Dolphin Cruise: Bay of Islands, New Zealand 11

Sharing is caring!

dolphin jumping on cruise Bay of Islands, Paihai, New Zealand

it is amazing how close to the harbor you can see dolphins

Quick post note — I think the last picture is the best, but had to put it down there so that the sidebar didn’t interfere. Hope you make it down to it.

North of Auckland, New Zealand is an area of the country that does not get enough credit as a great tourist destination. (Official Northland visitor website) From 90 Mile Beach in the far north down to the chill village of Whangaparaoa close to Auckland, this is a relatively under touristed part of New Zealand and one of the most beautiful parts of a beautiful country. Given that it is just a few hours north of Auckland, I am surprised that more visitors don’t take advantage of the opportunity, but I did. map of bay of islands, northland new zealand

I wandered around a few places in Northland (though didn’t have time to get up to 90 Mile Beach), but the area that I really enjoyed was the around the small town of Paihai and the Bay of Islands. The town is basically a six or seven street village and the draw is the harbor and the surrounding waterfront though the food was excellent. I truly enjoyed staying in the town of Paihai — it had a number of hostels and was a really chill and mellow place to hang out.

One day, I decided to try one of the local attractions: a dolphin cruise, where you can swim with the dolphins if the conditions are right. There are a couple different varieties of dolphins (and whales, in certain seasons) that call this area home. The two kinds of dolphins you can view are the bottlenose and the common. The bottlenose dolphins are larger and move in pods of 10-30 at a time. And there are a number of those pods in the Bay of Islands and they are the kind that you will be swimming with, if you can. The common dolphins are smaller and much faster. As a result, they are basically impossible to swim with — they aren’t going to stick around for you to be able to keep up with them.

Although you are highly likely to be able to view dolphins, swimming with them is subject to a number of rules. The reason we were unable to swim with the dolphins on the day I went out was that there were some infant dolphins swimming in the pod that we followed for a while and you cannot swim with any pod that has baby dolphins in it.

Regardless, it was a great day. We got to see a couple pods of bottlenose dolphins right in the harbor area, then we went out further and followed a couple pods of common dolphins, who are amazingly fast swimmers. It wasn’t the season to see Orca whales or other larger mammals, but if you are in the area, I suggest a nice day dolphin cruise or possibly camping in the area to extend your stay.

dolphin jumping in bay of islands new zealand

we were follow this pod of common dolphins around, so unfortunately this shot is from behind

scenery in bay of islands, northland, new zealand

and the scenery of the Bay of Islands is quite nice also

great close up dolphin jumping out of water

tough to get a good breach or jumping shot – the dolphins are so fast

Sharing is caring!

About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

11 thoughts on “Dolphin Cruise: Bay of Islands, New Zealand

  • Amanda

    You’re right — that last shot is awesome!

    I also fell in love with Paihia and the Bay of Islands in NZ. Paihia was such a great little town. I stayed in a cute B&B there with the friendliest owners. A friend and I took a sightseeing/dolphin watching cruise out to Hole in the Rock/Cape Brett, which was tons of fun. One thing I love about these tours is that you don’t have 17 different boats vying to follow the same pod of dolphins. It makes the experience so much more enjoyable.

    Pity you didn’t make it further up north, though! 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga are fantastic!

  • Zablon Mukuba

    the dolphins are cute. swimming with dolphins sounds like a lot of fun. when am around them i will try and do it

  • Margo

    Great pics and I ‘d love to visit this part of the world someday. Whenever I’ve tried to take pics of dolphins or other jumping sea creatures, I end up with a bunch that just show the water (guess my timing isn’t so great) These are wonderful!

  • Margo

    ooow, I meant to say too that I love the touch of showing us the map! Signed – professed map geek

  • Lis

    I am a NZer – currently living in Welllington -and I’ve never been north of Auckland! Slack I know but travel for me is always overseas travel! Perhaps I should make more of an effort with my own country LOL

  • Backpacking Journalist

    Awww it’s posts like this that make me so proud to be Kiwi – I’ve seen a few places in the world now but my home will always be top of the list x
    I also love the last photo

  • Matt

    Great shots – those are tough to get as they’re so fast! Love the Northland – probably one of my favorite three places in Aotearoa.

  • Aaron Schubert

    Nice photo’s mate; love the last one the most. They are different Dolphins than what we get over here. Truly amazing creatures though; so sleek! We get Dolphins everywhere; in the rivers and right up close to the beaches.


  • Marina NC

    Those photos are very nice. It should be a great experience to swim with dolphins. we want to see that pics too.:-)

Comments are closed.