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Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands in Northland – a Day Trip

On your way to the Bay of Islands, you will find the small village of Kawakawa. Frederick Hundertwasser first visited New Zealand in the 1970’s to mount a public exhibition of his work. He was so captured by the country that he resolved to make it his second home.

In 1998 the Kawakawa Community Board was looking to upgrade 40-year-old toilet facilities in the central township. Hundertwasser offered a solution from his design palate. To Hundertwasser, a toilet is very special because you meditate in a toilet. Like a church. “The similarity is not so far fetched”. His concept was adopted and, with the artist personally lending a hand in construction supervision, including the provision of materials from his own studio.

Hundertwasser could never have dreamed of the impact he was going to have on the small, rural community of Kawakawa. From a sleepy hollow just off the tourist track through the Bay of Islands, the Kawakawa township has burgeoned into a “must see” mecca for Hundertwasser devotees worldwide.


Hundertwasser Toilets

The famous Hundertwasser toilets credit NorthlandNZ


Bay of Islands is a very popular tourist destination just over 1-hour drive away from Ara Roa. Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds or the historic especially relevant township of Russell – the first capital of New Zealand. However, the main object of any visit to the Bay of Islands would be to take one of the many boat trips offered out into the Bay.

There is a large range of options to choose from. Book in on the gaff-rigged schooner R Tucker Thompson for that leisurely cruise/lunch – or on the high-speed Excitor, which can whizz you through the Bay in 90 mins.  The boat ride itself being part of the fun!

There are several boats that also offer trips to experience getting up close with the local dolphins in the bay.  There are many options in between and several operators to choose from. Booking a scenic flight is another great way to see the area.


Tall Sailing Ship in the Bay of Islands

Tall Sailing Ship in the Bay of Islands

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are an absolute must-do if you decide to visit the Bay of Islands. Rich in history and stories of the momentous events which shaped our nation.

Grab a Day Pass and enjoy admission to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Museum of Waitangi, Guided Tours, Cultural Performances and full access to the expansive grounds of New Zealand’s most important historic site.

If you are looking for a half or full day of experiencing the Maori Culture, we have the wonderful Tu Tika Tours based in Whangarei. Immerse yourself in learning about this fascinating culture. The traditions, customs, food and stories; including a visit to significant cultural sites. Highly recommended.

If you are interested in learning and experiencing the local Maori culture head over here to discover more.



To get to Russell you will need to take the car ferry across from Opua or alternatively, you can get on the small passenger ferry from Paihia. Russell, known as Kororareka in the early 19th century, was the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand. As you stroll around this small seaside village it is like walking back in time. The towns original street plan and names from 1843 are still intact and you will find some of New Zealand’s oldest and most significant buildings here.

Flagstaff Hill can be found above the town and the views from here are spectacular.

Our favourite spot for lunch is the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. This is another historic place and in fact the first hotel to be licensed to sell alcohol in New Zealand. This licence was granted in 1840. The Duke is located on the waterfront in Russell and has fantastic views over the water. In fact, you cannot get any closer to the water than from this restaurant. Booking in for lunch is recommended as it is a popular place.

Russel Bay of Islands