6 Day Walks in the Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands was made for walking: it has abundant native forests, glorious coastlines, wildlife sanctuaries on islands, and beautiful vistas in every direction. We’ve put together some of our favourite day walks in the Bay of Islands – they’re at least two hours long, so you’ll certainly feel like you’ve had some exercise, fresh air, and been able to visit some of the truly stunning parts of the Bay of Islands.

1. Whangamumu Harbour Walk

2 hours (1 hour each way). 4.2km one way. Starts from Rawhiti Road, which is about half an hour’s drive east from Russell.

This gorgeous historic coastal track is an easy walk for the family and takes you through regenerating wetlands, native forest often packed with tui, a hilltop with spectacular views and down onto a quintessential beach just begging for a picnic lunch.

The track’s history is all about whaling – this was the track whalers walked to get to a whaling station. Along the beach and around the headland, you’ll find the remains of one of the last shore-based whaling stations in New Zealand. A factory once stood there, built in 1844 to which ships brought enormous humpback whales in to be cut up and processed: something we’d be horrified by today, but was big business at the time. Now all that remains to be seen are concrete bins which might have been cooking vats for meat and bones, a huge rusty boiler, a ramp where they dragged whales from the sea, some train tracks and brick walls.


2. Paihia to Opua, Okiato to Russell – BOI full circle day walk

5.5 to 6 hours total (approximately 14km)

This walk will give you a great appreciation for the Bay of Islands area. First, you’ll walk from Paihia to Opua on a well-established track along gorgeous white-sand beaches, mangrove swamps, and coastal forest. This track has beautiful water views across to the Russell Peninsula. At high tide some parts of this coast are a challenge to walk, so make sure you keep tide times in mind. Once at Opua, grab some refreshments at the General store before taking the Fullers GreatSights vehicle ferry (as a foot passenger, it costs just $1.00) across to Okiato on the Russell Peninsula. From here, you’ll walk a combination of flat sections along the coast and some steep bush areas with no shortage of steps! Along the way you might see the historic manganese mine at Orongo Bay, oysters and vineyards. When you get to Russell, stay the night or simply take the Fullers GreatSights passenger ferry back to Paihia, which departs on the hour from the Russell wharf. You can also walk the whole trail clockwise if you prefer.


3. Urupukapuka Island Archaeological Walk

5 hours round trip (7.3kms)

The island of Urupukapuka is a predator-free wildlife sanctuary and is the largest island in the Bay of Islands. It is just a 7.3 km boat ride from Paihia.  As well as rare native species, it is rich with historic sites that are amazingly intact because of the island’s relatively undisturbed landscape. The island was home to a large Maori population – around 1500 people – when pakeha first arrived in Aotearoa. It has 73 archaeological sites, which includes fortified villages, gardens, food storage and eight different pa sites.

Take a ferry from Paihia (Explore Group, or with Fullers Greatsights as part of a Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise experience) over to the island’s Otehei Bay, and take the signposted Archaeological Walk. This track is designed to be walked in a clockwork direction: take your togs as it passes many great beaches, and have a nice cold beverage at the restaurant/bar in Otehei Bay once you’ve finished your walk.


4. Moturua Island Track

This 2.5-hour, 4.6km loop track is on the stunning Moturua Island Scenic Reserve – it takes you up ridges for spectacular views, and drops you down onto four unique beaches, some pebbly, some with soft sand.

Moturua Island has a huge amount of history – it has 27 archaeological sites with pa, middens, gardens and terraces, evidence of the thriving Maori population that once lived there. The French set up camp there for 3 months a couple of years after Captain Cook, and left after a bloody battle where they destroyed a pa. In World War II, the navy operated a mine control station there (you can see these ground structures from Hikurangi Pa). These days, Moturua Island is a place for conservation of history and wildlife.

Catch a 20-minute water taxi or paddle your kayak out to Moturua Island – and there are plenty of bays where you can anchor a boat too.


5. Kerikeri River Track and Rainbow Falls

This track takes 3 hours (1.5 hours and 3.5km each way).

This easy track along the riverbank starts in the Kerikeri Basin and passes the remains of the historic Kerikeri hydro-electric station (operating 1930-1967). It takes you through regenerating kauri and totara forest which is filled with the birdsong of tui and fantail. It also takes you to two pristine waterfalls – first, the Wharepuke Falls, and finally the impressively roaring Rainbow Falls that pumps from 27m high. Take your togs because there are lots of places to swim along the way – including the Rainbow Falls where you can swim behind the cascade.


6. Waitangi to Haruru Falls

5 hours – 2.5 hours each way (6kms total)

This walk takes you from the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds to the Haruru Falls which are in the rare geological shape of a horseshoe. The falls are small, but they thunder with water after a big rain (haruru means ‘big noise’ in Te reo) – they are also the place where the Waitangi River discharges into a lagoon. The trail from the Treaty Grounds is largely flat and takes you through boardwalks amongst mangrove forest, as well as areas that can be a little muddy at times (so take appropriate footwear). You could walk up to the falls and back or get a friend to meet you with a car at the Haruru Falls carpark.

These are just some of the great day walks in the Bay of Islands – enjoy your day out in our beautiful slice of paradise!

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