Photographs: Destination Northland
The Bay of Islands is an area in the Northland region of the North Island of New Zealand. Located 60 km north-west of Whangarei, it is close to the northern tip of the country.
It is one of the most popular outdoor recreational destinations in the country. With its golden beaches fringed by pohutukawa trees, secluded coves and tranquil harbours, it has been renowned internationally for its big-game fishing since American author Zane Grey publicised it in the 1930s. The Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve along the Tutukaka Coast is a dive mecca, regarded by the late Jacques Cousteau as one of the world's top dive locations.
Just offshore, predator-free islands such as Motukawanui Island and Moturua Island, are home to a number of rare species. All together with Puketi & Omahuta forests on the mainland, the area offers excellent birding.
The Bay of Islands may be considered to be the birthplace of New Zealand. The first European to visit the area was Captain Cook, who named the region in 1769. The Bay of Islands was the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. Whalers arrived towards the end of the 18th century, while the first missionaries settled in 1814. The first full-blooded European child recorded as being born in the country, Thomas King, was born in 1815 at Oihi Bay in the Bay of Islands.