Paihia, the tourist hub of the Bay of Islands, serves as an outstanding base to explore the whole of the Islands and further north. Located at a 3 hour drive to the north of Auckland, not only does Paihia offer an easy access to almost 144 islands forming the Bay of Islands, but also provides an excellent glimpse of New Zealand’s Maori culture. It is a perfect example of a place where the rich heritage blends well with modernity.
Whether it is swimming with the dolphins, enjoying recreational water activities, island hopping, immersing oneself in the rich culture or even leisurely walking along the sandy beaches, Paihia offers it all. And not just that, it presents one with a plethora of choicest accommodations and delectable food options too. Paihia has something in store for almost everyone. No doubt it is fondly remarked as the Jewel of the Bay of Islands. Here are some of the best things you can experience in one of the most bustling coastal towns of North Island, Paihia, NZ:
1. Experiencing Maori culture at Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Waitangi grounds, also famously known as the ‘Birthplace of the Nation,’ is where the treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British royalty and Maoris in 1840. Here you can go walking on one of the many trails in the extensive forest reserve. However if you wish to acquire more information about the history and culture of the place, go for a guided tour as the tour guides are really enthusiastic and informative. A visit to the museum also adds to the knowledge about the rich Maori culture. What steals away the show is the entertaining cultural performance at the end of the tour.
2. Walking on the boardwalk to Haruru Falls
From Waitangi Treaty Grounds, you can take the boardwalk and walk through the mangroves to reach the Haruru Falls. Once New Zealand’s first river port, today Haruru Falls have become a popular tourist spot, especially during the rains. They offer a spectacular view of a magnificent mass of water continuously pouring over the drop. You can also go for a kayaking tour and paddle all the way up to the falls. These falls definitely provide an amazing backdrop for taking photos.
3. Indulging in aerial tours
Paihia offers a range of water activities to choose from. You can either go on a tandem parasail flight and enjoy 360 degree views of the Bay of Islands or take a helicopter flight to soar high above the islands and get a bird’s eye view of the ‘Hole in the Rock’. The best part is that you can choose either a single parasail flight and have your own flying experience or a triple parasail flight and experience the thrill with your loved ones. Salt Air Tours and Flying Kiwi Parasail are the popular companies offering helicopter tours and parasailing respectively.
4. Engaging in water activities
Paihia is also famous for its snorkeling and diving activities. It gives you a chance to experience the colorful underwater world and also swim with shoals of fish. For beginners, there are many diving institutes such as Paihia Dive that offer a number of professional diving courses. The guides even share with you with their immense knowledge about the abundant marine life that is found around the Bay of Islands. There are plenty of challenging dives for the experienced divers as well such as the Rainbow Warriors wreck dive or the cave dives. You can simply contact the diving institutes and opt for one of their many tours.
5. Exploring Urupukapuka Island
Urupukapuka is the largest island in the Bay of Islands. You can reach this place either by a water taxi, ferries or through one of the boat tours. This island is home to a number of birds and animals such as dotterel, paradise duck as well as oyster catcher that are mainly found in this region. Waters around the island are pristine and perfect for diving as the sea-bottoms are endowed with beautiful corals. It is also an ideal place for nature camping or walking excursions.
6. Basking in the beauty of picturesque Paihia Harbor
Paihia Harbor is popular for the picturesque views and amazing eating options it offers. A number of cruise tours to different islands in the Bay of Islands begin from this harbor. Moreover, it also hosts a number of water sport activities like kayaking as well as paddle-boarding. You can even opt for a fishing trip from this harbor. While enjoying the stunning views of the harbor filled with yachts, you can also enjoy delicacies like fish and chips or beef steak in one of the waterfront cafes.
7. Paying respects to Tane Mahuta kauri tree at Waipoua Forest, Hokianga
The nature lovers can take a day trip to Hokianga’s Waipoua Forest, which is a 2 hour drive from Paihia. The most popular of all kauri forests of New Zealand, this forest houses some really huge Kauri tree and colorful ferns. Tane Mahuta, the famous largest living kauri tree in New Zealand is located here. This tree is over 2,000 years old and is revered as the Lord of this Waipoua Forest. For a truly mesmerizing experience, you can hire a local Maori guide for a walk through the forest at night.
8. Day tour from Paihia to Kerikeri
Dip into New Zealand’s rich history through Kerikeri, the Northland town near Paihia full of charms and colorful past which has now become a popular tourist destination. On this half-day excursion, you will get to visit a boutique vineyard and sample their organic wine and coffee. Next, see traces of European architecture and finally, visit the boutique Makana Chocolate Factory, where you can also have a sample of their sweets.
With an ambiance as vibrant as mentioned above, it’s hard to believe that back in the early 1800s, Kerikeri was once terrorized by Maori chief Hong Hika. You’ll learn about this and more during the tour.
9. Cruising through the renowned ‘Hole in the Rock’
This is one of the most highly rated local adventures. You can arrange a 3 to 4 hour cruise boat or yacht tour from Paihia Wharf and set out on an exhilarating adventure on the deep blue sea to Piercy Island. As the cruise navigates through the natural rocky sculptures and array of islands, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the diverse marine life such as the whales, dolphins, penguins and seals. During the summer months, the cruise makes a short stopover at Urupukapuka Island where you can either swim in the pristine blue waters or simply relax on the beach.
A vacation to remember
Paihia never runs out of its charm to surprise travelers. Whether it is through its golden sand beaches, through its diverse flora and fauna or its culture, it manages to keep one enticed. The place has the power to turn your vacation into one of the most memorable ones. Just come and experience it for yourself.