The seaside town of Paihia is the adventure hub for New Zealand’s Bay of Islands and a launching point for trips to the Far North. Located three hours north of Auckland, the Bay of Islands is a semi-tropical coastal wonderland with several large inlets, 800 km of coastline, 150 islands, and plentiful marine life. Paihia serves as an ideal base with easy access to the region’s excursions and trips.
What are the best activities near Paihia? The answer is anything related to the ocean. The Bay of Islands has some of New Zealand’s best water for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. Within a short drive are top-notch surfing beaches at Mangonui and Ahipara. Paihia has excellent dive shops and some of the best sport fishing in the world with trophy marlin, tuna, kingfish, and snapper.
Visiting the Bay of Islands isn’t really about the towns themselves. It would be easy to argue in favor of the smaller town of Russell just across the bay from Paihia, and a wide range of holiday rentals aren’t located in any town. Paihia is the liveliest of the bunch and home to the area’s guides and rental shops. But no matter where you stay in the Bay of Islands, adventure awaits.
Things to Do in Paihia
The Bay of Islands has world-class kayaking for all levels of experience. Bay Beach Hire located on Paihia’s main beach offers independent rentals and leisurely half-day tours. For serious kayakers, New Zealand Sea Kayak Adventures runs guided trips from 3 days to 10 days.
You don’t have to be a serious fisherman to enjoy getting out on the Bay of Islands. The weather is warm, the scenery is superb, and the fishing grounds are fertile. There are many charters to choose from; Spot-X Fishing has scheduled morning and afternoon snapper trips and charters for big game fish. Anglers Anonymous will pick you up anywhere in the Bay of Islands for a range of fishing excursions.
One of the most popular ways to experience the Bay of Islands is a scenic cruise. The boats are crowded during the peak season but offer a carefree and enjoyable introduction to the area’s natural beauty. Fullers Great Sights runs twice-daily trips to the famous Hole in the Rock and also dolphin cruises. To get off the beaten path on the Bay of Islands, Rock the Boat Cruises runs an action-packed overnight tour on a custom houseboat named “The Rock.”
One of New Zealand’s unique diving experiences is to the wreckage of the Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace's flagship that was sunk by French intelligence officers in 1985. Dive North has been operating in the Bay of Islands for 20 years with trips for entry-level and certified divers including the Rainbow Warrior. Paihia Dive also guides the Rainbow Warrior in addition to courses on open water diving, advanced open water diving, rescue diving, and more.
For an easy stroll, the Opua Forest Lookout Track (1 hour return) behind Paihia ends with good views of Waitangi and Russell. For a strenuous hike, the Cape Brett Track (16.5 km; 8 hours one way) is one of the finest walks on the North Island. Those who complete the full distance stay at Cape Brett Hut operated by the Department of Conservation (DOC). A shorter hike near Cape Brett is the Whangamumu Track (2 hours return) to a historic whaling station.
Climate/When to Go
The Bay of Islands enjoys New Zealand’s warmest weather with sub-tropical conditions. The region has been nicknamed the "winterless north" with water-based activities enjoyed year-round. High temperatures can reach 30°C (86°F) or higher in the summer and up to 25°C (75°F) in the winter. Given that it’s New Zealand, rain is a consistent part of the picture and the Bay of Islands receives approximately 2,000 mm of precipitation per year.