The farther north you go, the better and more deserted the beaches get. Those on Karikari Peninsula have always been my favorites, but good swimming beaches dominate the whole northeast coast, from Auckland up.
Excitor, Maritime Building, Paihia (tel. 09/402-6985; www.dolphincruises.co.nz), can take you out to the Hole in the Rock aboard the Excitor for NZ$89 for adults, NZ$45 for children 14 and under. Mack Attack (tel. 09/402-8180; www.mackattack.co.nz) charges NZ$85 for adults, NZ$45 for children.
Light-line fishing is affordable; the visitor center in Paihia can furnish you with a list of fishing charters. Most supply rods and bait, and run 3- to 5-hour trips. Snapper fishing is especially popular; it ranges from NZ$60 to NZ$150 for a 4-hour boat trip. For game fishing contact Wild Bill Sports Fishing Charters, Opua Marina, Paihia (tel. 09/402-7085; www.wildbill.co.nz), or Earl Grey Fishing Charters, Paihia and Russell Wharf (tel. 09/407-7165; www.earlgreyfishing.co.nz). Both will arrange trips to suit individual preferences.
You can arrange to play at the beautiful 18-hole waterfront Waitangi Golf Club (tel./fax 09/402-7713; www.waitangigolf.co.nz). Greens fees are NZ$60 per person. Club, shoes, and cart hire are available.
Coastal Kayakers, Paihia (tel. 09/402-8105; www.coastalkayakers.co.nz), can take you to explore waterfalls, mangrove swamps, and a deserted island. No experience is necessary. A 4-hour trip costs NZ$75; a full-day trip is NZ$95. Farther north in the Tauranga Bay area, Northland Sea Kayaking, 305M Tauranga Bay Rd., Northland (tel. 09/405-0381; www.northlandseakayaking.co.nz), is more of a wilderness experience, with accommodations provided on private beaches. Full-day tours are NZ$95 and half-day tours are NZ$75.
For a bird’s-eye view of the islands, soar with Flying Kiwi Parasail, Paihia Wharf (tel. 09/402-6078; www.parasail-nz.co.nz), for NZ$99.
Around the Bay of Islands, you can’t go past the boardwalks and walkways in the Waitangi National Trust Estate. The visitor center in Paihia can furnish details of all the trails, as well as the very good booklet Walking in the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park (NZ$5). The Park Visitor Centre in Russell, P.O. Box 134 (tel. 09/403-7685; fax 09/403-7649), or the Ranger Station in Kerikeri (tel. 09/407-8474), can help with trail maps and details. There are also some beautiful campsites, some on uninhabited islands in the bay, with nominal per-night fees. You must reserve with the park rangers in Russell. Try the Kerikeri River Walk—an easy 1-hour hike to Rainbow Falls.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.