12 Free Things to Do in The Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Free things to do in the Bay of Islands

🗾 Introduction to 12 Free Things to Do in The Bay of Islands

New Zealand is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, and one of its most iconic destinations is the Bay of Islands.

This stunning region on the North Island of New Zealand is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone seeking a taste of the Kiwi outdoor lifestyle.

While the Bay of Islands offers numerous paid activities and tours, there are also plenty of free things to do that allow you to explore this exquisite region without breaking the bank.

1. Visit Paihia Beach

Paihia is often considered the gateway to the Bay of Islands, and its beach is a perfect place to start your exploration.

The soft, golden sands and crystal-clear waters make it an inviting destination for sunbathing, swimming, or building sandcastles.

The beach has picnic areas and public restrooms, making it an excellent spot for a family outing or a leisurely afternoon.

Paihia Beach

2. Explore the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are of great historical and cultural significance to New Zealand.

While there is an entry fee to visit the museum and guided tours, you can explore the beautiful grounds and take in the stunning views of the bay for free.

Stroll through the manicured gardens, admire the impressive waka (Maori canoe), and reflect on the history of the Treaty of Waitangi, a pivotal moment in New Zealand’s history.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

3. Take a Walk to Flagstaff Hill

Flagstaff Hill, located in Russell, offers a panoramic view of the Bay of Islands. To reach this vantage point, take a leisurely hike through lush native bush and be rewarded with a spectacular vista of the surrounding islands and waters.

The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of all levels.

Flagstaff Hill

4. Visit Haruru Falls

A short drive from Paihia, Haruru Falls is a natural wonder waiting to be explored.

Unlike many waterfalls, Haruru Falls is unique in that it is a horseshoe-shaped waterfall, which creates a serene and picturesque setting.

You can view the falls from a viewing platform or walk along the riverbank for a closer look.

Picnic tables and barbecue facilities are available for those looking to make a day of it.

Haruru Falls

5. Stroll Along the Opua Forest Paihia Coastal Walkway

The Opua Forest Paihia Coastal Walkway is a scenic trail that showcases the diverse landscapes of the Bay of Islands.

The walkway takes you through native forests and past idyllic beaches and offers breathtaking bay views.

This is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty and snap some Instagram-worthy photos.

Opua Forest Paihia

6. Swim with the Dolphins

You don’t need to book an expensive dolphin-watching tour to enjoy these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

The Bay of Islands is home to a resident population of dolphins, and you can often spot them from the shore or while you’re out on the water in your own kayak or paddleboard.

swim with dolphins

7. Hike the Rangihoua Heritage Park

Rangihoua Heritage Park offers a glimpse into the historical roots of the Bay of Islands. This area was one of the first places where European settlers established a mission in New Zealand.

Explore the park, visit the historic sites, and take a moment to reflect on the cultural exchange that shaped the nation.

Rangihoua Heritage Park

8. Visit the Duke of Marlborough Hotel

While dining at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel may not be free, taking a stroll through this historic establishment certainly is. Built in 1827, it’s New Zealand’s oldest hotel.

Wander through the charming halls and appreciate the colonial architecture and captivating maritime history.

Duke of Marlborough Hotel

9. Oneroa Bay Walk

The Oneroa Bay Walk is a delightful short walk that showcases the stunning landscapes of the Bay of Islands. It’s a fantastic option for those who want to experience the region’s natural beauty without committing to a long hike.

You can enjoy picturesque views of Oneroa Bay and its surroundings.

Oneroa Bay Walk

10. Visit Kawiti Glowworm Caves

While visiting the Kawiti Glowworm Caves typically requires an admission fee, you can still admire the natural wonder from the outside for free.

The caves are home to thousands of glowworms, illuminating the dark cave interiors with their magical bioluminescent glow.

You can witness this enchanting sight from the cave entrance.

Kawiti Glowworm Caves

11. Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

If you’re an avid mountain biker or just looking for an active adventure, the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park is the place to be.

With various trails catering to different skill levels, you can enjoy the region’s stunning views while enjoying an adrenaline-pumping ride.

Bring your bike and enjoy this fantastic facility for free.

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

12. Swim at Long Beach

Long Beach, situated near Russell, is a quiet and pristine location for swimming and relaxation.

The turquoise waters and soft, sandy beach make it ideal for a refreshing dip or a leisurely sunbath.

As it’s less crowded than other beaches in the Bay of Islands, you can relish a sense of seclusion while taking in the magnificent views.

Swim at Long Beach


While enjoying these free activities, remember to be a responsible and eco-conscious traveler. 

Respect the environment, wildlife, and local culture, and leave no trace to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of the Bay of Islands.

So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to explore this magnificent corner of New Zealand as there are plenty of free things to do, specially in the Bay of Islands!

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