Visiting the Bay of Islands by cruise ship

Welcome to the Bay of Islands - the birthplace of our nation.

The Bay of Islands is the northernmost New Zealand cruise ship port. Its 144 islands are a beautiful marine playground, with secluded beaches and abundant wildlife. Dubbed 'the angler's El Dorado' by American novelist Zane Grey in the 1920s, it is an area rich in Māori and European history. Here are some tips on what to see and do during your stay, including Bay of Islands shore excursions, tours and cruises.

Arriving in the Bay of Islands by cruise ship

After anchoring in the inner Bay of Islands, your cruise ship's tender will bring you to Waitangi wharf where cruise ship ambassadors are waiting to meet you.

Take a free shuttle bus to the main hub of Paihia – or if you prefer to walk, it is an easy 20-minute stroll along the waterfront.

In Paihia you’ll find friendly locals, quality cafes and restaurants and all types of activities on offer: swim with dolphins, sail, fish, dive, snorkel, kayak, shop, go hiking or just relax on the beach. Find out more about Paihia

Paihia services and amenities

  • Passenger ferries to Russell. These run every 20 minutes and cost NZ$12 return. See ferry timetable
  • Essential services: pharmacy, doctor, post office, banks and money exchange, supermarket, SIM cards
  • Free WiFi
  • Shopping: quality New Zealand souvenirs and gifts, greenstone carvings and traditional Māori crafts.
  • Art and craft markets on the Village Green with local artists
  • Restaurants, bars and cafes (try real ‘Kiwi’ fish and chips on the waterfront, or sample fresh Bay of Islands oysters)
  • Ice cream shops (try a Hokey Pokey ice cream!)
  • Information centres and booking offices. We want you to make the most of your time here, so drop in and let us help with your Bay of Islands shore excursion plans.

Bay of Islands shore tour ideas

Make sure you take the opportunity to get a taste of the Bay of Islands while you are in port. These Bay of Islands attractions are all within easy reach during your Bay of Islands cruise ship visit:

  • Russell was once called the ‘Hellhole of the Pacific’, but today is a quaint, peaceful village. Visit historic buildings, enjoy refreshments at a harbourside restaurant, or go for a scenic walk. Russell can be reached by ferry from Paihia. See its highlights on a Russell Mini Tour (see below). Find out more about Russell
  • At Waitangi in 1840, Māori and British representatives signed the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document. Learn about New Zealand history, see the magnificently carved meeting house and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe. The Treaty Grounds are 10 minutes’ easy walk from Waitangi wharf. You can also visit Paihia or Russell first, and stop there on your way back to your ship. Find out more about Waitangi
  • Haruru Falls are beautiful horseshoe-shaped waterfalls approximately 3km (1.86mi) from Waitangi wharf. You can walk there (2.5 hours one way) on a riverside track through native forest. We recommend taking a taxi to Haruru Falls after your Paihia shore excursion, then following the track back to Waitangi wharf and your ship.
  • Kerikeri is a town full of charm and flavour. Visit the famous Stone Store and Kemp House, New Zealand’s oldest standing European building. Browse art galleries, enjoy fresh local produce or tour the vineyards. You can discover Kerikeri on an afternoon tour with us, or travel there by taxi or hire car. Find out more about Kerikeri

Other Bay of Islands and Northland attractions

Enjoy the wider Northland region while your cruise ship is in port in the Bay of Islands. Plan ahead to visit these spots on a day tour or hire a car:

  • Explore the Hokianga region (day tours available) and see the famous Tane Mahuta, an ancient kauri tree.
  • See Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. If you want to travel this far we strongly advise you take an organised tour booked through your ship in case of delays.

Bay of Islands day tours and cruises

The below shore tour options are easy to fit in during your Bay of Islands shore visit.


Russell Mini Tour

Adults NZ$30. Departs Russell hourly from 10am – 4pm

Discover historic Russell on an intimate one-hour coach tour with a local guide. Learn about its significant sites and enjoy stunning views. You will need to buy a return ferry ticket to Russell from our friendly team at the Fullers GreatSights office in Paihia.

Book Russell Mini Tour


Island Adventurer Cliffs and Caves tour

Adults NZ$87. Departs Paihia at 11am or 2pm

Join us on board Island Adventurer for a visit to some of the Bay of Islands' most pristine spots, perfect for walking and swimming. Get up close to the rare rock formations, explore hidden caves, lagoons and sheer rock cliffs, and stop off on an island for stunning views of the Bay and beyond.

Book Island Adventurer Cliffs and Caves Tour


Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise

Adults NZ$107. Departs Paihia at 9am

Set off on a half-day Bay of Islands cruise in search of dolphins and other marine life. Enjoy the views from our catamaran Dolphin Seeker as we journey right to the end of the Cape Brett Peninsula, to the famous Hole in the Rock on Motukokako Island.

Note: check in for this cruise is at 8.45am, departing at 9am sharp. Check with your crew that an early tender is available to get you to Paihia in time, as no refund will be issued if you are delayed.

Book Hole in the Rock Dolphin watching cruise