Bay Of Islands Walks

From gleaming oceans, secluded waterfalls, and epic climbs, you’ll love these Bay of Islands Walks

The natural history, legends, and unique landscape play an important role in appreciating the Bay of Islands. From gleaming oceans, secluded waterfalls, epic climbs, and historic landmarks, some of the best spots and sights on your trip will only be found walking on two legs. Make sure you pack your best walking shoes, because we’ve prepared a list of some of the  best Bay of Islands walks.

Rainbow Warrior Memorial Walk

The rainbow warrior memorial walk is an important historical walk tied to the culture and history of the region. On the doorstep of Matauri Bay holiday park, this trail leads you up the headland overlooking both bays, and the cavalli islands in the distance. Apart from the astonishing view, the highlight of this walk is the monument that sits at the top. A stone arc sculpture created and produced by renowned NZ sculptor Chris Booth, crafted from local materials stands overlooking the bay. It faces, and commemorates, the scuttling site of iconic greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, you can find out more about that here.

Paihia to Opua Coastal Walkway

One of The Bay Of Islands prettiest walks, the Paihia to Opua Coastal Walkway is a relatively gentle 6km walk. Starting from the very center of Paihia, you’ll journey through seaside town, quiet coast, and classic native bush. There are many sights along the way, including the helipad, veronica channel, and generally spectacular views from the coast. At the Opua end of this walk you’ll find a general store with food, drink, and other supplies. This walk is a great way to enjoy the diverse nature of classic Bay of Islands, get some exercise, and have a chilled out day.

Okiato to Russel Walkway

Leading on from the Paihia to Opua Coastal Walkway, you have the option of taking the vehicle ferry as a foot passenger to Okiato. From here you have access to a much longer 4 stage walk which will take you all the way across to Russell. This iconic walk is an impressive undertaking but If you have the time, it’s definitely worth considering. It can be broken down into smaller sections, detailed below:

1. Pipiroa Bay – Aucks Road

The first stage of the trek begins at Pipiroa Bay, at the landing of the Okiato passenger ferry. This section requires decent footwear and fitness, as there are some steep climbs and potentially muddy sections. As you go along look out for the “historic place” sign along James Clendon Place. This route will take you to the country’s first capital, Russell. A deeply historical spot, Russell was named for British Colonial Secretary Lord John Russell in 1840 by Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson. On the reserve the original settlement’s well can still be seen.

Continuing to the mudflats at low tide and you’ll find a colourful variety of local birds. Herons, oystercatchers, and kingfishers hang around looking for a meal.

The track follows the boundary of the swamp, if you’re lucky you’ll see fernbirds in the reeds. Local volunteers and council have been working to restore local flora and fauna, and their work is seen through the awesome diversity here. Note, this is a kiwi zone so if you’re lucky you may see the elusive bird, but remember dogs must stay on lead.

The track ends in a single large kauri. Before a staircase taking you to the Aucks Road Carpark, the next part of this trail.

2. Aucks Road – Te Wahapu Road

Stage 2 of the route begins through a privately owned track. There is native bush and you’ll see ferns, rimu, and tanekaha. The well marked track should be relatively easy to follow, however, there are some segments with steep stepped sections. At the tail end the track will descend to a stream bed before ascending through a lancewood grove. Finally follow the boardwalk before reaching the Te Wahapu Road car park.

3. Te Wahapu Road – Orongo Bay

From Te Wahapu carpark, the track descends sharply back into native bush. As you proceed, enjoy the vista of the beautiful Orongo Bay. The curious oyster farm, fernbirds, and cliff side views are a treat as you cross the winding sandmarsh boardwalk. A historical site near the boardwalk is the Orongo Bay Homestead, dated to 1860 it was originally home of the American Consular Agent. Along the way you’ll enjoy the calls of Weka and caspian terns, frolicking in the shallows of the bay.

4. Orongo Bay – Russell

The final leg of the walk starts at Hirst Reserve, with the boardwalk ending and grass track commencing. Kicking off this section you’ll pass Tikitikioure mountain. Initially an important defensive Pa for Maori, the mountain then served as a mine in 1872. Mostly prospecting Manganese, ore from the mountain would be transported for processing via lighters in the bay below.

Proceeding you’ll find the oyster farm and reach Russell Whakapara Road, one organisation we love here is Russell Nature Walks. They offer a number of guided day and night trips and walks which are worth checking out should you have more time. Turn right on to Uruti Road and within 100 metres find yet another boardwalk, this time crossing a raupo swamp into a Manuka Grove and then back to Russell Whakapara Road. Finally go through Florence Avenue and then Matauwhi Road on your final walk into Russell village.

Haruru Falls Track

One of the Bay of Islands most iconic waterfalls, Haruru Falls resides approximately 5km from Paihia. The immense cascade of water and stunning nature make this an extremely memorable track and popular destination for visitors to the area. ‘Haruru’ is a Maori word meaning “Big Noise”, and this is definitely an earned title. During the rainy season it is normal to hear water falling and crashing far before you see it.

An important location for Maori, the ancient legend goes that a massive Taniwha calls the lagoon home. His giant roar contributes to the sound of the intense torrent.

If you’re visiting in the summer, even without the extra rainfall the falls are a beautiful area to explore and admire.

When is the best time to do the Haruru Falls Walk?

