Bay of Islands, Paihia (4 nights/5 days)
The bay of Islands can be found in the very North of new Zealand, a region made up of a few main towns (Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri) and a lot of little islands (around 140 to be exact!) Upon leaving Auckland it is the ideal place to start your holiday in New Zealand, and a much more relaxing alternative to Auckland city. Take a couple of days here to enjoy the Kiwi laid back nature, plan your New Zealand itinerary if you have just joined the kiwi bus, and do a few day trips and water activities – This part of the land is perfect for all the water babies! Popular activities include Scuba Diving, Swimming with dolphins, Whale watching (in winter months) and boat trips incorporating these activities whilst taking a scenic meander around the islands, whilst also passing by the famous ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island.
Departing Auckland at 9am on the Kiwi Experience bus, it took around 3.5 hours to drive to the town of Paihia, which was the perfect spot to be based for a few days to re-charge. Paihia is a pretty coastal town, and the main town from where the day trips and tours depart without ever being overly busy, and it is easy to island hop from here. A passenger ferry service runs between Paihia and Russell, while a vehicle ferry provides a link between Opua and Russell.
This was one of my favourite parts of the North Island. Made of many little islands to explore, it’s quite ruggedly beautiful here. A lot of kiwis spend their holiday time here, so it’s obviously a winner. Way better than Auckland!
How long should I spend in Paihia? (Bay of Islands)
I would suggest a minimum stay of 3 nights, 4 if you include an overnight stay or full day trip up to Cape Reinga.
If you are planning to explore more than just the activities and town of Paihia, I would recommend 5+nights depending on where you plan on going/staying.
Finding a place to stay in Paihia is not a challenge with something for everyone, however it is definitely recommended to book in advance should you wish to visit during the busy summer months. Accommodation options in Paihia range from campgrounds & backpacker hostels to luxury hotels & resorts, so you can always find something to suit your budget.
Top Things to do!
1) Visit Cape Reinga
Either take the full day to drive there and back or make it a little more relaxing by staying overnight, a trip to the most northern point is a must-do! Slide down incredible sand dunes and walk the coastal cliff top trail to the lighthouse for beautiful views out to sea. Stop by the world’s best fish and chip shop on the way home for a late dinner.
2) ‘Hole in The Rock’ Cruise with Dolphin Encounter
Set off on a half-day Bay of Islands cruise in search of dolphins and other marine life. Enjoy the views from a first class catamaran Dolphin Seeker as we journey right to the end of the Cape Brett Peninsula and to the famous Hole in the Rock on Motukokako Island. If conditions permit, your skipper will expertly guide the ship through the narrow space…get dripped on, consider yourself lucky!
Make it a full day trip by adding on the swim with wild Dolphins Encounter- well worth the extra time and money to swim with these amazing animals in the wild!
3) Cream Trip Day in the Bay
Similar to the above but longer day trip without the option to swim with dolphins.
4) Wreck diving
I stayed 4 nights at the Bay of islands. The Kiwi bus arranged accommodation for passengers at the Pipi patch hostel – part of the Base chain around New Zealand and Australia. As far as Base hostels go this one was a winner! Rooms were clean with private bathrooms, there was a hot tub onsite and little bar where people gathered for a few drinks of an evening and communal BBQ’s for $5 each. It was only a 5 minute walk from here along the beach front to the little town centre. A great base for a few days exploring the Bay of Islands and making a plan for the rest of my time around New Zealand.
On our day of arrival I unfortunately felt very unwell, and spent the afternoon and following day recovering. The following day I was booked to do the day trip up to Cape Reinga, however I had to cancel. Luckily though the kiwi experience operative on the phone managed to get me booked onto the bus trip for the next day which I was very grateful for.
Day 3 – Cape Reinga!
Finally feeling better I jumped on board the Kiwi Bus for the day trip to the most northern point of the island. It was a long day, but highly enjoyable. I recommend the hike down to the lighthouse and if you don’t mind heights and fast rides sliding down the huge sand dunes here is a must-do! On the way home we stopped at the best fish and chips shop, which was supposedly voted the best in the world. There wasn’t much options for a vegetarian like myself, but the majority of people on the bus said the fish was very good, so it must be worth the stop off for dinner for any fish lovers J
Day 4 – Dolphin Encounter!
Today was awesome – albeit abit more choppy than I had anticipated but great fun! The boat took us around all the islands, whilst I sat out on the sun deck taking it all in J we stopped off for lunch at a beautiful little spot and really enjoyed the day sightseeing the beautiful nature all around. We saw a pod of dolphins, however as they had a baby among them we were unable to jump in with them. New Zealand care very much for their environment and wildlife – be good and clean up after yourself fout here – and respect the wildlife people!
Day 5 – Following a lovely few days, I jumped back on the kiwi bus to Auckland for 1 night before departing the next morning for Hot water beach and continuing south. I was now itching to get on the road properly and see what the rest of New Zealand had in store.
Next Stop – Hot Water Beach!
– TheSloanRanger x