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7 Best Bay of Islands Tours from Auckland 2024

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If you’re looking to do a Bay of Islands tour from Auckland you’ve made a good choice!

The Bay of Islands is an absolutely stunning region of New Zealand! As a local North Islander who has lived in New Zealand for 27 years, I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to the Bay of Islands multiple times and it’s a place I would happily return to again and again.

The Bay of Islands, a scenic and culturally rich area in New Zealand’s Northland region, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and historical significance. Known for its stunning coastline, dotted with over 140 subtropical islands, the Bay of Islands is a dream destination for tourists starting their journey from Auckland.

My Top Pick: Best Bay of Islands Tour from Auckland

#1 Top Pick
Breathtaking view of the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, featuring crystal-clear turquoise waters dotted with lush green islands under a serene blue sky.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

3-Day Bay of Islands Tour from Auckland

✅ ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise

✅ Waitangi Treaty Grounds

✅ Cape Reinga

7 Best Bay of Islands Tours from Auckland

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best Bay of Islands tours from Auckland, offering insights into planning your trip, top attractions, accommodation, and much more, ensuring an unforgettable experience!

Setting off from Auckland, your gateway to the Bay of Islands is an adventure in itself. The road trip, spanning approximately three to four hours, takes you through picturesque landscapes and coastal views.

1. Three-Day Bay Of Islands Tour including Waitangi and Cape Reinga

Playful dolphins gracefully swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Bay of Islands, showcasing the marine beauty and wildlife encounters that make this destination a must-visit.

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 3 days | ✅ Book it!

Highlights

  • 2 nights’ accommodation in Paihia
  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Cape Reinga Lighthouse
  • Ninety Mile Beach
  • ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise

This three-day Bay of Islands tour from Auckland is a perfect blend of nature, history, and relaxation. Your transport is sorted with return transfers from Auckland and a choice of cosy 3-star or luxurious 4-star accommodation for your 2-night stay in Paihia.

Discover New Zealand’s heritage at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and feel the sand of the legendary Ninety Mile Beach under your feet on day 2. The Cape Reinga Lighthouse stands as a beacon at the country’s tip, offering breathtaking views and is an absolute must-see.

Day 3 includes a ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise, a highlight that encapsulates the bay’s magic. Keep an eye out for some dolphins while you’re out there!

One lunch is included, other meals are extra.

Pros:

  • You get to choose between 3-star or 4-star accommodation depending on your budget
  • A great way to see the highlights of Northland if you are short on time or don’t plan on renting a car
  • Enjoy a mix of guided and independent tours

Cons:

  • The tour involves quite a bit of driving
  • Hotel pick-up and drop-off aren’t included, you need to meet at the specified meeting point
  • Transport is in a city bus not a tour bus

2. 3-Day Bay of Islands Tour from Auckland

Breathtaking view of the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, featuring crystal-clear turquoise waters dotted with lush green islands under a serene blue sky.

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 3 days | ✅ Book it!

Highlights

  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Manginangina Kauri Walk
  • Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach
  • ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise
  • Tour of historic Russell

Get ready for an action-packed 3 days as you see some of the most popular sights of the North Island. Day 1 kicks off with a fascinating journey through history at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where you’ll gain insights into Maori culture and New Zealand’s founding document.

Day two will see you travelling further north where you’ll visit the beautiful Puketi Kauri Forest along the way up to Cape Reinga. The drive takes about 4 hours so prepare to be on the road for a while.

Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand’s North Island. It is a significant landmark for both Maori and European cultures, as it marks the meeting point of two major bodies of water – the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

And for day three, get ready for a boat cruise that takes you through the amazing Cape Brett Hole in the Rock (sea conditions permitting). Keep an eye out because if you’re lucky you might spot the Bottlenose Dolphin1

As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll also squeeze in a sightseeing tour of historic Russell, a town brimming with charming colonial architecture as you make your way back to Auckland.

Pros:

  • A great way to see the highlights of Northland if you are short on time or don’t plan on renting a car
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off from Auckland are included
  • Two nights of accommodation is included in the price
  • Lunch on day 2 is provided

Cons:

  • It takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes to get to the Bay of Islands from Auckland, and 4 hours to get from the Bay of Islands to Cape Reigna so do expect to do quite a bit of driving over the 3 days
  • Quite a few activities to squeeze into 3 days
  • Bad weather may impact the experience

3. Bay of Islands Winterless North Tour

Spectacular sunset over the Bay of Islands, with the sky painted in vibrant hues of orange, pink, and purple, reflecting off the calm waters and silhouetting the islands, creating a serene and picturesque end to the day in this stunning New Zealand locale.

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 3 days | ✅ Book it!

Highlights

  • Sundowner Cruise in the Bay of Islands (summer only, another option is provided in winter)
  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Visit Tāne Mahuta
  • Hostel accommodation means the cost of the tour is more affordable
  • Continental breakfast is included each day

Unveil the wonders of Northland with the Bay of Islands Winterless North Tour. Start your journey by paying homage to Tāne Mahuta, the largest living kauri tree in existence. This amazing giant, a tribute to nature’s grandeur and endurance, is an experience you’ll always remember.

