Rotorua to the Bay of Islands

Oct 21st, 2018, 11:51 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2018
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Rotorua to the Bay of Islands

Hi: My wife and I will be visiting New Zealand Feb-March 2019. Most of our trip has been planned out and we are seeking some advice regarding the last portion of it. Specifically, from Rotorua we would like to go to the Bay of Islands area (we will be driving). We have four nights available before we return to Auckland for our flight home the following day. We are looking for suggestions about places to see and go in the Bay of Islands area and about where we could stop the first night after leaving Rotorua. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks. J
johnr1016 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2018, 01:58 PM
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John, Rotorua to Bay of Islands (Paihia or Kerikeri) will be about a 6 hour drive.
Have you an idea of where you'd want to stay in Bay of Islands? If hoping to stay in Russell, it would take you a little longer as you'd have to catch the car ferry from Opua to Russell. You can also reach Russell by land. More details here:
Getting Here | Russell | Bay of Islands | New Zealand

In my opinion, these are among Bay of Islands top attractions:
A visit to Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the historic Treaty of Waitangi was signed. Waitangi is close to Paihia; you can drive or walk to it.
A drive to Hokianga Harbor and Waipoua Kauri Forest (home to Tane Mahuta, NZ's largest remaining kauri tree)
A visit to charming and historic Russell (Old Russell was NZ's first capital).
Russell | Bay of Islands | New Zealand | The historic town of Russell - Kororareka
Many visitors do day cruises out of Paihia or Russell, to view dolphins or Hole in the Rock (on both my visits to Bay of Islands, ocean conditions were too rough to sail, so I can't comment on this experience)
Many visitors do full-day tours to Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach (again, another excursion I have not done)

There are many other non-major attractions that are worth mentioning.
You have the opportunity of seeing kiwis in the wild (sightings not guaranteed) on a guided walk at Aroha Island, a 16-minute drive from central Kerikeri. Kiwis are generally nocturnal. Or on a guided nature walk in Russell.
Russell Nature Walks - Guided Walks in The Bay of Islands
Haruru Falls is just outside of Paihia. Rainbow Falls is near Kerikeri.
On one of our visits to the Bay of Islands we drove north to Doubtless Bay, exploring much of the coast along the way. I most enjoyed the historic fishing village of Mangonui, a pretty place to stop for lunch.

We've stayed in both Paihia and Kerikeri. In Paihia, we loved the views from our modest accommodation, Cook's Lookout Motel.
Paihia also has wonderful beachfront accommodation, such as Paihia Resort and Spa:
More accommodation choices here:

Friends of mine loved their stay earlier this year at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell:

Last edited by Diamantina; Oct 24th, 2018 at 02:09 PM.
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Oct 25th, 2018, 04:19 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2018
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Hi Damantia; Thanks for your comprehensive reply and suggestions of places to visit; they will be very useful in helping us plan our visit to the Bay of Islands area. The drive from Rotorua to Paihai is long but we reckon that everything we see along the way will be new and exciting! We are unsure if we will do this drive in one or two days but I expect that after going over your comments that this will be more clear. Cheers John
johnr1016 is offline  
Oct 26th, 2018, 04:00 PM
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John, if you want to maximize your time in the Bay of Islands, you might want to do this long drive in one day, getting an early start and breaking it up with comfort stops and a longer lunch break.

As I said before. my husband and I visited the Bay of Islands twice. The first time we drove there and back from Auckland. The second time, because we didn't want to do that drive again, we flew up from Auckland and rented a car from the Bay of Islands airport in Kerikeri to explore the area. When done, we turned in our rental and flew back to Auckland.

I was hoping poster Tasmangirl, who lives in Auckland and knows the North Island well, would be able to answer your question about where to break up your journey. But she mentioned starting a new job in a previous post, so she's probably very busy. I can recall her previously mentioning the small wine region of Matakana, which is a little more than half way along your journey, about 3.5 hours from Rotorua, and 2.5 hours from Paihia (in the Bay of Islands). I've not yet been to Matakana myself, but I would consider visiting it if passing through, based on what I've heard and read (one of my friends here in Dunedin is thinking of moving there). It's an up-and-coming wine and food destination, with a few scenic restaurants. Plus, it wouldn't be too far off your route. Maybe a good place to stop for lunch? This article, "48 Hours in Matakana", just appeared in NZ's Cuisine Magazine:
Brick Bay Winery has a popular restaurant and a sculpture trail:
Brick Bay Wines - Matakana Winery

A Bay of Islands attraction I forget to include was the Hunderwasser toilets in Kawakawa. Probably NZ's most photographed toilet:
Reviews here:

Last edited by Diamantina; Oct 26th, 2018 at 04:03 PM.
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