Whether you’re escaping for a long weekend, or on a road trip taking in some of New Zealand’s best locations, spending a few days in the Bay of Islands is a must. Not only does incredible scenery await, but three days spent in this idyllic area will leave you feeling relaxed and rested. It’s the perfect getaway, filled with great activities, a rich heritage, and picturesque seaside towns. Additionally, being only hours away from Auckland, hiring a car and escaping has never been easier.

Three days in the Bay of Islands

While it’d be easy for three days to slip away just relaxing in the beautiful Bay of Islands, for the more adventurous you’ll find activities waiting in land, sea, and sky. Check out these great options to explore, including a few choices to leave even the most adrenaline-seeking individuals sated.

Boat cruises and dolphin watching

It’s not called the Bay of Islands without reason. Waiting out past the sandy beaches, nestled in stunning blue waters, are over 140 islands for you to discover them. Take one of many incredible boat cruises out onto the water to see the Hole in the Rock or spend the day dolphin watching. Consider jumping in to swim with the friendly mammals as well.

Dive right in

If staying above the water isn’t exciting enough for you, drive out to Paihia to experience the underwater wonders of the Bay of Islands. Whether you’re a beginner or have some training behind you, you’ll find suitable options for your needs. 

One of the best things about going diving in Paihia is the chance to see a part of NZ’s proud history up close. Resting on the ocean floor is The Rainbow Warrior, once Greenpeace’s flagship. Sunk by French saboteurs back in 1985, it’s now the home to an artificial reef, and is a world-renowned dive site. The beautiful colours or the anemones gracing the ship and schools of stunning fish life will make this experience one to remember. 

Try out the bike trails

If you’re a mountain biker or cyclist, the Bay of Islands has a few options available for you. Getting out on the trails you’ll soon discover that it’s not just the beaches and islands that make this location so beautiful. Check out the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park or head out on the Twin Coast Cycle Trail if this type of adventure sounds like you. 

See all 144 islands – from the air

There’s nothing quite like skydiving to get your adrenaline pumping, and where better to do it than in the Bay of Islands? With the stunning vista of islands and water stretching out beneath you, there’s nowhere in NZ that will offer you a more picturesque view before you exit the plane. 

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

For another momentous piece of NZ history, head to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. Here, in 1840, the document that forged NZ’s identity was signed by the Maori chieftains and representatives of the British Crown. The Waitangi Treaty grounds are located close to the town of Paihia, and you’ll have the opportunity to book onto a tour that will give you a full evening’s experience. Try a traditional Hangi dinner, feel the hairs rise on your arms at the hauntingly beautiful waiata (singing), and feel the power and palpable energy of a haka up close and personal. 

The waterfall to top them all

One of the best waterfalls in NZ (and there’s a few to choose from), is Rainbow Falls. Cascading down 27m, all you need to reach this stunning water feature is a pair of jandals (or flip flops for those still becoming familiar with kiwi lingo), the track is so straightforward. With a number of viewpoints available, one of the favourites has to be from the cave behind the falls. It’s a bit more of a clamber to get there, but who doesn’t like the idea of standing behind a curtain of water? 

Flagstaff Hill

New Zealand isn’t without its share of stories, despite its short history. Flagstaff Hill is an example this. Situated behind Russell, this hill saw the flagpole on top of it cut down four times amid brewing discontent after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Union Jack flying on top of it angered the local chieftain Hone Heke, and he and his men removed it each time it was raised as a demonstration of their objections to the situation. 

While it was never raised again during Hone Heke’s life, it’s now standing tall once more, symbolising New Zealand’s coming together as a country. Made from Kauri and sheathed at the bottom with iron, it’s well worth the trip to see it. Additionally, the lookout itself has some great views of the surrounding area. 

If these activities aren’t enough to satiate you, there’s a whole raft more to keep you entertained as well. From kayaking and paddleboarding, lazing on the beach, and parasailing at 1200ft, to chasing down the myriad of waterfalls in and around Kerikeri, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful area of New Zealand. So what are you waiting for? Book your hire car in NZ today, and head out to experience it yourself.