The Jewel of the Bay of Islands – Paihia is the point where you can explore land and sea, islands scattered haphazardly amidst the pacific.
Paihia is full of a range of activities. Cruises to the ‘Hole in the Rock’, swimming with the dolphins, visiting historical landmarks like Waitangi, Russell and KeriKeri, or even
taking a tour bus up to 90-mile beach.
However, if you are on a bit of a budget, there are plenty of options to choose from that do not cost a thing, yet will give you some amazing memories.
Paihia’s natural beauty and vast landscapes offers a buffet of adventures from strolls along the beach, to the more endurance levels of hiking.
Harua Falls, ocean swimming circuits, swimming with stingrays, fishing, discovering Opua forest, marveling at the splendor of St Paul’s cathedral, or catching some rays on the many beaches at and around Paihia.
Let’s get exploring.
Kayaking Around Paihia.
Now this is a great activity for a group or couple staying at a backpacker hostel. You can borrow a kayak free of charge from one of the hostels if you are staying there. So, grab a kayak and explore the coves and over 100 islands in the Bay.
You can drive up to places like Harura Falls, kayaking to the bottom of the cascading waterfall.
Paihia is a great place where you can either kayak directly from, or in some cases take a short ferry ride to the different islands around Paihia. Trips can take one hour or more, and if you are choosing to stay overnight at another island, renting a kayak might be a better option. If you choose to kayak, there is even options to stay overnight at Otehei Bay at one of the campsites scattered around the Bay.
This makes for an idyllic stopover to rest up on the beach, take a leisurely snorkel in the clear waters, and finishing off your day at Otehei Café and bar.
Before you head out to explore some of the other bays, there are a range of 30-minute strolls to 5 hour hikes offering stunning views of the Otehei Bay.
Otehei Loop track offers slightly easier excursions featuring archaeological sites where Maoris once occupied the grounds. Or taking the Akeake Peninsula track to a great swimming location.
And speaking of great swimming and hiking opportunities, Harura Falls is a must-see. Sheltered tracks, local history and bird watching are just around 5km from Paihia.
Earning its name ‘big noise’, Harura in Maori, a torrent of water catapults earnestly over the horseshoe shaped falls, especially after a heavy downpour.
Pretty hard to miss when you arrive, the torrent of water echoes through the trees.
The Harura Falls walking track allows glimpses of the Waitangi River ebbing out to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. Not necessarily for the faint of heart, taking around 2.5 hours one-way.
Not only do hostels offer free kayaks for backpackers that stay at their sites, they also offer bikes.
A range of cycling adventures awaits. Whether you choose to cycle through the township at leisure, or take on an endurance trip.
Focus Paihia Community Charitable Trust opened a new bike park with over 40 km of trails at the new Waitangi Mountain Bike Park.
Why stop there? There are plenty of routes to choose from. Gently cycling along the waterfront, to the more experienced trails scattered around Waitangi, Harua Falls and parks.
Take a stroll to Opua Forest.
A one-hour return walk takes you through native forest right up to a stunning lookout of Paihia’s town. Winding through regenerating podocarp/hardwood forest, strolling along the boardwalk through nature’s wonder.
Admire the Historic Landmark of St Paul’s Church.
St Paul’s Church is a perfect way to spend an afternoon wandering through the well-kept grounds containing plaques and headstones of long-forgotten people that made their mark here.
The church commemorating the famous missionary, Henry Williams, dating back to the 1800s.
Step beyond the threshold, ceilings arching over the rows of benches leading up to the pulpit where the second oldest hand organ is found. Sun filters through the stain-glass windows, colourful images of Mary and Jesus brought to life, the sun casting an almost ethereal glow at certain times of the day.
At night, this church lights up for all to see, a beacon for those strolling down the beach for dinner.
Swimming with a dangerous marine animal?
Ever thought about what it would be like to swim with stingrays? It is a common misconception that they are dangerous; they are more likely to stay still or swim away when feeling threatened.
Divers have even noted that some will swim along with them.
Taking a dip in Paihia’s waters may bring you closer to these magnificent creatures than you think. Many will just camouflage themselves in the sand when they feel a threat.
The short-tailed stingray commonly swims above the sand at Cathedral Cove. However, some choose to linger around Paihia wharf.
Just be aware if you are swimming near these beautiful creatures, avoiding casting a lingering shadow above where they hide, as you might be mistaken for an orca.
Paihia offers diverse opportunities on land and sea. However, it is sometimes the small things, that moment in time to cherish that does not cost a thing that can be more memorable than an expensive adventure.
Enjoying the tranquility of nature, marveling at the significance of history, and taking a moment to cherish the simplicity of ocean life.
Come and explore.
For more info on the history, culture, and local attractions on land and sea at Paihia, why not expand your knowledge and check out Journey in Little Paradise.