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One of the best things to do in the Bay of Islands is the Hole in Rock boat cruise. So, here’s some info on the cruise, my honest review, and two other cruises I think you’ll love more!
The bay of islands is the perfect place in New Zealand to enjoy a scenic cruise. In fact, it’s considered the best thing to do in the Bay of Islands area on the Northland Peninsula. It also makes for an easy one-day or weekend road trip from Auckland to the Bay of Islands.
When it comes to picking a cruise the Hole in Rock cruise is very popular and one of my personal favorites. The cruise takes you to many beautiful places and along the way you can enjoy amazing views the entire way.
If you’re thinking bout joining a bay of Island cruise then keep reading as I share my personal experience and review to make choosing the best Bay of Islands cruise for you a little easier!
What is the Hole in the Rock?
Of course, to understand what makes the hole in the rock boat cruise so popular you need to know more about the main attraction… the Hole in Rock.
The Hole in the Rock is quite literally what the name says, a huge hole through the middle of a rock, or more precisely, an island. Out in the ocean sits a small (but tall) island called Motukokako Island or Piercy Island as it was named by James Cook. Through the middle of the island is a tunnel that is just big enough for boats to drive through.
The island is famous for amazing scuba diving and sailing and on any Hole in Rock boat tour you’ll be taken around and through the island (from the boat) to explore this unique attraction.
About the Hole in the Rock Boat Cruise
Time and Trip Length
The Hole in the Rock boat cruise tour departs from both the towns Paihia and Russel in the Bay of Islands however the most popular town to leave from is Paihia. It takes just over an hour to get out to the Hole in the Rock, about half an hour exploring that area, and then just over an hour back.
The entire tour takes about 3 hours all up. Tours to the Hole in Rock depart at different times throughout the day depending on the tour company you choose.
What a Hole in Rock Cruise costs
The Hole in Rock boat cruise costs around $135 NZD for an adult and $67.50 for a child. This price includes your cruise with commentary and no food or drinks.
What is the boat like
The boats that do the Hole in Rock Cruise have large seating areas both outdoors and indoors with large viewing windows. Onboard you’ll find a cafe selling snacks and drinks including beer and wine.
Since the boat ride is mostly through the Bay of Islands, the water is very calm and it is unlikely that anyone would experience sea sicknesses as there was little to no rocking. The calm ride made it easy to move around the boat and enjoy the view or take photos whenever we wanted.
Related Read: More spectacular adventures await you, here are some of the best places to go on the South Island of New Zealand.
Our day on the Hole in the Rock Boat Cruise
We head to the main pier in Paihia fifteen minutes before our boat departure time. We boarded the boat and were all settled in ready to go!
First, we cruised to the island of Urupukapuka, where some people got off to spend some time at the beach in Otehei Bay. The guide told us that for those of us who wanted to spend time on the island, we had the option to get off here for a couple of hours after exploring the Hole in the Rock.
We continued on through the Bay and enjoyed the views of islands situated in crystal clear turquoise water. We kept a lookout for dolphins, but unfortunately for us, we never did see any. But we did see a few different seabirds and huge schools of brightly colored fish swimming beside the boat!
Before we knew it, we could see the Hole in the Rock. It was large but didn’t seem large enough for our boat to cruise through. But sure enough, after a few minutes of lining us up properly the skipper drove right on through!
Our guide explained how it was created as well as the historical significance of the hole and the Island to the Maori people who first explored the area.
We drove around the island and made a second pass through the hole before starting to head back into the bay where we stopped to check out the cape brett lighthouse.
At this stage, it was time for a drink from the bar! Daniel and I enjoyed an ice-cold cider as we made our way back toward shore.
As promised, we stopped at Otehei Bay again, letting those who wanted to hang out at the island for a bit get off, and picking up some others who were dropped off earlier. Daniel and I were, unfortunately, short on time so we weren’t able to get off and enjoy the island. Let me tell you though, it looked gorgeous!
What I thought of the Hold in the Rock Boat Cruise
Overall, the Hole in the Rock Boat Cruise was a fun way to spend a couple of hours. It was great to see something different and get out exploring on the water. So much of our time in Northland had been spent hanging at the beach, and this was a nice change of pace.
With that said, there are other Bay of Islands cruises you can do that I personally enjoyed a lot more! So, read below for two other cruises I recommend over the Hole in Rock boat cruise.
Other Bay of Islands Cruises
1. Bay of Islands Dolphin Cruise
The Bay of Islands is one of the best places in New Zealand to see huge pods of dolphins. For that reason, the Hole in Rock dolphin cruises are the best cruises you can do in the Bay of Islands. Not only will you sail out to the Hole in Rock but you’ll have an expert seek-out pods of dolphins for you to see.
In my opinion, this is the best cruise you can do in the Bay of Islands! You can book the best-reviewed dolphin tour in advance here.
2. Bay of Islands Island Tour
The next tour I highly recommend that’s so much fun is the Bay of Islands Island tour. On these cruises, you’ll visit two remote islands where you can enjoy the crystal clear water and stunning beaches without the crowds.
Once on the islands, you can take stunning nature walks or enjoy the water on a kayak, with a snorkel or test your balance on a stand-up paddleboard.
These cruises are the perfect afternoon adventure that is relaxing and super fun and the best part is you won’t spend the entire time on the boat.
3. Hole in the Rock Helicopter Tour
Spend part of your day seeing the Bay of Islands and the Hole in the Rock from up in the air on a scenic helicopter tour! You’ll also have the choice to upgrade for a landing at the Hole in the Rock for a quick exploration! From the sky, you’ll also see the towns of Russell, Paihia, and Waitangi. This flight takes off from Paihia.
You can choose from three different tour lengths that best fit your itinerary and budget. The 20-minute is just the scenic flight, the 35-minute includes the Hole in the Rock landing for photos and brief exploration, and the full hour tour will tack on a walk after landing at the rock with a Maori guide who will share a bit more about this landmark’s cultural significance.
Honestly, not many people get to experience The Hole in the Rock in this special way. This experience starts at $266 NZD, you can book your tour here!
Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand
The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)
You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.
You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!
Personally, we have rented a campervan from a company called Mad Campers before and had a great experience. Mad Campers is for budget travelers and they offer 1 and 2 berth campervans that are very comfortable and perfect for a road trip in New Zealand! You can read our full Mad Campers review for more info!
We also have a discount code for our readers. Use DTRAVEL5 at checkout to get 5% off your campervan rental with Mad Campers!
The only downside to Mad Campers is that they have limited inventory, so they might already be sold out for your travel dates. In that case, your next best option is JUCY. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suite your budget and travel style. You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.
Kiwi Motorhomes is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer luxury motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates. Check out our full review on them as well as more info specific on renting a motorhome in NZ in our guide!
Kiwi Motorhomes has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DEST5 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental!
Thanks for reading!
A Hole in Rock Cruise is a great way to explore the Bay of Islands but you should also consider the cruise options above. In my opinion, the wildlife and beaches are a lot better than the Hole in Rock!
Thanks so much for reading and I really hope you found this Hole in Rock guide helpful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below!
Also, If you loved this article be sure to jump over to our New Zealand page for lots more great travel guides, and check out the related articles below!