The Bay of Islands is an area on the east coast of the Far North District of the North Island of New Zealand. It is one of the most popular fishing, sailing and tourist destinations in the country, and has been renowned internationally for its big-game fishing since American author Zane Grey publicized it in the 1930s.
It is 60 km northwest of the city of Whangarei. Cape Reinga, at the northern tip of the country, is about 210 km by road further to the northwest.
The bay itself is an irregularly-shaped 16 km-wide, 260 km2 drowned valley system and a natural harbor. It contains 144 islands, of which the largest is Urupukapuka, and numerous peninsulas and inlets.
This region of New Zealand is rich in history and a fantastic example of why New Zealand has much to offer the traveler. This area of New Zealand is where the first missionaries settled in the early nineteenth century.
History of Bay of Islands
About 700 years ago, the Mataatua, one of the large Māori migration canoes which journeyed to New Zealand from Hawaiki, was sailed to the Bay of Islands which today is the largest in the country. Māori settled and multiplied throughout the bay and on several of its many islands to establish various tribes.
Many of the Māori settlements later played important roles in the development of New Zealand, such as Okiato (the nation’s first capital), Waitangi (where the Treaty of Waitangi would later be signed) and Kerikeri. Some of the islands became notable as well, such as Te Pahi Island where 60 of chief Te Pahi’s people were killed as revenge after he was wrongly accused of being responsible for the Boyd Massacre at Whangaroa.
The bay has many interesting historic towns including Paihia, Russell, Waitangi, and Kerikeri. Russell, formerly known as Kororāreka, was the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand.
In a 2006 study, the Bay of Islands was found to have the second bluest sky in the world, after Rio de Janeiro.