BUG New Zealand travel guidebook
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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Northland > Bay of Islands > Paihia

Paihia

Paihia is a pretty town that is the tourist capital of the Bay of Islands, with a highly-developed infrastructure catering to backpackers. Paihia’s hostels have a consistently high quality with several truly outstanding choices, and the nightlife here is the most high-spirited in the Bay of Islands.


There’s a seemingly infinite number of water-based activities available from Paihia. Cruises are big here, and the choices range from high-speed crafts to small yachts. Many cruises sail out to Motukokako Island, famous for the “Hole in the Rock”, which most of the bigger and faster boats sail through. Boats that make it out this far also sail past the picturesque Cape Brett lighthouse.


Sea kayaking is another popular option in Paihia, with guided tours available; more casually, many hostels offer free use of kayaks. For a more hands-on experience than cruising, there are several sailing tours available; and there are the ever-popular swimming with dolphins trips.


For land-based activities, some good walks are available in the area, including through the Opua Forest and in the bush around Waitangi.


And when you’ve had your fill of exploring land and sea and learning about New Zealand history, the backpackers’ area around Kings and Marsden Roads becomes a nightly playground of drinking and dancing until the wee hours.

Practical information

awesomeNZ Adventure Centre

This tour booking office provides information geared towards backpackers. They also offer internet access.

Maritime Building, Marsden Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 6985
Website www.awesomenz.com
Open Jan-Mar 7am-8pm daily; Apr-Oct 8am-4.30pm daily; Sep-Dec 7am-8pm daily

Bay of Islands i-SITE Visitor Centre

The Wharf, Marsden Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 7345
Open 8am-5pm daily

INTERNET ACCESS
Boots Off

13 Selwyn Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 8262
Website www.bootsoff.net.nz
Open Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat-Sun 10am-7pm


6 Kings Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 8262
Website www.bootsoff.net.nz
Open Mon-Fri 9am-late, Sat-Sun 10am-late

Hostel accommodation

Paihia is one of the main centres of New Zealand’s backpacker party scene and most action happens on Kings Road, which is also where many of Paihia’s hostels are located. If you want to party then a Kings Road hostel should be your first choice, otherwise you should stay at a hostel away from Kings Road.

Base Bay of Islands

18 Kings Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 7111 or (0800) 227 369 (0800 BASE NZ)

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Bay Adventurer

26-28 Kings Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 5163 or (0800) 112 127

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Captain Bob’s Beachhouse

44 Davis Crescent, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 8668

Centabay Lodge

27 Selwyn Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 7466

Mayfair Lodge

7 Puketona Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 7471

Mousetrap Backpackers

11 Kings Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 8182 or (0800) 402 8182

Peppertree Lodge

15 Kings Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 6122

Pickled Parrot Backpacker Lodge

Greys Lane, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 6222 or 0508 727 768 (0508 PARROT)

Saltwater Lodge

14 Kings Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 7075 or 0800 002 266

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

YHA Paihia

Corner Kings & MacMurray Roads, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 7487

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Eating & drinking

As the backpacker capital of the Northland, Paihia has plenty of drinking and dining options for the budget traveller.


The thumping nightlife in Paihia is centred on Kings and Marsden Roads. A couple of the more popular places for backpackers are connected with hostels including the Saltwater Bar (14 Kings Road, Paihia), part of Saltwater Lodge; and the Pipi Patch Bar (18 Kings Road, Paihia), part of Base Bay of Islands. Just follow the crowds and the noise.


Cheap eating options are more abundant on Williams Road and opposite the Maritime Building in the town centre. Eating options in town include pizzerias, cafés, fish and chips and other takeaways.


Woolworths (9 Blackbridge Road, Paihia) is the big supermarket in Paihia. It’s on the other side of town from Kings Road.

Activities

The Bay of Islands has plenty of water-based activities.

BOAT CRUISES

The Bay of Islands is a popular spot for a cruise and there is a large variety to choose from, ranging from high-speed craft to small yachts. Many cruises sail out to Motukokako Island, which is famous for the ‘Hole in the Rock’ that most of the bigger and faster boats sail through. Boats that make it out this far also sail past the picturesque Cape Brett

lighthouse. Many of the bigger, slower boats cater to the blue rinse set but the high-speed boats like the Excitor and Mack Attack have more of a backpacker focus.

Excitor

No, it’s not the latest product from Durex. It’s an 18-metre speedboat that jets out to the Hole in the Rock in just 1½ hours.

Maritime Building, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 7020
Website www.awesomenz.com/high-speed-adventure-cruise/
Cost $86
Departure times Jan-Apr 8am, 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 4.30pm daily; May-Sep 10.30am, 2.30pm daily; Oct-Dec 8am, 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 4.30pm daily

Mack Attack

No, it’s not the latest McDonalds promotional menu. It’s another boat that claims to be the fastest to the rock (also 1½ hours).

