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Cruising Article – 2011-06-01

Marvel at the scenic beauty of New Zealand's Bay of Islands

New Zealand cruise destinations

New Zealand is famous around the world for its unparalleled natural beauty, and you can experience this firsthand when you go on a shore excursion to the Bay of Islands during a New Zealand cruise.

One of the most prominent natural features of the Bay of Islands is its vast swaths of kauri forest, named for the unique native species of tree found in the area. If you're interested in seeing the majesty of the kauri, you won't want to miss the Waipoua Forest. This expansive woodland is home to more than three-quarters of all kauri trees in New Zealand, including Tane Mahuta. In the Maori tongue (the language of the native peoples of New Zealand), this name means "Lord of the Forest" - and it definitely applies here. This massive 1,200-year-old tree is the largest kauri in the country, making it a truly unforgettable sight.

Another natural wonder in the Bay of Islands is the famous Waiomio Caves system. This series of caverns are known for their visually striking rock formations, but they truly earn their spot as a top attraction due to the acclaimed glowworm grotto. In this small cave, countless bioluminescent worms emit an otherworldly glow, lighting up the cavern with a faint green light that you have to see to believe.

As is befitting for a body of water, the Bay of Islands has plenty to see at sea as well. When you go for a boat ride around the inlet, you can spot amazing natural formations like the Hole in the Rock, a passage through the bedrock of one of the many islands in the area, or Grand Cathedral Cave, a soaring cavern reminiscent of Europe's inspiring religious buildings. If you want a more active adventure during your trip to New Zealand, you can also explore the bay by sea kayak, giving you a workout as you take in the sights.

In addition to its scenic beauty, the Bay of Islands is also known as an important hub of Maori culture. When you hike through the kauri forests, local guides can teach you all about the cultural meaning of the trees to the native peoples. Moreover, you can also visit a traditional Maori meetinghouse to see indigenous architecture and witness engaging cultural rites, practices and performances.