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7 Water Activities in the Bay of Islands

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Get out on the water in the Bay of Islands!

Since the early Maoris, New Zealand has always had a significant relationship with the ocean. What better place to discover the magic of New Zealand’s waters than in the Bay of Islands?! The bay is a coastal paradise with 144 islands. The waters are teeming with dolphins, fish and all sorts of fascinating sea creatures. And with scorching summers and mild winters, there’s never a bad time to test out the waters in the Bay of Islands.

Whether you want to cruise around the unusual rock formations of the bay or get stuck in with some dolphin swimming or scuba diving, there is a whole range of ways to experience the water in the Bay of Islands. Most trips depart from Paihia and Russell. Additionally, the Waitangi River, just a short drive or walk from Paihia, holds more awesome water activities in the Bay of Islands usually ending with the spectacular finale of the roaring Haruru Falls.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your water adventures in the Bay of Islands!

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1. Scuba Diving in the Bay of Islands

It doesn’t get anymore watery than in scuba diving! The Bay of Islands is one of the best dive spots in New Zealand for both beginners and experienced alike. Get among the kelp forests, home to a colourful array of fish species. Those who are qualified can check out shipwrecks like the famous Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, as well as the HMNZS Canterbury. Check out more dive locations in 10 Places to Scuba Dive in New Zealand.

Location: Location: Paihia Dive, Dive North and Dive Zone Bay of Islands all operate in the Bay of Islands.
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2. Swim with dolphins

[Update: swimming with bottlenose dolphins is now prohibited in the Bay of Islands. Dolphin-viewing cruises still operate in the afternoons]. Marine mammals often occupy the waters of the Bay of Islands, the most common of which are the bottlenose dolphins. Some cruises, like Fullers GreatSights and Explore NZ, departing from Paihia and Russell give you the opportunity to throw on a wetsuit, mask and snorkel if you’re lucky enough to spot dolphins leaping from the water. Alternatively, there are cruises dedicated to seeking out whales and dolphins for you to observe and to swim with the latter. Miss out this time, try these other locations in 5 Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in New Zealand.

Location: Departing from Paihia and Russell
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3. Sail away in the bay

Sailing trips in the Bay of Islands really is a way to make an activity your own. Get as involved or relaxed as you want with opportunities to learn sailing techniques. After a day exploring the bay by the power of the elements with Barefoot Sailing AdventuresR. Tucker Thompson or Vigilant Yacht Charters you’ll understand why sailing is such a favourite Kiwi pastime. There are options to take an all-day island-hopping cruise, a sunset cruise or an overnight cruise.

Location: Paihia Wharf and Paihia Beach
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4. Go kayaking, paddle-boarding or waka paddling

You have heaps of options when it comes to paddling yourself around the Bay of Islands. Either hire a kayak and go on your own little mission around the bay join a guided tour down the wildlife and culture-filled Waitangi River. The Waitangi River is home to mangrove forests leading to the impressive Haruru Falls. Get stuck in there and kayak right underneath the falls! Waka paddling tours also take you down the Waitangi River where you can immerse yourself in the Maori culture while learning to paddle a traditional Maori canoe.

Location: Kayaking operators can be found on Paihia Beach and at the mouth of the Waitangi River. Book your trip with Bay of Islands Cruise & KayakCoastal KayakersThe Rock Adventure Cruise or Bay of Islands Kayaking.
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5. Cruise around the Bay and outer islands

Cruises depart daily from Paihia and Russell to go and explore some of 144 islands that are scattered throughout the bay. Check out the gargantuan Hole in the Rock where, if conditions allow, the boat with cruise right through the middle. While some cruises simply show you the quick highlights of the Bay of Islands, others allow you to hop off the boat and spend time hiking, snorkelling or kayaking on the islands. We consider the Bay of Islands cruises one of our 11 Stunning Backpacker Cruises in New Zealand.

Location: Tours from the Paihia Wharf & Russell are available with Explore NZ and Fullers GreatSights. Additionally, Albatross V Expeditions offers tours from Russell.
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6. Parasail over the bay of islands

How does seeing the bay from 1600ft sound? Get a whole different perspective out on the water with a parasailing flight! The Bay of Islands is one of the premier spots in New Zealand to try out this thrilling experience. It’s not necessarily a “water” experience, but it’s certainly an adventurous experience out on the water.

Location: Flying Kiwi Parasail is based at the Paihia Wharf
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7. Go fishing

There’s no better “local” experience than going out on the water for a fishing trip. Your guide will share the best fishing spots in the bay with you to catch some whopping snapper. What’s more, you’re likely to go back to your hostel with fresh fish for dinner. For more information, check out Fishing in New Zealand.

Location: Paihia Wharf
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