144 islands can be discovered in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand – and a fantastically beautiful coast. No wonder that the subtropical area in the north of the North Island is one of the favorite destinations of many holidaymakers.
The Bay of Islands, which is about 250 kilometers from Auckland and 70 kilometers from Whangarei, is considered the origin of the European settlement of New Zealand. Whalers were the first to arrive, and around 1823 the first Christian mission was established.
It is therefore no wonder that New Zealand’s first capital was built in the area in 1840: Today Russell has the oldest Roman Catholic building (Mission Pompailier), the oldest church and the first police station in New Zealand. Mission Pompallier is now a museum where you can learn a lot about the arts of tanning and bookbinding. If you visit the historic Christ Church, the oldest church, you will still find bullet holes from the Maori wars.
Paihia – lively center of the Bay of Islands
Paihia is busier, considered the center of the Bay of Islands – with many hotels and most things to do, from kayaking to helicopter flights. Paihia and Russell are connected by a passenger ferry.
Insights into Maori history
You can learn a lot about the history of the Maori in Waitangi. The site was an important trading post between British immigrants and the Maori from 1833. There were many conflicts – also between the different Maori tribes, in which it was about land use and other issues.
Officer James Busby, who was at Waitangi as an envoy, strove for peace. He designed a flag for New Zealand together with the Maori and negotiated an alliance of the United Tribes of New Zealand with 35 Maori chiefs. This alliance signed a declaration of independence for the country.
However, it took another five years until the Treaty of Waitangi could be signed on February 6, 1840. However, he did not bring peace, but the opposite: there were different interpretations of the treaty, and both sides felt disadvantaged. The result was armed conflicts, the effects of which can still be felt today.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the treaty was signed in 1840, is now a museum, which includes the former home of James Busby. Impressive exhibits of the museum are a 35 meter long war canoe and a Maori meeting house.
Those who visit the Bay of Islands are particularly attracted by the dreamy coasts. The climate is subtropical and the landscape is lush. One of the favorite activities is water sports of all kinds – especially sailing.
There is great snorkeling at Moturohia Island (there’s even an underwater nature trail for snorkelers) and Urupukapuka Island has a gorgeous campsite. Also original is “Hole in the Rock”, a gate made of rock at the entrance to the Bay of Islands. If you like, you can go through it on a boat tour.