Winter Walk

The winter is our favourite time to enjoy the waterfall, ideally after a spell of heavy rain. Despite the less favourable wet conditions, it allows you to appreciate the true power of the water rushing down, and can enhance your experience of the location. If you do manage to see the falls after a rain it’s important you do come prepared. This means dressing for wet weather, and wearing decent walking shoes (Particularly for areas where the track is slippery. Make sure you also are mindful of time, as during the winter months the sun can set quite early. 

Summer Walk

During the summer season the walk becomes quite a bit easier and is still quite picturesque. However, it’s important you stay safe and bring along a hat, sunblock, and plenty to drinking water.

How long is the Haruru Falls Walk?

Haruru Falls Walk is a 6km track, and takes around 2.5 hours to go from the entrance to the waterfall (Meaning you will also need to walk 2.5 hours back).

Where Does the Hauru Falls Walk Start?

You can either begin your walk from Waitangi Treaty Grounds, or the Haruru Falls carpark. Your preference will likely depend on where you’re coming from. If you’re coming up from Paihia, the Waitangi entrance will be the closest entrance. Start from the north (I.e. Matauri Bay/Kerikeri), it’s easier to start from the Haruru Falls carpark.

Who can do the Haruru Falls Walk?

The D.O.C. has marked the Haruru Falls Track as an easy walking track, suitable for anybody of moderate fitness and ability. Truth be told, while the path has ups and downs a large portion of the track is a relatively flat walk through Mangrove Forest. The track is accessible for people of all ages, with a number of convenient benches for walkers to take rest. However, if you think both ways may be slightly too much walking for you, planning a pick up from the opposite end may be a wise option.

Children will certainly love the boardwalk, and fantastic native flora and fauna throughout.

Local Tip: If you’re coming with children, bring along some bread. There are some very friendly roosters that typically hand about the Haruru Falls Carpark.

Is it safe to swim at Haruru Falls?


There are a number of holiday parks and campgrounds along the banks of the Waitangi River for people wanting to take a dip, and the base of the Haruru Falls is no different. As you go along you will see rope swings mounted on trees overhanging the river, (We recommend being cautious of these, they’re homemade).

Swimming at the falls is generally safe, however, one thing to keep in mind is the depth. Either stick to the edges, or bring some kind of floatation device if you aren’t the most confident swimmer. The waterfall is also a popular spot for kayakers, so be mindful of their presence,

Kayaking along the track

Another awesome way to enjoy the falls is by kayak. Kayaks can be hired from Paihia from specific tour operators at the Waitangi end. This is a great option, as they’ll guide you up the river towards the falls, highlighting all the important and beautiful sites along the way. The best part, once you reach the waterfall end, your guide will take care of the gear, and you can still enjoy the walk back down to Waitangi.

The 2 operators in the area are Bay of Islands Kayaking and Coastal Kayakers (Prices start at $50 for children and $70 for adults).

Things to look out for on the Haruru Falls Track

From fascinating local history, fantastic wildlife, and fabulous scenery, the Haruru Falls walking track is packed with things to look out for.

The Mangrove Forest

A large part of the Haruru Falls Track is the extensive boardwalk navigating through the heart of a mangrove forest. When it’s low tide it’s possible to see tiny crabs running across the thick mud searching for a meal.


Close to Haruru Falls amongst the pohutukawa trees you’ll find a nesting site for shags. Shags are an indigenous cormorant native to New Zealand. If you want to see baby chicks it’s best to visit in autumn or spring.

These colourful birds may be a bit harder to spot, you’ll find them amongst the tops of the mangroves, or looking down from the pohutukawa trees overhanging the Waitangi River. Shining blue green, with a white chest, try to catch them swooping down to catch a crab in the mudflats.

History of the Falls

Prior to European colonisation, the Waitangi river was New Zealand’s busiest waterway, with Haruru falls being New Zealand’s first river port. At one point, the riverbank stretch from Waitangi to Haruru was the home of at least 9 villages.

The falls played an important role as a meeting point for more inland tribes to connect, interact, and trade with iwi from the coast. This allowed for greater  access to supplies and resources particularly during war time. Early missionaries claim to have seen 60-100 waka at the banks of the falls.

Opua Kauri Walk

This track is frankly more of a stroll, but it’s perfect for those who want to enjoy the grandeur of magnificent kauri trees without having to hike for hours. If you’re making the way up to Matauri Bay it could be worth stopping off along the way to see the trees aged between 25-400 years old.

Whangamumu Track – Whaling Station

This track is a relatively easy walk through native forest and northland beach on the way to Whangamumu Harbour. A historical track, originally used by whalers in the early 20th century, it is steeped in history.

Commencing at the Tangatapu Wetlands navigate coastal forest, across an elevation to eventually see the beach head at Whangamumu Harbour. There are a number of helpful signs which explain the history and features of the harbour. After you reach the beach, there is a short 10 minute walk to the historic Whangamumu Whaling Station.

It’s important to note, the whaling station can only be accessed 1-2 hours either side of high tide (At other times this track section is closed to walkers). 

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Where to stay while you explore the Best Bay of Islands Walks

Matauri Bay Holiday park is the obvious choice for those keen on exploring the Beast Walks in the Bay of Islands. We also offer awesome facilities, and a range of awesome accommodation options expert staff will ensure you have an amazing experience while you’re here. Click “Book Now” to lock in your stay!

Great place to stay, fantastic location. You basically turn a corner and see this wonderful view, where the holiday park is at the bottom. You are right on the beach, wonderful to listen to the waves lull you to sleep at night.

The amenities were extremely clean.
Such a wonderful location.

Jay from New Zealand