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Paihia: A Blissful Spot in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands
Widely described as the Jewel of the Bay of Islands , the New Zealand tourist town of Paihia can be found in the country’s North Island. Over the summer, numerous visitors join the locals to enjoy the stunning natural attractions and cultural highlights, often using the town as a base from which to explore the many other surrounding islands. Accommodation options in Paihia are varied. There are a handful of five-star hotels and resorts for those who seek a little luxury, while a good selection of motels, hostels and B&Bs cater for the more budget-conscious.
Beaches and Parks
If you’re hankering for a spot in the sand, Paihia doesn’t disappoint. The main beach - Paihia Town Beach - is a popular and safe spot to swim and keeps you within easy reach of the amenities in the town centre. To the north, Te Tii Bay is also okay for swimming but more often used as a base for anglers. Kayaks and small sailing boats can be hired at both beaches. And if you seek quieter surroundings, be sure to check out the somewhat more secluded Sullivan’s Beach. Green spaces can also be enjoyed, not least in the Horotutu and Nihonui Scenic Reserves. On the outskirts of the town are additional options such as the Waitangi National Reserve and the beautiful Opua Forest.
Boat tours and Cruises
Fun on the water is part of the package in Paihia, so the number of boat tours and cruises on offer should come as little surprise. Tours vary but a highlight for many guests is the chance to sail past Cape Brett Lighthouse to see Motukokako Island’s famous Hole in the Rock . Fishing expeditions and sightseeing tours are also readily available. For those who like to be a little more adventurous, options include full-day sea kayaking tours, parasailing tours, and the opportunity to swim alongside wild dolphins. And if you can’t bear to leave the water, you can skip a night in your hotel and set off on an overnight boat expedition through the Bay of Islands. Head to Paihia Wharf to see what’s available during your stay.
Getting a culture fix in Paihia often means heading to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, visitors can enjoy guided tours, explore the Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, and watch a traditional Māori Hāngi and Concert. The immediate surroundings offer up more cultural treats. Pete’s Pioneer and Transport Museum, The Stone Store & Kemp House and Rewa’s Village are all within a short drive, as are the Russell Museum, the South Sea Art Gallery and Kaikohe’s historic Pioneer Village. Fans of performing arts can catch a performance at the King’s Theatre in Kawakawa or at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri.
Shopping and Dining
Retail therapy is not particularly the focus of life in Paihia but souvenir hunters should be able to pick up a few reminders of their stay in the town’s tourist shops. Foodies are much better catered for, so why not skip the shopping and head straight for the town’s dining spots. There’s something to suite every taste here - from relaxed beachfront cafes to upmarket hotel restaurants serving up world-class cuisine alongside a world-class view. You may, of course, want to head to the beach to see if you can rustle up a fresh fish supper. Portable gas barbecues are generally okay to use on the beach. And should you not get a bite, you won’t find yourself too far from a BBQ restaurant.
Explore Further Afield
Paihia is often used as a base from which to discover other popular spots in the Bay of Islands, so if you’re looking for more inspiration for your bucket list, it’s easy to come by. Many visitors like to take a bus tour to Waipoua Forest, home to Tāne Mahuta - the largest kauri tree known to stand and estimated to be up 2,500 years old. Closer to home is Haruru, where the charm of the horseshoe shaped waterfall is overshadowed only by the legend that says a monster lives in the lagoon below. And if you don’t mind a drive, a three-hour journey north will see you reach Cape Reinga on the Aupouri Peninsula. Described as the departing place for Maori spirits, it is one of the country’s most spiritually significant destinations.