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Your guide to Paihia
All About Paihia
Known as the gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a thriving seaside town in the far north of New Zealand’s North Island, where the lands are steeped in Māori culture. With 144 islands to explore just off its shores, the small community is a haven for water-based activities and island-hopping. Sailing, kayaking, jet-skiing, stand-up paddleboarding, and fishing are all popular pursuits around the islands. The diving sites here are considered some of the best in the world, with abundant marine life and volcanic outcrops to explore. All types of boat cruises leave from Paihia Wharf, giving you a variety of methods to take in the Bay of Islands. Around Paihia town, you’ll find a range of routes, from short walks to long hikes, to explore the lush landscapes, waterfalls, and coves.
The influence of Māori culture on this part of the Northlands is strong and enduring, in the everyday life of the town and in sacred sites nearby. You can visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, an important spot for the country’s history as it marks the beginning of New Zealand as a nation.
The town center of Paihia has some great restaurants to choose from, and you’ll find several vineyards within a scenic 30-minute drive. Or simply pack a picnic and head to the beach.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Paihia?
The north of New Zealand is often referred to as winterless, as it enjoys consistently moderate tropical weather all year round. To experience the area with fewer tourists, consider booking your Paihia rental for winter (June, July, and August) when it tends to be quieter but days are rarely less than cool — a light jacket should be all you need. The summer months are marked by clear days and balmy temperatures, so sunscreen is a must. New Year’s Eve is a big celebration here, and if you visit in January, you can attend the Bay of Islands music festival — a joyous blend of roots, dub, soul, and hip hop.
What are the top things to do in Paihia?
Bay of Islands
More than 100 islands are scattered throughout this 100-square-mile bay with a lacy coastline and many subsidiary inlets. To make the most of the islands, you’ll want to get out on a boat tour to take in the incredible scenery and learn its stories. Many tours pass through the Hole in the Rock, a naturally formed arch at Cape Brett. Experienced sailors can rent a boat and explore according to their own itinerary.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Fewer than two miles from Paihia is where New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in 1840, marking the end of decades of conflict and forming the modern nation of New Zealand. The center has two museums, traditional Māori performances, and interactive exhibitions. The cafe and gardens are a peaceful spot for reflection, and the art galleries present creations from past and present.
This dramatic horseshoe-shaped waterfall gets its name from the colossal noise it makes as water cascades over the rocks. You can access the boardwalk and waterfall on foot from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, with the 3.7-mile walk taking around 2.5 hours. You’ll follow the Waitangi River past mangrove trees; be sure to keep an eye out for kingfishers and shags, which nest nearby.