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Carino NZ Sailing and Dolphin Adventures. Get close to dolphins (primarily bottlenose) and penguins. Passengers on the 50-foot red catamaran can just relax or pitch in with sailing. This full-day trip (NZ$120) includes a barbecue lunch at one of the islands, weather permitting, and a full bar is on board. This company has a permit that allows guests to swim with dolphins. The tours are not run in the winter months. Paihia Wharf Marsden Road, 0200. 09/402–8040. www.sailingdolphinz.co.nz.
Dolphin Eco Experience. Trips come with an option to "Swim with the Dolphins." You might also spot Brydes whales, migrating humpback and orca whales, or groups of tiny blue penguins. Prices begin at NZ$109 Marsden and Williams Rds., Paihia, 0252. 09/402–7421. www.dolphincruises.co.nz.
Fullers. Cruises and sea-based adventure trips depart daily from both Paihia and Russell. The most comprehensive sightseeing trip is the six-hour, summer-only Best of the Bay Supercruise (NZ$119) aboard a high-speed catamaran. You'll follow about half of what was once called the "Cream Trip" route, but nowadays, instead of picking up cream from farms, the boat delivers mail and supplies to vacation homes. Fullers also visits Urupukapuka Island, once home to a hapu (subtribe) of the Ngare Raumati Māori. Little is known about their life, but there are numerous archaeological sites. It's also the only one to go to Otehei Bay, one of the island's most spectacular bays. On this particular trip, the boat stops for an hour and a half on the island, where you can go kayaking, take a short hike, or have lunch at the Zane Grey Café. The trip also takes in the Hole in the Rock, a natural hole at sea level in Piercy Island that boats pass through if the tide is right. During winter there is a shorter NZ$99 trip that is mostly focussed on finding dolphins. Maritime Bldg., Marsden Rd., Paihia, 0200. 64 9/402–7421. www.dolphincruises.co.nz.
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