The Bay of Islands, located on the east coast of the Far North District of the North Island of New Zealand, ranks as one of New Zealand’s top tourist drawcards and is often hailed as the country’s number one holiday destination — the beaches, the turquoise sub-tropical waters, and fascinating history of the Bay of Islands won’t disappoint.
The bay itself is an irregularly-shaped 16 km-wide, 260 km2 drowned valley system and is a natural harbour. It contains 144 islands, of which the largest is Urupukapuka, and numerous peninsulas and inlets. The biggest town is Kerikeri, followed by Paihia, the main tourist town popular for its excellent budget accommodation, boat trips and water sports. The small historical town of Russell is located at the end of a short peninsula that extends into the bay from the southeast.
The Bay of Islands is also a place of enormous historical significance. The Māori people knew it as Pewhairangi and settled here early in their migrations. The town of Russell, formerly known as Kororareka, was the first permanent British colonial settlement in the country, and dates from the early 19th century. It was here that the Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and first signed in 1840; the treaty remains the linchpin of race relations in New Zealand today.
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