Paihia, New Zealand
The seaside town of Paihia New Zealand is the main centre from which to explore the Bay of Islands, as it contains a large range of accommodation options including motels, hotels, apartments, backpackers and bed and breakfast.
As you arrive in Paihia, you will look straight out over the sea to Russell, before turning left and driving along the beach, past motels and restaurants, towards the centre of town on your left, and the main wharf on your right. From here you can take most of the day trips out into the Bay of Islands including cruises, sailing and fishing trips. The foot passenger ferry to Russell also departs from here.
The small town centre has many shops, a laundry, banks, cafes, restaurants and great fish and chips! Further down the beach are Waitangi, and the Waitangi Treaty House. Further on is Haruru Falls, there is quite a nice walk there over the bridge at Waitangi, and following the tracks along the river, past the mangroves, and through the bush; keep a look out for the bird life including New Zealand's Tui. At the falls, look out for the Black Shags, diving from the top of the falls to catch their fish as they go over the falls. Other ways to check out Haruru Falls are to take a kayaking trip up the river, or a romantic sunset dinner cruise from Paihia.
A very popular day trip from Paihia is by ferry to Russell - known by locals as "Romantic Russell". Once a whaling centre, Russell is now extremely popular with visitors, with its beautiful old wooden buildings, history, cafes and restaurants. Whilst there you must have a cold beer at New Zealand's oldest pub, the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel. Walk along the beach from Russell wharf, and you come to Flagstaff Hill. The climb is steep, but the views from the top are well worth the exertion!
From Paihia, you can also explore Northland's other attractions. It is only a 40 minute drive to KeriKeri, with its orchards and vineyards. KeriKeri has some of New Zealand's oldest historic buildings. Whilst there, follow the arts and crafts trail, visit the farmers market, or try the chocolates! Opua, with its boat harbor and yachts, is only 5 minutes from Paihia. At Opua you can take your car across on the ferry to Russell. If you would like a full day trip from Paihia, there is Cape Reinga and the famous 90 Mile Beach.