Why not get into the Bay of Islands with a walk north along the coast from Opua - just get someone to drop you at Opua, and an hour or two later you'll find yourself in Paihia
The North Island of New Zealand is well-known for its safe ports and beaches with beautiful settings. Yachts entering the country after crossing the Pacific first touch the port of Opua. Travellers driving north from Auckland will also catch their first glimpse of the Bay of islands at Opua.
The geographic location of Opua makes it a natural connection point for sailors. It is located at the juncture of Waikare Inlet, Veronica Channel, and the Kawakawa River. With its deep-water anchorage giving it an advantage by water, and its connectivity over land to Kawakawa by rail and to Russell via car ferry and road, makes it a convenient access point for travellers. The South Seas being a popular romantic destination naturally leaves Opua the ideal stop-over point.
A rather subdued place with its sparse population, all life in Opua is concentrated at the Wharf. While the port is abuzz with incoming and outgoing yachts, ferries and other non-commercial traffic, there is an occasional cruise ship representative of the commercial sort. On land you'll find clustered around the car-ferry port, a few institutions like the Yacht Club, the Post Office, a restaurant offering the best of local cuisine, and such-like. A few small boat yards do dot the waterfront here, with the majority of commerce being scattered elsewhere in the Bay. The local houses tend to be up on the hillside with peaceful views down onto the yachts at anchor in the inlet.
The warm currents from the equator hit the northern part of the country, while the cold winter winds of the south are effectively blocked by the mountains of the south-west. This results in a mild subtropical climate, making it an ideal winter haunt - as well as refreshing during the summer. The climate naturally encourages varied flora like papaya, lemons, peaches, daffodils, hibiscus, and gladiolas to flourish, although most foliage you'll see around will be tea-tree (kanuka and manuka), while the wild growths of pohutakawa dot the coastline - flowering with stunning red blossoms around November/December (hence their other name 'Christmas Trees').
Opua is easiest-accessed by vehicle, so if you're going to be doing some exploring you'll probably want to stay here only if you have a car or some kind of transport. Most of the accommodation in the area is small Bed-and-Breakfasts, or boutiquey self-catered places, and all very calm.
The Opua harbour and the beach nearby are the primary points of activity in this peaceful community. Go for a stroll on the jetty, or grab some classic fish and chips in the takeaway by the port.
The primary attraction, of course, caters mainly to the sailors and Opua harbour and the Wharf located along the coastal path are where the vessels are docked.
The sandy beaches are ideal for swimming and fishing. Collectors of shellfish can have a good time there since there are a fair few to be found in the vicinity. Rock oysters cling to coastlines, with a few mussels as well. All this can be seen in the tranquil 1.5 hour coast walk to Paihia - this will take you along a few beaches and even through some mangroves.
A vintage train, run by volunteers, takes one along the river to the nearby town of Kawakawa, on narrow gauge. It is an interesting way to travel besides being a convenient one.
Making Opua a base is a very handy way of exploring the Bay of Islands, as Paihia, another tourism-based town, is a short drive (about 4 minutes) from Opua. This indeed is very favourable, since Paihia has activities galore. The sportingly inclined will find golf, tennis, scuba-diving, kayaking, swimming alongside dolphins, horse-riding etc. The gourmets can whet their palate with the fine cuisines. The art-minded will find a few galleries around as well (try checking the library). Apart from all these, opportunities to shop and a thriving nightlife, make this a very desirable destination at a very accessible distance. It again lends accessibility via passenger ferry to Russell, which is a historic little town, having been an earlier capital of New Zealand.
In a nut-shell, its location and peacefulness make Opua an ideal place for families to make a base-camp in the Bay of Islands.