Bay of Islands family itineraries
The Bay of Islands is the perfect year-round destination for an unforgettable family holiday. Thanks to its subtropical climate, calm beaches and abundance of water and land activities, it’s easy to have fun as a family in the Bay!
To make the most of your family holiday in the Bay of Islands, here are our suggestions for family itineraries.
Long weekend Bay of Islands family time
If you’re travelling north to the Bay of Islands, take the journey slow and stop in Whangarei. There are some great playgrounds and parks along the main highway, or drive into the centre of town and stop at the Town Basin Marina Village. Here you’ll find Whangarei’s biggest playground, cafes, restaurants, shops and more importantly, somewhere for the kids to stretch their legs and burn some energy!
Before you reach Paihia, stop for a loo break at the world famous Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa. This comfort stop is a piece of art in its own right!
Check into your accommodation and head down to the waterfront for an easy dinner of fish and chips on the beach.
Head out on the morning Hole in the Rock cruise with an island stopover. Make sure you pack some snacks, togs and towels so you can have a quick swim while you stop off on a secluded island.
You’re probably quite hungry by now so jump off in Russell for lunch. There are a few restaurants to eat a delicious meal with children in tow, and we like Hone’s Garden. Wood fired pizza, local craft beer and NZ wines and the best part, a lovely large outdoor eating area set within a beautiful garden.
If your kids aren’t too tired, explore Russell by foot for the afternoon. One of the most rewarding walks you can do as a family is the Flagstaff Hill Track. It starts on the corner of Kent and Wellington Streets (just 5 mins walk from Hone’s Garden) and will take about 30 minutes return. It’s an easy walking track, but it is uphill so could be difficult for young children. Once you reach the summit you’re treated to stunning 360 degree views of the Bay of Islands.
Head back to Paihia for dinner using the complimentary passenger ferry tickets from your cruise.
On the last day of your long weekend in the Bay of Islands, visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It’s unquestionably New Zealand’s most important historic site and a valuable place for children to learn about how New Zealand was shaped in 1840. With a day pass you can visit the museum, watch cultural performances, take part in a guided tour and more, plus children are free with an accompanying adult!
If you’ve got time before leaving Paihia, hire a bike and blast around the Waitangi Bike Park. It’s seriously good fun for the whole family.
3-4 Days Bay of Islands Family Getaway
One of the Bay of Islands' best-kept secrets is the Kawiti Glowworm Caves. They’re only 20 minutes south of Paihia, so you can drop in if you’re travelling to the Bay of Islands from Auckland. On a guided tour, you’ll walk through lush native rainforest before reaching a cave full of twinkling glowworms and incredible rock formations.
Today will be a full day out on the water on board our Cream Trip cruise. It’s the most comprehensive cruise in the Bay of Islands with the opportunity to go through the Hole in the Rock, see and swim with dolphins*, explore an island, and for the older kids – go boomnetting!
Jump in the car and head to Kerikeri for the day. You’ll find some interesting places for the whole family, including the Parrot Place, home to over 300 birds from all over the world, a fun and engaging art trail at the Wharepuke Sculpture Park and the Makana Chocolate Factory where you can watch chocolate being made! You can also enjoy Kerikeri on one of our afternoon tours, visiting the chocolate factory, historic sites and a boutique vineyard.
Spend the day soaking up the sun at the beach! Pack your beach essentials, lots of food and drinks, load up the car and catch the car ferry over to Russell for a day at Oneroa Bay. It’s a popular spot and perfect for children. Or if you’d rather stay in Paihia, head to the waterfront and hire a paddleboard, jet ski or kayak for an adventurous day on the water.
If you have more time:
- Older children will love the thrill of parasailing and the Bay of Islands is the best place for it
- Visit Tāne Mahuta, the largest kauri tree in the world, in the Waipoua Forest
- Stroll around the Paihia Farmers' Market (every Thursday afternoon) or any other local market
- Let the kids go crazy at Action World
* To swim with dolphins on The Cream Trip, children must be over 8 years old in summer (24th October – 26 April) and over 12 years old in winter (27th April – 23rd October).