The Best Hotels in the Bay of Islands for Every Traveller

The jetty at Paihia Harbour, which is overlooked by many beachfront hotels
The jetty at Paihia Harbour, which is overlooked by many beachfront hotels | © Debbie Jolliff / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alicia Miller
16 December 2020

Golden beaches, whale and dolphin watching, shipwreck diving expeditions: if you like the sound of any of these, you’ll love the Bay of Islands, at the far reaches of New Zealand’s North Island. And we’ve found the best places to stay.

This subtropical region is a hub of indigenous Maori culture and home to the country’s most important historic sight, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Basically, if you’re coming to New Zealand, you’ve got to come here.

The Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell

Hotel, Luxury
Courtesy of The Duke of Marlborough Hotel / Expedia

The exterior is Instagrammable enough: long, white double-decker verandas, lined with dining tables, facing a blue-water coastline in historic Russell. But this grand former grog shop, dating to 1827, is even more impressive once you step through the doors. Old-world bones – roaring fires, wood panelling, oil-paint portraits – are balanced with modern touches, such as Anglepoise-style lamps and orange velvet armchairs. Dinner on that veranda, starring tempura-battered Waikare Inlet oysters, is a must.

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Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge Paihia, Paihia

Courtesy of Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge Paihia / Expedia

The 144 verdant isles that give the Bay of Islands its name are on your doorstep when staying at Kingsgate Hotel – you’re moments from Paihia’s ferry port, fishing charters and wildlife cruises. But even without leaving the room you can enjoy the region’s magnificent views, thanks to sun-drenched balconies that open to sparkling waters studded with green. There’s a pool on site (also sea-facing) and a restaurant serving fish and chips or local lamb rump.

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Eagles Nest, Russell

Serviced Apartment
Courtesy of Eagles Nest / Expedia

The name is fitting, perched on a private ridgeline, with sweeping views to the Bay of Islands, the perspective is nothing if not bird’s eye. But this set of five slick villas, straight out of a James Bond film, has got more going for it than its brilliant situation. The floor-to-ceiling sliding doors mean you can slip straight from bed into the infinity pool; and an army of staff, including personal trainer, chef and spa therapist, are at your beck and call.

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Scenic Hotel Bay of Islands, Paihia

Resort, Hotel
Courtesy of Scenic Hotel Bay of Islands / Expedia

Whether your Bay of Islands bag is sea kayaking or cruising to Cape Brett’s arch-like Hole in the Rock, Paihia makes a top-notch base for exploring. And this hotel has a resorty feel, thanks to rambling sub-tropical gardens, filled with exotic native species and a tranquil pool, circled by loungers and cool umbrellas. Rooms are bright and homely – ideal for holidaying families who like space to spread out.

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The Waterfront Suites – Heritage Collection, Paihia

Courtesy of The Waterfront Suites - Heritage Collection / Expedia

New Zealand’s bounty of locally landed fish, affordable wines and of course, lamb, makes it dreamy for self-caterers. This collection of apartments comes with kitchens kitted out to make the most of all of it, including al fresco barbecue areas and sea-facing terraces so you can dine while watching waves crash in. Large families will love it – some apartments come with three bedrooms – but it’s also cosy enough for indie couples, with many units sleeping just two.

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  • Changing Tides BnB, Paihia

    Bed and Breakfast
    Courtesy of Changing Tides BnB / Expedia

    Attentive hosts Danny and Sue bring real warmth to this Paihia B&B, and an eye for detail that extends from the healthy breakfasts to the garden picnic benches, facing out to glittering Bay of Islands waters. Rooms are classic and comfortable, with walk-in showers, kettles and plenty of windows to make them bright. Don’t forget to pick your hosts’ brains on the best local places to eat and drink – they love to help.

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    Baywaterviews, Paihia

    Bed and Breakfast
    Courtesy of Baywaterviews / Expedia

    Striking the balance between convenience and serenity, Baywaterviews B&B is just a three-minute drive from the restaurants and boat trips of Paihia, but set among laid-back, sleepy landscapes. The views from the three rooms really are something from a postcard, with an expanse of water intersected by outcroppings of green. Two of the rooms have hot tubs, where you can take in the scene with bubbly in hand, and all have terraces on which to enjoy a cracking breakfast bursting with fresh fruit.

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    Donkey Bay Inn, Russell

    Inn, Hotel
    Courtesy of Donkey Bay Inn / Expedia

    Coffee tables propped up by giant red hand sculptures, regal four-posters topped in Shakespearean tumbles of fabric, white-tiled bathrooms with Mondrian-esque colour splashes – eclectic is an understatement for Donkey Bay Inn. This luxurious four-bedroom inn feels as much art gallery as hotel, and the mishmash of modernist furniture, statement lighting and bold prints really works. If you can tear your eyes off the interiors, there’s a spectacular sight to behold: pinky sunrises over a vast sprawl of marine waters.

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    Allegra House, Paihia

    Bed and Breakfast, Guesthouse
    Courtesy of Allegra House / Expedia

    Allegra House feels more like a good friend’s place than it does a B&B. A cosy shared lounge, with cushy sofas, framed portraits and rows of novels is a natural place to take in the Bay of Islands, unravelling below through floor-to-ceiling windows. The surrounding bush of rimu and kauri trees hums with the call of fantails, a melodic morning wake-up call when you sleep with your sliding doors open, which you really should if you want to get fully immersed in New Zealand.

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    Paihia Beach Resort & Spa Hotel, Paihia

    Resort, Spa Hotel, Hotel
    Courtesy of Paihia Beach Resort & Spa Hotel / Expedia | Courtesy of Paihia Beach Resort & Spa Hotel / Expedia

    Pampering takes precedence at this Paihia resort. Sure, you’re well-placed to explore, joining a scenic flight or playing golf at lauded Kauri Cliffs. But the unique selling point is the on-site indulgence: the spa, which serves up everything from rain shower massages to rejuvenating facials, the crescent-shaped pool, romantically lit at night, and the Glasshouse Restaurant, serving house-smoked salmon or roasted beetroot and goat’s cheese tart.

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    These recommendations were updated on December 16, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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