Visiting the Bay of Islands by cruise ship
Welcome to the Bay of Islands - the birthplace of Aotearoa, New Zealand. The Bay of Islands is the northernmost New Zealand cruise ship port, and a beautiful marine playground with secluded beaches, an abundance of wildlife and a rich 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. Cruise ship ambassadors will be waiting to meet you here. From Waitangi wharf you can 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. You can swim with dolphins, sail, fish, dive, snorkel, kayak, shop, go hiking, go mountain biking 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$12.50 return. See ferry timetable
- Essential services: pharmacy, doctor, post office, banks and money exchange, supermarket, SIM cards, internet cafe and church services
- 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 - why not try real ‘Kiwi’ fish and chips on the waterfront, or sample fresh Bay of Islands oysters
- Ice cream shops - Hokey Pokey is an iconic and delicious Kiwi ice cream flavour!
- Information centres and booking offices. We want you to make the most of your time here, so drop in at our Paihia or Russell office and let us help with your Bay of Islands shore excursion plans.
Bay of Islands day tours and cruises
The below shore tour options are easy to fit in during your Bay of Islands shore visit.
**Double check your ship's arrival and departure times into the Bay of Islands as these can change.**
Hole in the Rock Cruises
Morning cruises depart Paihia at 9am and return at 12pm/1pm.
Afternoon cruises depart Paihia at 1:30pm and returns at 4:20pm/5.30pm.
We have two Hole in the Rock cruise options. You can choose either a three-hour dolphin watching cruise, or a four hour cruise with an island stopover.
On both cruises you'll enjoy spectacular views as you cruise out through the islands and along the Cape Brett Peninsula to the famous Hole in the Rock. If conditions permit, we'll cruise right through the hole! If you choose the three-hour dolphin cruise you'll also be busy spotting dolphins, whales and other marine life as you travel. On the four-hour cruise we won't be cruising with the dolphins, but we will stop over on one of the Bay's beautiful islands.
Note: check in for the morning cruises 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 late. The afternoon cruises arrive back in Paihia at 4:20pm/5.30pm, so please check with your crew that a tender will be available after this time.
Island Adventurer Cliffs and Caves Cruise
Morning cruise departs Paihia at 11am and returns at 1:30pm.
Afternoon cruise departs Paihia at 2pm and returns at 4:30pm.
Join us on board Island Adventurer to visit 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.
Dolphin Eco Experience
Departs Paihia at 12:30pm and returns at 4:20pm.
Cruise the Bay of Islands in search of dolphins and whales and get up close to these majestic mammals on our intimate half-day cruise. If conditions allow, jump into New Zealand’s warmest waters and swim with them, an unmissable Bay of Islands experience.
Russell Mini Tour
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. To do this tour, you’ll need to buy a return ferry ticket to Russell from our friendly team at the Fullers GreatSights office in Paihia.
Discover Kerikeri Tour
Departs Paihia at 1pm.
Join our relaxing afternoon tour to Kerikeri and discover a town full of charm, character and history. Kerikeri is home to New Zealand’s oldest surviving building, the Kemp House, and some of New Zealand’s oldest European history. You’ll also have the chance to indulge in quality, locally made chocolate and wine.
Bay of Islands shore tour ideas
Make sure you take the opportunity to get a taste of the Bay of Islands while you’re 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 and you can 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 (see below), 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: