Welcome to Bay of Islands, away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland City!
This is just one out of my many road trips in the North Island and I’ve got to say, this is one of my best experiences here. Bay of Islands is located in the Far North of the North Island, right at the peak of New Zealand, consisting of 144 different islands. It is about 4 hours away from the City and a great place to relax and get your mind off to-do lists and never-ending projects.
To get there, you can either take a drive down with beautiful scenic views along the way or take a cheaper option (which I did) by catching the InterCity bus from Auckland City which provides both comfort and convenience if you feel that 4 hours is too exhausting. The bus will drop you off right at The Whaft which is conveniently located near most of the accommodations, about 5 to 10 mins walk away depending on which accommodation you choose to stay in.
Itinerary for a 4 day 3 night trip
We booked a full day tour with Fullers Great Sights – Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach Tour for NZ$149. This can be done online or at the office which is located right at The Whaft.
You get to visit the tip of the North Land at the iconic light house where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Sea meets at the centre. It is definitely a majestic view, rich with Maori culture and tradition. Don’t you think it’s pretty cool to see the wild beauty of nature at its best?
Right after, the bus took us to the 90 Mile Beach where the bus actually drove on the sand, right beside the coastline, lucky for us it was low tide and the bus didn’t get stuck in the sand (which actually can happen and has happened before). Technically it is only 88 kilometres long but it was indeed amazing to see the greatness of the ocean and somehow therapeutic as well.
And of course the tour also included awesome sandboarding at Te Paki Sand Dunes! That was my first time sandboarding and definitely doing it again!
The entire tour took about 11 hours as it included rest stops and driving around took some time too, but it’s a great tour to cover the tip of the North Island, with a really informative tour guide/ driver to bring you around the island.
Highlight of the Trip – The Rock Adventure Cruise
Ever dreamt of spending a night out at sea and live like a ship crew on a pirate ship? Well this is your chance, come on board The Rock!!!
This is by far the best cruise I have ever been on, with a fun-filled 24 hours spent on board The Rock with the best ship crews I could ever ask for.
Board the ship at 5pm and it’ll take you further out into the sea with a list of activities planned out for you and your friends! It includes target shooting on board, fishing, kayaking at night, BBQ dinner, a hike up an island, snorkelling and basically 24 hours of never-ending FUN on board. I had many firsts on the cruise and kayaking was the best at night, where the water glowed like fairy dust (I am not kidding). Apparently there is a certain type of algae in the sea which absorbs sunlight in the daytime and gives off light at night with any small movement in the sea. So if you’re there, put your hand into the water or when you paddle, take a look, it is simply amazing. You’re free to do more fishing or kayaking around the islands if there is free time, so we chose to kayak and the view was breath-taking, kayaking out into the big ocean in clear blue waters.
While snorkelling, you get to dive down to catch fresh seafood as well like Sea Urchins and the crew will even let you try them on board! It’s really slimy though, but a good experience to try it fresh although I didn’t, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, I mean just look at it!
The cruise is also a great place to socialise and make new friends on board! Although it was just a 24 hours cruise, by the end of the cruise, everyone felt like family to me and it was a great pity it had to end.
All in all, this was by far the best experience I had and a definite must-do if you’re travelling New Zealand!
If you’re a foodie like me, there are several restaurants along the coast and remember to catch their happy hour (usually from 5-7pm) where they have 3 course meals for just NZ$45! This is definitely where you’d want to have freshly cooked seafood, satisfy your sweet tooth and it is totally affordable! I’m usually not a fan of seafood, but how can I say no when it is so fresh!
We stayed in backpackers because it is both affordable and really cosy. There were 2 different backpackers we stayed in this trip, Pepper Lodge and Haka Lodge. My favourite is definitely Haka Lodge as it is just right across The Whaft with a great chill out lounge with modern facilities and cosy rooms. Each bunk bed even had their own little curtains for privacy.
Ferry to The Historic Town of Russells
Just take a ferry across to Russells and explore the historic town. Visit Pompallier Mission, one of New Zealand’s most iconic heritage tour to learn about the history of how the Catholic faith was brought in and take a guided tour around the Printery to see how books were binded, leather made from scratch in the past and understand how people led their lives in the past or just sit by the cafes along the coast and enjoy a day out in the sun with nature at its best.