12 Paihia Must-Dos
Things You Can’t Miss in Paihia!
You are utterly and undoubtedly spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in Paihia. The hub of the Bay of Islands is home to heaps of activities, from adrenaline thrill rides to relaxing trips out on the water. That’s why summing up the Paihia must-dos into one small list is quite the challenge! Nevertheless, here at BackpackerGuide.NZ, we have gathered some of the most exciting, most unique and to-good-to-miss activities in Paihia.
Whether you are into exploring some of the free attractions like waterfalls or are more into hardcore adventure activities like skydiving or scuba diving, we have a variety on this list of Paihia Must-Dos! That way you can select your activities carefully and make the most of your time in the Bay of Islands.
1. Hike on Urupukapuka Island
Take a day trip out to Urupukapuka Island from the Paihia Wharf! Urupukapuka is the largest island of the Bay of Islands with a vast network of walking tracks taking you to historic pa sites (Maori fortified villages), epic viewpoints and multiple pristine beaches. The island is also a bird sanctuary so you’re bound to spot heaps of beautiful native birds like tui, silvereye, whiteheads, fantails, pukeko, tomtits, North Island robins and more!
Location: Take a cruise from the Paihia Wharf.
2. Scuba dive to reefs, wrecks and caves
The Bay of Islands may look stunning above the water’s surface, but underwater is something else! A colourful array of curious fish species lie in the waters of the Bay of Islands among kelp forests, sea urchins, stingrays, dolphins and more! If you are a qualified diver, there is also the opportunity to do wreck dives and explore underwater caves. For more scuba diving sites around New Zealand, check out 10 Places to Scuba Dive in New Zealand.
Location: Pahia Dive, Dive North and Dive Zone Bay of Islands all operate in the Bay of Islands.
3. Go Kayaking!
There’s no lack of kayaking options in the Bay of Islands! Take a freedom kayaking trip around the bay from Paihia, or take a guided trip down the Waitangi River to Haruru Falls where you can get right into the falls! At high tide, this also gives you the option to explore the mangrove forest along the Waitangi River and check out some of the fascinating wildlife living here.
Location: Kayaking operators can be found on Paihia Beach and at the mouth of the Waitangi River.
4. Go on an island-hopping sailing trip
Relax to sound of elements on a sailing cruise around the Bay of Islands. Multiple sailing trips operate in the Bay of Islands so there’s plenty of choice, whether you’re looking for more of a foodie experience or mix a little adventure in there with snorkelling and stopping off at various islands along the way. Sail through the day or cruise at sunset. Whatever your choice, just remember to sit back, relax and crack open a beer!
Location: Paihia Waterfront
5. Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Only a short drive (or walk) from Paihia, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds tells the story of the combining of the Maori and European cultures on the site the Waitangi Treaty was signed. A day pass allows you to visit the Museum of Waitangi, get a guided tour, access to bush walks, waka (canoe) house, a colonial house, and a Maori cultural performance in the carved meeting house. For more information, check out 5 Reasons to Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Location: Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi
6. Skydive over the Bay of Islands
It’s a much-loved adrenaline activity here in New Zealand and you can do it right here in the Bay of Islands! Skydive from 9,000ft, 12,000ft or 16,000ft and fall at speeds of 200km/h! On a fine weather day, you even get the opportunity to land on the beach! Can it get any more “Bay of Islands” than that?! For more places to skydive around New Zealand, check out 12 Places to Tandem Skydive in New Zealand.
Location: 182 Wiroa Road, Kerikeri (They can do pick-ups in the Bay of Islands).
7. Go parasailing!
Fly at 1200ft above the Bay of Islands with parasailing. There’s nothing like shooting up into the sky from the back of a speedboat attached to a colourful parachute. You’ll get to take in the views and fly for about 10 to 12 minutes before coming in for landing back on the boat.
Location: Two parasailing companies operate from the Paihia Wharf.
8. Check out Russell
Russell is New Zealand’s first capital and a pretty fascinating place to visit. Learn about it’s history in the various museums or on a bus tour. Walk up to Flagstaff Hill to get some great vantage points. Treat yourself at ice cream parlours, chocolate cafes or to a beer in New Zealand’s oldest hotel and licensed pub, the Duke of Marlborough. We recommend catching the ferry back to Paihia Wharf at dusk for an amazing sunset cruise!
Location: Passenger ferries operate every 10 minutes from Paihia Wharf. Car ferries operated every 10 minutes from Opua Bay.
9. Go mountain biking
There are plenty of biking opportunities around Paihia, from the brand new Waitangi Mountain Bike Park to the Twin Coast Cycle Trail. Rent a bike from in town then hit the downhill trails of varying difficulties in the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park with lots of fun features to tackle along the way. For something a bit more chilled, try the Twin Coast Cycle Trail from Opua to Horeke. If you like mountain biking, then check out The Best Mountain Biking Regions in New Zealand.
Location: Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, 33 Bayly Road, Waitangi. Ask bike operators about transport to or from the Twin Coast Cycle Trail.
10. Take a self-guided day trip to kerikeri
Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri is not to be missed! The extremely accessible 27m high waterfall has many different viewing platforms. If you’re feeling adventurous, cross the stream and make your way around the back of the waterfall for a pretty insane perspective! Additionally, continue on the river walkway to Kemp House, the oldest surviving house in New Zealand, and visit the museum in the Stone Store.
Location: Waipapa Road, Kerikeri
11. Get social on an overnight cruise
Extend your trip out on the water in an overnight cruise. There a couple of options from overnight sailing to adventure cruises. Relax with your cabin mates, go out for some night kayaking to see some bio-luminescent algae, go fishing for snapper and enjoy some great food straight from the ocean. The next day is your chance to explore the islands, go snorkelling, or kick back and soak up the sun while slurping some sea urchins.
Location: Paihia Wharf
12. go on a Bay of Islands day cruise
Visit the Hole in the Rock, a huge archway carved by the ocean, on a Bay of Islands day cruise. See some of the 144 islands dotted around the bay, as well as keeping an eye out for dolphins. Some cruises have permission to allow you to swim with the dolphins if the opportunity presents itself! Check out 11 Stunning Backpacker Cruises in New Zealand for more trips around New Zealand.
Location: Paihia Wharf
13 (Bonus). Take a bus trip up to Cape Reinga
Explore ancient kauri forests, stop for fish and chips, see the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide before your eyes, get a photo with the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, sand surf down the sand dunes and enjoy the drive down Ninety Mile Beach! It’s an action-packed day to New Zealand’s Far North! More information about the Far North can be found in Northland – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: Bus trips depart from Paihia (accommodation pick-up can usually be arranged).
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