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Hole in the Rock Boat Cruise: Exploring the Bay of Islands, NZ

Last updated : January 4th, 2020

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When in Northland, New Zealand one thing you must do in go a boat cruise around the Bay of Islands. And one way to do this is on th Hole in the Rock boat cruise! This blog has all the information you would want to know about this half-day trip!

The “Hole in the Rock” Boat Cruise

Heading up to Northland means beaches, beaches, and more beaches. But, if you are looking for something to do that is a bit different, then going on a Hole in the Rock boat cruise might be the perfect excursion for you!

Get off the shore of the mainland and out into the Bay of Islands. Cruise around some gorgeous islands, seeing the coastline and possibly even dolphins, and then continue further out into the open ocean where you will meet another island, and this one is where you will see the Hole in the Rock!

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hole in the rock boat cruise
There is the Hole in the Rock!

What is the Hole in the 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 Peircy Island. Through the middle of the island is a tunnel that is just big enough for boats to drive through.
the island with the hole in the rock new zealand

About the Hole in the Rock Boat Cruise

Time and Trip Length

The Hole in the Rock boat cruise tour departs from both Paihia and Russel in Northland New Zealand. 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.
The tours depart at 12:30 pm daily in the summer.

What it costs

The Hole in Rock boat cruise costs $99 NZD for an adult and $60 for a child. 

What is included

The boat ride to the Hole in the Rock, a knowledgable guide, as well as the option to get off for a couple of ours at Oteheil Bay, and then the return boat ride back to Paihia or Russel.

What is the boat like

The boat has a large seating area on the lower deck with windows everywhere. It is air-conditioned and there is even a licensed bar! There are toilets on board also.
There are front and back outdoor viewing areas on the bottom level as well as a large viewing deck on the top.

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.

the explore group boats at paihia
The second (largest) boat was ours!
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What our day looked like

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 at 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, never did see any. But we did see a few different seabirds and huge schools of brightly coloured fish swimming beside the boat!

cruising around the bay of islands
Cruising around the Bay of Islands!

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 about the historical significance of the Hole and the Island to the Maori people who first explored the area.

approaching the hole in the rock
Dan and I getting ready to go through the hole!

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 towards the 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!

otehei bay
Otehei Bay beach! Beautiful!

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.

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Our Recommended Company

Explore Group is the company we went with to visit the Hole in the Rock. They were very well-organised, professional, and knowledgeable. The boat was comfortable with lots of space to move around between the bottom sheltered deck and the top open deck. We both highly recommend booking with Explore Group as we had a great time and I’m sure you would too!


If the Hole in the Rock sounds interesting to you, you might also like some of the other cool rock formations in New Zealand including Cathedral Cove, Lion Rock in Piha, and Milford Sound. Also, not too far from the Bay of Islands is the best FREE glow worm cave in New Zealand!


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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