North of Auckland &
The Bay of Islands

The colonial history of New Zealand began in the Bay of Islands in the 1830s when the small village of Russell was known as the “hell hole of the South Pacific.”

Whaling ships from all over the world stopped for R&R and repairs, using the tall trunk of the kauri tree to replace broken masts. Here the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the British and some forty Maori chieftains. In the 1920s American adventurer Zane Grey dubbed it “the angler’s Eldorado” after catching a 1,000 pound gray marlin!

  • Russell One Way Street North Island New Zealand
  • north islands new zealand
  • Christ Church Russell New Zealand
  • north islands new zealand

Like most of NZ, “getting there” is half the fun! You could fly, but the drive up the scenic west coast through lush sheep country is a real Kiwi treat. Stop to see one of the best regional museums in NZ, which tells you why forestry was a key factor in the making of colonial NZ, providing whaling ship masts and wood for pioneer homes. Continue through NZ’s last remaining stand of giant kauri trees. Linger to walk with a Maori guide who tells you the significance of the trees to their culture.

Soon you are in the Bay of Islands. Accommodation varies from cottages and B&Bs to upscale villas with breath-taking views of the Bay. New Zealanders love to sail, and the Bay of Islands is a favorite destination during their January school holidays. The appeal? Stunning beaches, quiet bays, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and hiking. The area is an excellent place to experiencing Maori culture on a more personal basis. We have an excellent Maori guide who descended from one of the Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty of Waitaingi. His private tours give you a truly personal chance to learn what is unique about their culture, as he explains the carvings and weavings in a Maori “marae” – meeting place.

Visit the Treaty of Waitaingi House and the lovely gardens. Getting out on the water in the Bay of Islands is a must, and you have many options: sail in a tall ship. Take a boat ride to the Hole on the Rock. Swim with dolphins. Kayak. Stroll through historic Russell. Take a stunning scenic flight and 4WD tour at the tip of the North Island – sacred Maori land.

Want to dive in NZ? You can do that here at one of the top dive sites in the South Pacific, the Poor Knights Marine reserve.

Your North Island Travel Planning Guides

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