The Bay of Islands is a New Zealand enclave encompassing more than 140 subtropical islands next to the country's North Island. It’s the ideal place for island hopping by means of chartered boat. The area dates back centuries to Maori settlement but it was also the first place Europeans settled in New Zealand. History left its mark in colonial towns like Russell, where you find bullet holes from the Maori Wars embedded in Christ Church and the Catholic Mission “Pompallier.” Learn about the Waitangi Treaty, which was signed by the Maori people and the British Empire in 1840; or check out the restored steam engine on the railway at Kawakawa Island.

Not a history buff? No problem – follow the walking trials that crisscross the islands to admire the sea from various vantage points; or road trip around the region. The Bay of Islands is home to tons of marine life such as dolphins, whales, penguins, marlin and gannets, to name but a few. Discover new ecosystems when snorkeling through underwater shipwrecks. Then return to dry land for some old-fashioned R&R on the beach.

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Lara Ray