Bay Of Islands Cruises
Rich in legend and history, the Bay of Islands has lured explorers for many centuries. Captain Cook anchored here in 1769, bestowing the simple name that captures its unpretentious charm. As the ship cruises into the Bay of Islands, experience spectacular scenery with volcanic black rocks and rugged cliffs. You have arrived at one of the finest maritime parks in New Zealand; over 100 islands and numerous bays teem with birds and marine life.
The Bay of Islands is New Zealand's cradle of European civilization, with many points of interest relating to both early European and Maori settlement. Before the arrival of European explorers and settlers, the Maoris lived in this area for hundreds of years, their culture adding an underlying Polynesian graciousness to the country.
There are many "firsts" associated with the Bay of Islands, such as the first European community, the oldest home and church in the country and the first capital of New Zealand among others.
A long, irregular coastline shelters the numerous islands, many of which are part of the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park. Within its boundaries lie historically significant sites as well as scenic and recreational lands. In addition, there are reserves that have been established to protect what is left of the once vast native kauri forests. These magnificent trees rival California's redwoods in age, height and girth. The Maori could carve a canoe for one hundred warriors from the trunk of one kauri tree. The valuable timber became the country's first major export, but the supply depleted fast as pioneer settlers cut trees down at a rapid rate.
Major sites around the Bay of Islands include Waitangi, one of the country's most historical sites, and Paihia, a subtropical marine resort popular as a starting point for cruises around the bay and fishing excursions. Visitors will not want to miss Russell, one of the oldest towns in New Zealand. Once a village of swashbuckling sailors, whalers and traders, it was known as the "Hell Hole of the Pacific." In the 1920s, Zane Grey immortalized the area with his famous big game fishing exploits. Today, anglers still regard the Bay of Islands as a top fishing area, while residents cherish its unhurried pace, balmy climate and serenity.