill the sails as you relax on the return trip. 

Bay of Islands: 5-Hour Day Cruise and Island Getaway Tour

7. Bay of Islands: 5-Hour Day Cruise and Island Getaway Tour

Escape the crowds and experience the Bay of Islands on a personalised, small-group, interactive boat cruise. Combine the best activities of the Bay of Islands with interactive and informative commentary for an amazing day excursion. Stop at Roberton Island and disembark for a 10-minute walk along a native bush trail. At the end of the trail discover a breathtaking 360-degree viewpoint over the bay. Enjoy a complimentary beachside morning tea provided by the crew and have the opportunity to explore the tidal lagoons. Climb back on board and continue cruising among the 144 islands of the Bay keeping a lookout for marine wildlife and unique shorebirds. Your second island stop takes you to one of the Bay of Islands’ most secluded and unfrequented bays. Snorkel and explore the underwater reefs, take a walk along the island trail and try stand-up paddleboarding. Relax on the beach or jump in the water for a swim, do as much or as little as you want.

Bay of Islands: Full-Day Tall Ship Sailing Excursion

8. Bay of Islands: Full-Day Tall Ship Sailing Excursion

Catch the breeze and set sail for the day on board the unique tall ship R. Tucker Thompson, built in the tradition of 100-year-old schooners by local Northlanders. She has sailed the world, but today explores the somewhat calmer seas of the Bay of Islands. The design of the tall ship is based on the Halibut schooners of the north-west coast of America, which were considered fast and easily manned. She has the look of a working ship of the 18th century, purposeful and square-shouldered, but with a touch of style and speed. The day out can be an interactive experience, so help set the sails, ride on the bowsprit, or climb the rigging. If you prefer, you can relax while the crew does the work. The crew will share stories about the ship, the Bay of Islands and involve you as much or as little as you want. You’ll enjoy the Devonshire cream tea freshly baked in the galley each morning. The ship is spacious and comfortable and the friendly crew makes this a personal experience, suitable for people of all ages. At lunchtime the vessel anchors in a secluded bay. Step ashore, take a swim, or try swinging from the yardarm. With all this sea air and activity you'll have a hearty appetite that will be well taken care of by a tasty BBQ lunch cooked on board. After lunch the ship will head back to the historic village of Russell. The ship is operated as a not-for-profit charitable trust with profits from day sail activities being used to support youth sail training programs over the New Zealand winter. Operating for over 25 years, the ship is Qualmark-approved with a Gold environmental rating.

Bay of Islands: Late Afternoon Sailing Cruise

9. Bay of Islands: Late Afternoon Sailing Cruise

Board Northland’s iconic tall ship the R. Tucker Thompson for a 2-hour sail on the inner bay. Get involved and help hoist the sails or sit back and relax as you pass around a shared antipasto platter. Enjoy a drink from the cash bar and experience the beauty of a traditionally rigged vessel under sail. Ferry tickets to Russell are included in the tour price, so why not head over early and spend an afternoon exploring the historic village or dine in one of the many excellent restaurants after your sail. The ship is operated as a not-for-profit charitable trust with proceeds from sailing activities used to support youth sail training programs over the New Zealand winter.

Bay of Islands: Scenic 30-Minute Coastal Discovery Heli Tour

10. Bay of Islands: Scenic 30-Minute Coastal Discovery Heli Tour

Explore the Bay of Islands' uniquely stunning coastline on a shared scenic flight. With a duration of around 30-minutes, you'll have exceptional views of the beautiful islands, the famous Hole in the Rock, and beyond. After check-in at the helicopter base near Paihia Wharf, you'll receive a short safety briefing. Hear the whirl of the rotors as the helicopter touches down and step out to the helipad. Meet your experienced and friendly pilot who will help you buckle in. All seats on board the helicopter are window seats so that you can marvel at the spectacular views. Put on your headset so that you can hear the commentary throughout the flight.  Take flight over the bay to the remote coastline on the eastern side of the Cape Brett peninsula covering Elliot Bay and Whangamumu, leading to the lighthouse and the Hole in the Rock. On the return journey, admire views towards the Kerikeri inlet, over the Black Rocks, to Waitangi, and Paihia before landing back on the helipad. 

Other Sightseeing Options in Northland

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What people are saying about Northland

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 1,016 reviews

Fantastic trip for all ages. I took a couple of my kids along and they loved the whole experience. From the fast boat surging through the swell to the dolphins that swam past. The stop at the island for lunch was excellent. Beautiful sunny day with a fantastic lawn to sit out on and enjoy the view and some food from the cafe. We very much appreciated the information and banter from our guide and captain. The crew were also super friendly and helpful.

Awesome experience. The process was easy from booking to checking in for the skydive. The staff were very friendly, I felt very safe. The skydive was an incredible experience I will do it again.

Very good guide man, very helpful, talkative, very nice person and very good organiser chloe, help me beyond the limit. Thanks Mrs Bhosale

Excellent service, we enjoyed the whole experience and would love to do it again. The weather was perfect for us which was a bonus.

Great vessel and captain. Very interesting commentary. Good attention to safety.