A three-hour drive north of Auckland, the beautiful Bay of Islands is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country. More than 144 islands dot the glittering bay making it a haven for sailing and yachting. Penguins, dolphins, whales, and marlin live in these fertile waters, and the region is a popular sport fishing spot. Visitors can sea kayak along the coast, hike the many island trails, bask in secluded coves, tour Cape Brett and the famous rock formation called Hole in the Rock, and explore sub-tropical forests where Kauri trees grow. The quaint towns in the area such as Russell, Opua, Paihia, and Kerikeri are great bases for exploring this scenic bay.