10 Fun Things to Do in Bay of Islands for Free

10 Fun Things to Do in Bay of Islands for Free

If you’re searching for fun activities in the Bay of Islands that are free, keep reading. In this article, we listed down some of our favorite things to do in the area at no cost and why we liked them. 

After this, you’ll see that having fun in the Bay of Islands doesn’t need to cost money! 

1. Visit the Puketi Forest to gaze at kauri trees. 

Visit the Puketi Forest to gaze at kauri trees
Image from Unsplash by AR
ADDRESS1756 Waiare Road, Ōkaihau 0295, New Zealand
CONTACT DETAILS+64 9 407 0300 (Bay of Islands Office)

The Puketi Forest is filled with amazing sights and is home to one of the biggest trees in the world, the ancient kauri. A lot of people actually come here just to see them – and after you’ve seen them in person, you’ll see why.

But there are lots of other things to do in Puketi Forest aside from looking at the trees. You can camp, ride your mountain bike, and even hike the established trails here. 

If you’re planning to hike, make sure to also visit the DOC website here or call the Bay of Islands Office first so that you know the current state of the track. Be sure to follow all the regulations and signs on the trail as well. 

Whatever you end up doing, just remember to do your part to protect Kauri trees by ensuring that your boots and equipment are clean before going into the forest. Use the provided hygiene stations when entering and leaving the forest. 

Why do you need to practise strict hygiene when visiting the Puketi Forest?

Kauri “dieback” disease is caused by a pathogen called Phytophthora agathidicida (PA for short). This is transferred to the soil by people’s boots and equipment. 

What the pathogen does is it infects the roots of the kauri trees and restricts them from transporting water and nutrients to its leaves, which starves the tree. 

2. Have a unique loo experience at Kawakawa’s public toilets.

Have a unique loo experience at Kawakawa’s public toilets
Image from Wikimedia
ADDRESSNilsson Building 1990 62 Gillies Street, Kawakawa 0210, New Zealand
OPERATING HOURSDaily (07:00 AM to 10:00 PM)

Believe it or not, the Kawakawa Hundertwasser toilets are one of the main tourist attractions in Kawakawa. Yep, you read that right: people come here to look at the loos.

Why? Well, the toilets provide a unique and quirky bathroom experience, being surrounded by colorful decorations and adorned with pottery, tiles, and bottles. 

The Austrian artist and eco-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed this public toilet, if you couldn’t guess from the name. He’s known to be very passionate about recycling and incorporated recycled materials in his work of art. 

He certainly made something remarkable here. Who knew toilets could be this beautiful? 

3. Visit the stunning Haruru Falls.

Visit the stunning Haruru Falls
Image from Stuff
ADDRESS80 Haruru Falls Road, Waitangi 0204, New Zealand

This block-type waterfall can be found in a secluded valley in Waitangi River. Block-type waterfalls are also known as sheet waterfalls and are typically wider than taller in appearance.

Haruru means “big noise” in Māori, by the way. If you come here after heavy rainfall, you’ll understand why it’s named that. 

You can go here anytime and just admire the waterfalls while nursing your cup of coffee or tea. Our team found it calming and relaxing – it’s definitely worth the visit. 

It’s a great spot for photographers as well. So, don’t hesitate to bring your camera if you want to take some good shots. 

They also have benches and picnic tables where you can enjoy a good meal with friends and family. 

4. See the Rainbow Falls. 

See the Rainbow Falls
Image from Unsplash by Asap Pang
ADDRESSKerikeri 0295, New Zealand
CONTACT DETAILS+64 9 407 0300 (Bay of Islands office)

Located just 30 minutes away from Piaihia, Rainbow Falls is another great destination that won’t cost you anything to visit. You can go here with friends and family and just enjoy the sights and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Rainbow Falls has three designated viewing areas, two near the top of the waterfalls, and one at the bottom. The ones at the top are a short distance from the car park. 

You can also swim here. This is a great summer treat because the water is so refreshing after spending time under the sun. 

Oh, and, don’t worry: the place is equipped with bathroom facilities in case you want to freshen up afterwards. 

After swimming, you can also picnic in the car park area. You can find a shady area and lay down a blanket where you and your companions can sit. 

5. Watch how chocolate is made at Makana. 

Watch how chocolate is made at Makana
Image from Makana Confections
ADDRESS504 Kerikeri Road, Kerikeri 0293, New Zealand
CONTACT DETAILS+64 9 407 6800
OPERATING HOURS09:00 AM to 05:30 PM (Every day)

Makana Confections is a boutique chocolate factory every chocoholic should visit when in the Bay of Islands. Each piece of beautiful chocolate here is handmade, which gives you an idea of what to expect. 

