If you find yourself in the Bay of Islands with spare time, I highly recommend this hiking trail. It’s a loop that incorporates a walk along the bay shoreline, two ferry rides, a boardwalk through mangroves, and a rolling stroll through the countryside. It took me about 6-hours, with plenty of stops for photos, but no stop for lunch.
I recommend doing the walk in a counter-clockwise (or anti-clockwise) direction. The signage is more obvious in that direction. I found that out the hard way.
You see, I was trying to rendezvous with some friends who were doing the Pahia to Opua portion of the walk. So I started the walk in a clockwise direction, Opua to Pahia, in hopes of intercepting them. I did meet them, so that part worked out ok. But I continued on the walk, in the clockwise direction, and found myself lost once and confused a couple of times. I had to keep looking behind me at the signs, and try to work backwards where I was going.
So, keep it easy on yourself, and go counter-clockwise. It doesn’t matter where you start.
If you have a map, you’ll quickly see that the ferry sections are Opua to Okiato, and then Russell to Pahia. From Okiato to Russell, you walk through a forest (with some steep sections) and then mangroves (with a boardwalk). From Pahia to Opua, you walk along the shoreline which is quite nice. Just make sure you check the tides; at high tide some parts may be impassable.
If you want to stop for lunch or a beer, I recommend Russell or Pahia as having the best options. Opua has one or two cafes as well. But I didn’t see any options in Okiato. That said, Okiato is the site of New Zealand’s first capital (only for a year in 1840), so take the short detour to that historic hilltop location.
Also, make sure you know the ferry schedules. When I went (early November), the Opua / Okiato ferry ran every 15 minutes or so. The Russell / Pahia ferry ran only every hour. So plan accordingly.
Overall, it’s a great day hike. The track is pretty well maintained. I ran into one section that was slightly overgrown, but not difficult. There are also some steep parts, but if you pace yourself and take your time, it should be manageable for most people.
Funny enough, I did slip on a flat gravel road section. I cut my hand and my knee. So it just goes to show, BE CAREFUL no matter where you are.
Have fun out there!