The Bay of Islands Walking Weekend returns for the third year at the start of October and is growing considerably in popularity.

There are 18 walks to choose from including a cultural history tour around Russell Village, a walk from Okiato (the site of New Zealand's first capital) to Orongo and an island tour on the R. Tucker Thompson, the well-known gaff rigged, squared topsail schooner that's a familiar sight around the bays.

Another walk, for more serious hikers, is the "Muscles and Majesty" hike heading from Cape Brett to Deep Water Cove.

The walks are guided by local history buffs and history experts and each walk has no more than 20 people.

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The Russell Bowling Club is the new headquarters for the walks and all of them leave from there.

- For information see www.boiwalkingweekend.co.nz.