The best thing about this is that you can actually watch talented chocolatiers make chocolate in front of you. They also give out complimentary chocolate samples for you to try, subject to availability. 

We won’t blame you if you take more than one sample and end up buying these in bulk. Fellow sweet tooths will agree that the chocolates here are of great quality and worth the trip. 

6. View the vistas of Bay of Islands in Waitangi Golf Club.

View the vistas of Bay of Islands in Waitangi Golf Club
Image from Waitangi Golf
ADDRESSTau Henare Drive, Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
CONTACT DETAILS+64 9 402 7713
OPERATING HOURS08:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Every day)

Waitangi Golf Club is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country, plus it has a fantastic view of the Bay of Islands. You can come here and just take in the sights and relax. 

Granted, golfing here isn’t free. But if you have the budget for it and want to try something new, this can be a fun weekend activity for you and your family. 

Check out the golfing rates below: 

Non Affiliated Members – 9 holes$40
Non Affiliated Members – 18 holes$70
Juniors (under 18 years)$25

If you don’t have your own set of golfclubs, they have a lot of sets for hire. You can even rent an electric car. 

7. Visit the oldest church in the country. 

Visit the oldest church in the country
Image from Wikipedia
ADDRESS1 Church Street, Russell 0202, New Zealand
CONTACT DETAILS+64 27 206 0981
OPERATING HOURS10:30 AM to 12 NN (Sunday)

If you like historical landmarks, then this might be the attraction for you. Christ Church is the oldest church in the country, established in 1835 in Russell. 

The church holds mass every Sunday at 10:30 AM if you actually want to attend, by the way. This Anglican church holds mass in both English and Te Reo Maori. 

You can also just admire the church building and surroundings. It’s very peaceful, so it’s better for those who want something laid-back and quiet to do. 

8. Stroll around Paihia Wharf.

Stroll around Paihia Wharf
Image from Northland Ferries
ADDRESSPaihia Wharf, Bay Of Islands, New Zealand

Want to see some of the bay’s best sights? Check out Paihia Wharf. It’s also where most cruises here start, connecting to all parts of the Bay of Islands.

At dusk, we recommend bringing a fishing pole with you and fishing off the wharf’s edge. We got a lot of kahawai on our day fishing there. 

There are also live music spots at Charlotte’s where you can relax and enjoy a drink or two after strolling through the town, by the way.

9. Hike the Flagstaff Hill Loop.

ADDRESSRussell 0202, New Zealand
CONTACT DETAILS+64 9 407 0300 (Bay of Islands office)

When we’re recommending where people can go to take great photos of the bay, we always mention one of its most historic places, the Flagstaff Hill Loop. Flagstaff hill provides you with an absolutely wonderful view of the Bay of Islands.

It’s a 2.5-kilometer loop and takes around 30 minutes to an hour of hiking, depending on your speed. Do note that dogs aren’t allowed in this area, however – even with a leash. 

If you and your companions love a good hike, fresh air, and bird-watching, this is one of the best places we can recommend for you. 

10. Enjoy beach hopping.

Enjoy beach hopping
Image from Unsplash by Greg Nunes
ADDRESS28 Marsden Road, Paihia 0200, New Zealand (Paihia Beach)

Te Tii, Marsden Road, Paihia 0200, New Zealand (Te Tii Bay)

Sullivan’s Road, Paihia 0200, New Zealand (Sullivan’s Beach)

Long Beach Road, Russell 0202, New Zealand (Long Beach)


Last but not the least, go to one of the wonderful beaches in the Bay of Islands! You’ll see a lot of golden sand and white sand beaches ready for you to explore. 

You can do some swimming, fishing, and even surfing at the beaches here. Paihia’s main beach is the center of the Bay of Islands and it’s where a lot of people go for recreation.

If you want calmer seas so that you can easily swim and fish, we’d say go to the northern point at Te Tii. There’s also a playground there so that the young ones would be entertained without the perils of open seas.

If you’d like to keep the beach to yourself, though, go to Sullivan’s beach instead. It’s considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country – very peaceful and relaxing. 

Sullivan’s beach is a hidden gem in the Bay of Islands as it has no road access. You can find it beyond the native trees at low tide.

If you’re on the Russell side of the Bay of Islands, visit Long Beach. As its name suggests, the beachfront is quite long and it would take you 30 minutes to walk from end to end. The water is also calm and is recommended for beginner swimmers and surfers.

There you have it, our favorite free activities around the Bay of Islands. Did we miss anything? Let us know if so!

By the way, if you’re looking for other free activities all around New Zealand, check out some of our other articles. Here are two that can get you started: