Bay of Islands – ideas for free time

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Free time in the Bay is Islands is undoubtedly going to revolve around the water – whether on it or alongside it. If you don’t already have an excursion booked then there are plenty to choose from: scenic cruises, wildlife watching, sailing, kayaking – and your hosts or the tourist information centre in Paihia or Russell will be more than happy to help organise these things locally.

Paihia is the main hub for the bay and a lively centre, with a selection of charming souvenir shops, local services and good quality cafes and restaurants, and is good spot to enjoy a pre- or post-excursion ice cream, coffee or meal. There are also several nice beaches and the swimming is quite safe here. Across the water Russell is full of historic charm, with white weatherboard buildings and much more of a very laid-back atmosphere. Visit Russell Museum to learn about the history of the Maori and the European settlers of this area and climb Flagstaff Hill, an important historic landmark and a fantastic local viewpoint. There is a regular foot ferry between Paihia and Russell if you are just visiting for the day.

Just north of Paihia is the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a protected heritage site and an essential visit for those interested in the modern history of New Zealand. See our Waitangi (add link) page for further information.

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