Our Guide Getting from Auckland to the Bay of Islands

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The Ultimate Guide from Auckland to Bay of Islands

If you're planning a trip from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, you're in for a treat!  This ultimate guide will provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your journey. 

Auckland, located on the North Island of New Zealand, is known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant city life.  With its iconic landmarks like the Sky Tower and beautiful beaches, it offers a mix of urban and outdoor experiences. 

On the other hand, the Bay of Islands, situated further north, is a haven for marine enthusiasts.  It's famous for its crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, and a rich cultural history.  It was also the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans, and is home to some of the country's most historic towns, including Russell, Waitangi and Kerikeri.

Key Features of Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands (over 150 of them) showcases the natural beauty of New Zealand at its finest.  Visitors can explore the stunning coastline and relax on pristine beaches.  Renowned for the big-game fishing, snorkeling and sailing, the Bay is a natural harbour, 16km wide, with several inlets that stretch back to the land.  

Immerse yourself in nature by visiting the Haruru Falls and consider swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat with a guided dolphin tour.  Or simply, relax on a scenic boat tour, which will take you out to the stunning Cape Brett, where you'll be able to see the 'Hole In The Rock', a natural arch that has featured in many films.  Alternatively, if you've got experienced sea legs, you can hire your own yacht from Opua and sail to one of the many beautiful islands that populate this region.

Make time to visit Paihia, the Bay's main tourist town and a good place to base yourself for a few days.  The wharf is a handy place to catch a cruise out to see the dolphins, or boat-hop over to the pretty little town of Russell.

History buffs will enjoy discovering the area's rich Maori and European heritage, with attractions like the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. 

The charming town of Russell offers a glimpse into New Zealand's tumultuous past as a whaling and trading hub.  Today, it stands as a peaceful retreat with historic buildings, boutique shops, and waterfront dining options that showcase the region's maritime history.

Kerikeri, 'It's so nice, they named it twice', is an apt tourist slogan for this fascinating little place.  Full of history, Kerikeri is home to New Zealand's oldest stone building; the Stone Store, and is also where you can visit the Mission House (also known as Kemp House), built in 1821 for the Reverend John Butler, under the watchful eye of the local Maori chief, Hongi Hika. 

There is also a vibrant arts scene in Kerikeri; the well-organised Arts & Crafts Trail will take you to over 20 creative outlets.  The town is now considered the centre of Northland's glass art communityClose to the town, and well worth a visit, is Rainbow Falls, a spectacular 27-metre waterfall which is easily accessible from the car park off the aptly named Rainbow Falls Road.

Getting from Auckland to Bay of Islands:

Road Travel: Self-Drive and Bus Options

If you enjoy the freedom of exploring at your own pace, consider renting a car and driving from Auckland to Bay of Islands.  The journey takes approximately three hours, and the route offers stunning coastal views. 

Alternatively, if you prefer a hassle-free option, Intercity operate between the two destinations.  Buses depart daily from InterCity's SkyCity Terminal at 102 Hobson Street.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.

Air Travel: Flights and Helicopter Transfers

For those looking to save time, flying is a convenient option.  Air New Zealand offers regular daily flights from Auckland to Kerikeri, the nearest airport to Bay of Islands.  The flight duration is approximately 50 minutes, allowing you to maximize your time exploring the region. 

Another exciting option is to take a scenic helicopter transfer, offering spectacular aerial views of the beautiful landscapes.  Day tours from Auckland can be booked with both Heli Me and Heletranz.  Alternatively, Salt Air offers a good option if staying in the Bay of Islands with a range of scenic trips from Paihia.

Accommodation Choices: Where to Stay

There is a range of accommodation options in the Bay of Islands with most options found in Paihia and Russell.  Treat yourself to a luxurious resort overlooking the water or opt for cozy bed and breakfasts to experience the warm hospitality of the region.  Budget-conscious travelers can find affordable motels and holiday parks, perfect for families and backpackers.

Best Time to Travel

The Bay of Islands experiences relatively consistent temperatures throughout the year, making it a year-round destination.  If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting outside of the peak tourist season.  Traveling during the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) can provide a good balance of lovely weather and fewer crowds.