With its stunning coastal scenery and languid waters, the Bay of Islands is a picture-postcard New Zealand destination. The bay is dotted with around 150 islands, reached from the mainland towns of Paihia and Russell.
Getting your feet wet in this North Island haven is a signature New Zealand experience, and if you love the water you’ll be spoiled for choice.
There’s high-speed jet-boating, sailing, sea kayaking, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving, surfing, fishing - you name it!
Of course, the most popular and best way to sightsee in the Bay of Islands is aboard a cruise. The most famous cruise is the Cream Trip, which follows the route traced by coal, dairy and mail delivery boats in the 1920s, when getting around was only done by boat.
Today the cruise runs between Paihia and Russell, sailing through the famous “Hole in the Rock” at Cape Brett along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins as they chase your boat’s frothy wake, and if conditions are right you can hire snorkel gear to swim with a pod of dolphins.
Or time your cruise for lunchtime and combine wildlife watching, sailing and fine local produce. Sail aboard a maxi yacht, with the opportunity to help hoist the mainsail with the crew if you feel the urge, or ride beneath the sails of a tall ship for a taste of times gone by.
Passing remote bays and beaches, the cruises anchor at pristine islands like Urupukapuka, crisscrossed with walking tracks and fringed with secluded beaches, for a typical Kiwi barbecue, swimming and snorkeling.
For the ultimate Bay of Islands experience, spend the night aboard a luxury catamaran on an overnight cruise. You’ll get to watch the sun set and rise over the water, enjoy a buffet dinner and breakfast, and sleep with panoramic sea views.
Note that some cruises are seasonal, operating only between October/November and April.