Bay of Islands, New Zealand
This is one of my favorite spots in New Zealand. A drive up from Auckland takes about 3-4 hours. It is a nice drive. You can also fly up to this area.
The Bay of Islands is a bay with hundreds of small islands. It is very scenic and enjoys semi tropical weather. Lots of tropical fruits are grown here. On one side of the bay is Russell and on the other side Paihia. There is a ferry that runs across from side to side. It only takes about 10 minutes. Both sides of the bay are lovely. A famous tour is the "Cream Trip" on Fullers tours. This started in the 1920s when the boat would travel to the farms in the area and collect cream and milk. This trip takes about 40 minutes.
Russell Side of the Bay
If you go to the Russell side on top of the hill, the view is spectacular. There are lots of hotels and motels located on this side of the bay. This is more isolated than the other side as it takes a lot of driving to get to Russell by car. The small town is full of artists, cafes, and small shops. It still is very quaint and appealing. The Tip Top ice cream cone is somewhat of a tradition in Russell, it has been a while since I have been there I hope there is still a Tip Top ice cream shop on every corner.
Paihia Side of the Bay
The beautiful old THC Hotel is located on the Paihia side. Worth a visit. This is also the place where the Maori's and Pakeha's (white's) signed the treaty of Waitangi which marked the end of the fighting in New Zealand. This is a spot you should visit if you are in this area. The history of the treaty is told and there are some wonderful examples of Maori carvings and Pas. (Meeting Houses).
Activities and Tours
There are numerous tours available with brochures on all the options everywhere in town. Fullers Tours runs a boat out to the "hole in the rock" and also stops at islands for snorkeling and beachcombing. There is a 4-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle that goes up into the hills. Sunset sailing cruises are a pure delight and there is a tremendous variety of options.
Cape Reinga and 90-mile beach
Outside of the Paihia area, you can take a day trip to the ninety mile beach. This is a gorgeous white sand beach that stretches 90 miles. There are spots that you can enter the beach and actually drive for miles and miles. The tour buses do this and it is a very popular tour. This can take you up to Cape Reinga which is the most northern point in New Zealand. Always windy on the point but you can climb up to the old lighthouse. This is a 300-mile round trip so it makes for a long day on tour but most really enjoy it.
The Kerikeri AreaThis is also popular and the old stone store is shown in many postcards. This is closer to Paihia and is in the area full of orchards where most of the fruit is grown. Once again, many arts and crafts stores are in this area.
A forest of the giant Kauri trees with the largest tree in New Zealand "Tane Mahuta" which means the God of the Forest. A beautiful forest with no admission fee, it is well worth a visit.