Maritime Building, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 8180 or 0800 622 528
Website www.mackattack.co.nz
Cost $85
Departure times 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 4.30pm daily

The Rock

This big boat offers overnight cruises that feature island treks, snorkelling, kayaking and a phosphorescence swim. It gets mixed reports from travellers, but generally if you are looking for a good time you will have a good time on this boat. It’s a good value trip and the price includes a night’s accommodation on board plus a barbecue dinner and breakfast.

Corner Marsden & Williams Roads, Paihia
Tel 0800 762 527
Website www.rocktheboat.co.nz
24-hour overnight cruise $178 including dinner and breakfast

SEA KAYAKING

There are several companies in the Bay of Islands that offer sea kayaking that range from a half day to two-day overnight trips.

Coastal Kayakers

This company operates guided sea kayak trips that take you past the Waitangi treaty grounds, through mangrove forests to the Haruru Falls. The two-day trip goes further afield and allows you to experience islands in the bay.

Te Karuwha Parade, Ti Bay, Waitangi
Tel (09) 402 8105
Website www.coastalkayakers.co.nz
Half day trip $55; full day trip $75; two day trip $130

Island Kayaks

Island Kayaks runs half day trips that take you past mangroves to secluded bays where you can snorkel or relax on the beach.

Marsden Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 6078
Website www.baybeachhire.co.nz
Half day trip $60; full day trip $150

SAILING

If you’re looking for a slower paced, but more hands-on experience than a simple boat cruise, then sailing a yacht on the Bay of Islands may be for you. There are several companies that operate yacht trips that range from one to three-day cruises. Most of the one-day cruises depart Paihia or Russell around 10am, returning around 4pm. Some of the sailing companies only operate during summer.

Bay of Islands Sailing/Gungha II

A trip on this 60ft maxi-yacht is loads of fun and many people regard it as the best of the one-day cruises. You have the opportunity to help crew the yacht or you can let others do the work. There is an island stop over and you have the chance to see dolphins. This trip operates Oct-May.

Tel (09) 407 7930 or 0800 478 900
Website www.bayofislandssailing.co.nz
Full day sailing $85 including lunch.
Departs Paihia 9.30am, departs Russell 10am

Carino Sailing

Carino operate full day sailing trips on a spacious 12m (40ft) catamaran. This boat makes plenty of island stops where you can swim or snorkel and there are often opportunities to swim with dolphins.

Tel (09) 402 8040
Website www.sailinganddolphin.co.nz
Full day sailing $90
Departs Paihia 9.30am, departs Russell 9.40am

Ecocruz

This fantastic three-day sailing trip aboard a 22m (72ft) ocean-going yacht allows you plenty of time to really experience the Bay of Islands. The trip includes sea kayaking, snorkelling and fishing and you get to explore islands. There’s also the opportunity to see marine wildlife, including dolphins. The trip is fully inclusive and includes all meals and accommodation on board.

Tel 0800 4 ECOCRUZ (0800 432 6278)
Website www.ecocruz.co.nz
Three day cruise $495-575, includes all meals and accommodation
Departs Paihia Tues 8am, Fri 8am

She’s a Lady

This yacht makes full day trips on the bay with lunch on an island and opportunities­ for snorkelling, swimming, fishing and knee boarding.

Tel 0800 724 584
Website www.bay-of-islands.com/sailing/
Full day sailing $90 includes lunch
Departs Paihia 10am; departs Russell 10.15am

SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS
awesomeNZ

AwesomeNZ run small (35 seat) catamarans out on the Bay of Islands, which have the warmest waters in New Zealand where you can swim with dolphins. Bottlenose and Common dolphins can both be seen from the boat and you have a 90% chance of seeing them. The best time to see dolphins is Apr-Jun, Orca are frequently spotted Apr-Oct, Brydes whales May-Jun and migrating whales including Blue, Humpback and Pilot whales are often spotted May-Apr and Aug-Sep.

Maritime Building, Marsden Road, Paihia
Tel (09) 402 6985
Website www.awesomenz.com/dolphin.php
Cost $86 plus additional $30 to swim
Departs Paihia 8am & 12.30pm daily

SKYDIVING
NZ Skydive

The Bay of Islands Skydive Centre offers tandem skydives in the country’s warmest drop zone where you are treated to views of both the east and west coasts. Jumps are from 6000, 9000 or 12,000ft.

Tel (09) 402 6744 or 0800 427 593
Website www.nzskydive.co.nz/bay_of_islands/
Tandem jump from 6,000ft $200; tandem jump from 9,000ft $245; tandem jump from 12,000ft $299

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