Spend day 2 any way you like with the Bay of Islands at your doorstep. What I like about this tour is it offers flexibility for those who wish to add more activities at an extra cost, allowing you to tailor your itinerary according to your interests.

In the evening it’s time to embark on a Sundowner Cruise in the Bay of Islands; bask in the breathtaking views while watching the sun go down.

On day 3 you’ll head to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where you’ll witness the unfolding of the nation’s history as you explore a pivotal site in Māori and European relations.

High-end hostel accommodation costs are included in the price, it’s a social vibe so it’s perfect for those travelling alone. You’ll also start each day with a tasty continental breakfast too!

Pros:

  • Hostel dorm room style accommodation keeps costs down
  • Option to upgrade to a private room
  • The option to add more activities to your itinerary means extra flexibility
  • The base cost of this tour is cheaper than some of the other options

Cons:

  • The cost of extra activities can add up
  • Better for couples or singles as opposed to families
  • The Sundowner Cruise option is not available in summer

4. 5-Day Bay of Islands Rotorua Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton Tour from Auckland

The iconic Cape Reinga Lighthouse standing tall on the northernmost tip of New Zealand, with its white structure contrasting against the vivid blue sky and surrounded by the rugged coastal landscape, marking the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

⭐️ RATING: 4/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 5 days | ✅ Book it!

Highlights:

  • Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Paihia
  • Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach
  • Te Puia Thermal Reserve
  • Hobbiton Movie Set tour
  • Waitomo Glowworm Caves

On this epic 5-day tour you’ll explore the breathtaking Bay of Islands, Rotorua, and Waitomo Caves and even get to set foot on the Hobbiton movie set. This tour does squeeze in quite a lot in 5 days so expect there to be a fair amount of driving however it is a good way to tick off a lot of the main sights in the North Island if you’re pressed for time.

Once you depart Auckland, the journey begins with a tour of the historical Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Paihia. You’ll spend the night in Paihia before making the journey to Cape Reinga the next day.

Day 3 will see you make your way to Rotorua. Once here prepare to be amazed by boiling mud pools at Te Puia Thermal Reserve.

Set off from Rotorua on day 4 for Hobbiton where you’ll enjoy a guided tour of the movie set. Later in the day, immerse yourself in a captivating Maori Cultural show and feast on a traditional hangi dinner.

Your last day consists of a guided tour through Waitomo Caves where you’ll cruise through a mesmerising glowworm grotto. Ruakuri Cave is an incredible place to visit and I would highly recommend it, I loved my experience here. The glowworms are pretty magical!

There are standard and superior accommodation options to choose from. The cost of this 5-day tour is significantly more than the 3-day tour, it’s about double the price so you may want to factor that into your decision.

Pros:

  • Tick off most of the tourist hotspots in the North Island
  • Includes highlights that other tours don’t such as Hobbiton and Waitomo Glowworm caves

Cons:

  • The tour cost is quite expensive compared to other 3-day options
  • Heading north to the Bay of Islands, then up to Cape Reigna back past Auckland, down to Rotorua and Waitomo is a LOT of ground to cover in 5 days – almost a bit too much in my opinion!
  • A lot of time will be spent on the road

Best Bay of Islands Day Trip from Auckland

If you’re pressed for time but eager to experience the Bay of Islands, you can book a Bay of Islands day trip from Auckland. It’s a fantastic way to soak in the beauty and excitement of this iconic destination in just a single day.

Bear in mind that the Bay of Islands is a 3 hour and 45min drive north of Auckland so you will be spending quite a bit of time in the car but it is doable if you are pressed for time and don’t want to miss out on the beauty of the Bay of Islands!

These efficiently organized tours are designed to showcase key highlights like the Hole in the Rock and often include a dolphin-watching cruise. It’s the perfect way to experience a slice of Northland’s paradise without needing an extended stay.

5. Group tour to Bay of Islands return from Auckland

One of the best Bay of Islands day trip from Auckland, showcasing the vibrant blue waters, lush greenery on scattered islands, and a clear blue sky, epitomizing the natural beauty and allure of this must-see New Zealand destination.

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 10 hours | ✅ Book it!

Highlights:

  • Three-hour scenic cruise in the Bay of Islands
  • Whangarei Falls
  • Snacks and bottled water included

Escape the hustle and bustle of Auckland City, and embark on a breathtaking journey to the Bay of Islands. This group tour is ideal for those seeking to maximize their experience in the northern region of New Zealand but are short on time and only have one day to spare.

On the journey north, the drive includes a pitstop at Whangarei Falls, where you can soak up views and stretch your legs.

Once you reach the Bay of Islands you’ll set sail on a three-hour scenic cruise. Enjoy the views and the captivating live commentary that reveals stories hidden within each of the 144 islands dotting this magnificent bay.

