While visiting the Bay of Islands, you have two main home-base options. Choose the thriving tourist center of Paihia as a jumping-off point for most cruises and outdoor activities—or the quaint, quieter seaside village of Russell. Here’s how to make the most of a 3-day stay.
Bay of Islands Cruise Port (Waitangi Wharf)
Bay of Islands, New Zealand
A wide range of shore excursions depart from Waitangi Wharf. Tours typically focus on heritage sites such as Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a replica of a traditional Maori village; the Kerikeri Mission Station; and the Haruru, Rainbow, and Wharepuke waterfalls. Some also stop at local wineries. See the nature and wildlife of the region by hiking in Puketi Forest, cruising through the Hole in the Rock, or taking a helicopter flight over the bay.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Bay of Islands Cruise Port is a tender port, so you'll be taken ashore via tender (small boat).
Discover the Bay of Islands on foot, by boat, helicopter, or coach on a shore excursion tour.
Shore excursions typically include port pickup and drop-off, and lunch.
The towns of Paihia and Russell are easily explored on foot, though transport is required to explore most other parts of the bay.
How to Get to Paihia From Waitangi Wharf
Waitangi Wharf is a tender port, meaning that cruise ships must moor off Waitangi while smaller tender ships can carry passengers to shore. The tender trip to Waitangi Wharf takes 20 minutes. From there, it’s a 25-minute waterfront walk or a 5-minute shuttle bus ride into the town of Paihia. Some shore excursions depart directly from the wharf.
There are no facilities at Waitangi Wharf itself but you'll find a visitor center, ATMs, and currency exchange services in Paihia. Ferries run regularly from Paihia to nearby Russell. The official languages in New Zealand are Maori and English; the official currency is the New Zealand dollar.