Explore Paihia in the Bay of Islands

New Zealand’s beloved Bay of Islands – an area of truly magnificent natural beauty and character-filled charm – offers near endless scope for exploration and delight. Known as a gateway to the region, Paihia makes an easy base from which to either relax and indulge in all the town has to offer, or to take day trips to nearby vineyards, historic Russell, or embark on boat tours and game-fishing expeditions.  

Beautiful weather, inspiring coastlines, idyllic islands, important historical sites, stunning beaches, boutique wineries and a relaxed way of life are what make the Bay of Islands a very special holiday destination. 

There’s plenty to explore during your stay in Paihia – from peaceful back-to-nature activities to unique adventures, inspired shopping and quality dining – it’s all right on your doorstep when you stay at Waterfront Suites. 

The town is blessed with an incredible array of water activities; book boat tours out to the famous Hole in the Rock, swim with dolphins, photograph whales, go for a game fishing adventure, paddleboard the coastline or get beneath the surface of the aquamarine waters and dive the wrecks of The Rainbow Warrior, HMNZS Canterbury and other Bay of Islands dive sites

Independent travellers can hire kayaks, dive gear or jet skis and bikes to use at leisure, while others may prefer to have everything catered for and planned for them – be sure to ask at reception for recommendations and to pre-arrange bookings and day tours.  

Visit Waitangi – just across the bridge from Paihia

Visit the Waitangi Treaty grounds for a historical intake of New Zealand and Maori culture and what it means to be a Kiwi today (allow three to four hours). You’ll find out why the Treaty of Waitangi is so important to New Zealand at the recently redeveloped Waitangi museum – a stand-out experience for all ages. Taking a walking tour of the grounds is recommended as you’ll get to understand the significance of the Maori waka (war canoes) and the flag poles on the grounds. Incidentally, the war canoes housed at Waitangi can carry up to 120 warriors and is launched annually on Waitangi Day (6 February).  

Take an island escape

A visit to this region should include at least one island, and Urupukapuka – being the largest of all 144 islands – is recommended on our list of things to do in the Bay of Islands. It’s an excellent day trip from Paihia, with secluded safe swimming beaches and a range of moderately-easy walks that include information on the archaeological sites of an early 19th century Maori settlement. You may see the remnants of a pa (fortified village), storage pit and terrace sites; and hear the song of saddleback and robin amongst other New Zealand birds. 

If you’re lucky enough to visit the island in the early summer, you’ll be dazzled by the vivid reds of the spectacular pohutukawa forest that fringes the coast of this pest-free island. In summer, there are regular ferry services to Urupukapuka from Paihia, and water-taxi services the rest of the year. 

Natural wonders

Just around the corner from Waterfront Suites, Haruru Falls is a rather lovely picnic spot that you can drive, walk or kayak to (5km away from the hotel). The Maori word Haruru translates to ‘big noise’ in English, and you’ll see – and hear – why when you visit the horse-shoe shaped falls. There are some lovely short tree-lined walks around the falls. 

Wine and food tours

Nearby Kerikeri is blessed with Northland’s subtropical climate and fertile soils; perfect for growing kiwifruit, citrus and avocados, there are also some vineyards in the area that are definitely worth an hour or two of your leisure time. Ask the hotel concierge for recommendations on wine tours to Kerikeri and chocolate factories in Russell. 

Events in the Bay of Islands

On the first Saturday in January, the Annual Tall Ship Race leaves Russell and you can see some of the elegance from a distance from your very own waterfront suite at Waterfront Suites! Over three days in May each year, the Bay of Islands Country Rock Festival brings together more than 50 acts from Australia and New Zealand to play in various venues around this stunning region. 

The world-famous Coastal Classic yacht race starts off from Devonport Wharf in Auckland, sails through Rangitoto Channel, past Kawau Island, Whangarei, Tutakaka and Poor Knights Islands, rounds Cape Brett and finishes off at Russell Wharf in the Bay of Islands. The Coastal Classic is 119 nautical miles long and starts on the Friday of Labour Weekend (October) and can take between six to 20 hours.