Look out for Bottlenose dolphins in these waters – an unforgettable sight that adds a touch of magic to your adventure.

There’s no need to pack refreshments because snacks and bottled water are included for the day. The tour also includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, making this tour as hassle-free as possible!

Pros:

  • Good option if you only have 1 day to spare
  • Aside from the driving, most of the tour is spent on a cruise enjoying the bay
  • Cost-effective if booking with a large group

Cons:

  • A long day with 3 hours and 45 minutes of driving each way
  • Tour start time is 6 am

6. Bay of Islands Heritage Experience from Auckland incl. Waitangi & Russell

Dynamic Māori cultural performance at Waitangi, with performers in traditional attire demonstrating a powerful haka, surrounded by intricate carvings and the lush New Zealand landscape, showcasing the rich heritage and vibrant traditions of the Māori people.

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 13 hours | ✅ Book it!

Highlights

  • Māori cultural performance
  • Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  • Complimentary refreshments and water onboard

Embark on an unforgettable journey to the Bay of Islands Heritage Experience, right from the heart of Auckland. Start your day with a visit to Waitangi and get immersed in New Zealand’s history at the Treaty Grounds, where you’ll witness powerful Māori cultural performances.

From there, transition into the tranquillity of Paihia where you’ll board a boat for a short ride over to Russell and take in the sights of the town in a 1-hour coach tour.

You’ll learn about important sites such as the Pompallier House and Christ-Church. Plus you’ll get a chance to see some stunning views from Flagstaff Hill.

The convenience of hotel pick up and drop off from CBD locations ensures that all you need to worry about is whether or not you brought your camera with you! Refreshments and water for the day are also included.

Pros:

  • Great option for travellers who want to experience the cultural side of New Zealand
  • Enjoy a powerful Maori cultural performance
  • Getting to experience Russell as well as Paihia

Cons:

  • A long day with 3 hours and 45 minutes of driving each way
  • No ‘Hole in the Rock’ Bay of Islands cruise
  • Tour start time is 6 am

7. Bay of Islands Discovery Experience from Auckland incl. Hole In The Rock Cruise

Majestic view of the 'Hole in the Rock' formation on one of the best Bay of Islands tours from Auckland, New Zealand, set against a backdrop of azure waters and a clear sky.

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 13 hours | ✅ Book it!

Highlights

  • Cruise to the Hole in the Rock
  • Hundertwasser Public Toilets
  • Coffee stops to break up the journey

Departing at a leisurely time of 9 am from Auckland this 13-hour tour is a day trip you won’t be forgetting any time soon.

On your journey north there are a few pitstops to allow you to grab a coffee and stretch your legs. One of the stops is near the famous Kawakawa’s Hundertwasser Public Toilets. These funky bathrooms are quite the attraction, with their unique architecture making this humble town a must-visit for every traveller!

Included in the tour is a 4-hour ‘Hole in the Rock’ cruise once you reach the Bay of Islands. Keep an eye out for any dolphins swimming in the bay. You’ll also be able to enjoy a 1.5-hour break on one of the islands.

Pros:

  • Aside from the driving, most of the day is spent cruising the Bay of Islands
  • Departure time is at 9 am
  • Hot and cold food available for purchase on board
  • A private tour/activity. Only your group will participate

Cons:

  • The tour requires good weather
  • No cultural aspect

FAQ – Bay of Islands Tour from Auckland

Is the Bay of Islands worth visiting?

Absolutely, the Bay of Islands is more than worth visiting. The picturesque location boasts over 140 subtropical islands that are renowned for their untouched beaches, pristine waters, and exotic marine life.

It’s a haven for those who love water activities like sailing and fishing, while history enthusiasts will appreciate the significant Maori cultural influences and sites. Not to mention the charming town of Paihia with its vibrant eateries and shops.

In essence, the Bay of Islands offers a unique blend of natural beauty, adventure, and culture that truly caters to every kind of traveller.

When is the best time of year to visit the Bay of Islands?

The best time to visit the Bay of Islands is during New Zealand’s summer months, from December to February. During these months, you can enjoy warm, sunny weather and a variety of outdoor activities such as sailing, fishing, and hiking.

The region’s natural beauty is on full display with vibrant greenery and calm, clear waters. Plus, it’s an ideal time for dolphin watching, one of the Bay’s most popular attractions.

However, if you prefer a quieter vacation experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (Spring: September-November or Autumn: March-May) when tourist crowds thin out but the weather remains pleasant.

Conclusion: Best Bay of Islands Tours from Auckland

And there you have it! The Bay of Islands, a stunning group of 144 islands overflowing with pristine beaches and abundant marine life, beckons you to step into an unforgettable adventure right from Auckland’s doorstep.

Whether it’s to keep your eyes peeled for dolphins as you cruise through the islands or soaking in the rich Maori culture, these tours are your ticket to exploring Northland’s beauty in all its glory.

Remember, every journey starts with a single step (or click!). So why wait? Book your Bay of Islands tour today!

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