Waitangi (Bay of Islands), New Zealand

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Historic sites—including the place where the most important treaty in New Zealand's history was signed—winemaking, golfing, sailing and scenic beauty all combine to make the Bay of Islands one of this South Pacific nation's most compelling regions. Located at the top of the North Island, the area has a subtropical microclimate that gives it an abundance of flora and fauna and a lengthy beach season. Comprising 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula, the Bay of Islands requires a few days to fully explore. Visitors with just a day here will have to make a tough choice: cultural immersion, nature appreciation or wining-dining-shopping. Waitangi, home to both the cruise port and the region's historic treaty grounds, is one of three main towns with celebrated sights. The others are Kerikeri, with its historic buildings and vineyards, and Russell, where a notorious seafaring past has mellowed into tidy, day-trip-worthy charm. Those who'd rather experience the Bay of Islands' breathtaking nature can walk amid majestic kauri trees, descend into glowworm caves or spy on whales and dolphins (or even swim with the latter) in one of New Zealand's sunniest and most picturesque playgrounds.

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