The Bay of Islands, named by British explorer Captain James Cook, is where European and Maori cultures intersected in 1769. Aboard the HMS Endeavour, Cook spent a week charting the bay, an irregular 10-mile-wide inlet that forms a natural harbor. Seventy years later, at what would become the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand, Maori chiefs signed their accord with the British Crown, a pact that became the nation’s founding document. The bay itself has a mild subtropical climate, abundant marine life and countless sheltered coves and inlets, and with a handful of tranquil seaside towns, it offers nearly limitless opportunities for game fishing, cruising, sailing, sea kayaking, diving and snorkeling.
Sailing in the Bay of Islands
Sailing in the Bay of Islands can be magical, with its fine weather, reliable wind and lovely anchorages. I concur with Sydney Parkinson, the artist aboard Cook’s Endeavour, who wrote, “The country about the bay is agreeable beyond description.” And to help you further appreciate the experience, I recommend Tony Horwitz’s entertaining “Blue Latitudes,” in which he retraces Cook’s voyages, including the first contact with the Maoris.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds (1 Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi;  9-402-7437) is located on a peaceful estate just beyond the seaside town of Paihia. The site provides an introduction to New Zealand’s indigenous culture with traditional dances and singing, demonstrations of Maori weaponry, tours of a beautifully carved meeting house and an impressive 115-foot ceremonial war canoe.