The Not-So-Secret Spots in the Far North: Paihia

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My first trip to the
“Winterless Far North”
I loved that there were palm trees!
July 2009

Paihia is the backpackers  tourist mecca for the Northland. Kings Road is peppered with a variety of accomodation, from backpackers to upscale hotels with a variety of everything in between, really – as well as all over the wee town.  While it’s not truly a part of the ‘real far north’, it is by far the most popular destination for many foreigners as well as Aucklanders venturing north to Northland. And it is popular for a reason.

Taking in the beauty in the Bay of Islands
Where to stay
There is such a range of options in Paihia. Your typical backpackers (I’ve stayed at the Saltwater Lodge and the Bay Adventurer and both were great) but if you’re looking for something different, you can always try your luck at, as they are known to offer great deals if you’re booking in advance or last minute. Grab One also offers escapes, so if you check up you  might score yourself a sweet deal if you take a look online! 
Staying at the Saltwater Lodge, July 2009
Is it worth it?
It’s a long drive from Auckland. It’s a fairly small town. It’s definitely touristy. Is it worth seeing? Definitely. Does it have something unique to offer? I would say so. As I mentioned in my adventure to the Bay of Islands the best way to experience the uniqueness of the Bay of Islands is to find a way to get amongst it and get out on the water.

The main beach

What to eat?
Honestly, for a little town way up north, Paihia has heaps of variety and options when it comes to where to fill your tummy! If you want something flash, I’ve been to 35 degrees, right on the waterfront at the ferry terminal – and found both the food and wine to be devine. Looking for Thai? They’ve got it. Feeling carnivorious – Jimmy Jacks RibShack has got you covered. Fancy Italian – I believe you may have several options!
Or.. this may be a long shot, perhaps you’ve been out on the piss at the above-mentioned establishments and now find yourself needing a sobering feed after hours? Usually there is a conviently located chip truck just down the road from the bars, on the main street by the waterfront. You don’t get that anywheres else up here! (unless you’ve got a sober bro to take you thru the drive-thru at Macca’s – but that’s 20 minutes away in Kerikeri!). 
If you’re anything like me and have a even a bit of a sweet tooth, a daytime must stop place would definitely be Get Fudged! A delectable assortment of different fudges, and I remember the staff to be so friendly (I once walked in with only a $10 note and much like a child in a candy store, asked for as much as I could get for this much).
HOT TIP: The Four Square is easily accessible,
but if you’re looking to save money and cook your own meal,
you’ll save money if you head towards the outskirts of town
and find yourself the Countdown – a much better priced (real) supermarket.
What to do?
Since you’re in the neighbourhood, I would reccommend heading over to the Waitangi Treaty grounds, where the document that still guides this country was signed and take in some of the local culture and history.
Te Waka at Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Carvings at Waitangi

Inside the ‘whare’, the traditional meeting house

Paihia also boasts of some other great activites to offer, including sea-kayaking, skydiving (where you can land on the beach!), chartering a fishing boat, Dolphin Cruises, take the ferry to visit New Zealand’s first European settlement – beautiful and historic Russell – originally deemed “the Hell Hole of the Pacific!” Russell is another great spot to spend the afternoon just wandering around, checking out the cafes and pubs and just browsing in the shops.
Dolphin Cruise!

Hole in the Rock
This is ultimately the best spot to go out for a good boogy in the Far North! It may not be the raging metropolois that you’re used to, but there are two backpacker bars on Kings Road that attract the locals and tourists alike  – The Salty Dog and X-Base’s The Pipi Patch. Neither is really better than the other;  both usually offer some sort of Happy Hour drink special. There are also a variety of cafes that are open till late. We’ve found ones that offer live music.
Sidenote – a group of mates and I called into one place towards the end of the night (for some reason the name seems to escape me) and they were running a little competition, that for every drink purchased you got to choose a number, to go into a draw for a $100 bar tab. Believe it or not, one of the four of us actually won that tab! The people who’d been drinking there all night didn’t look so impressed with us.
Despite being your typical tourist trap, people flock to the beautiful Bay of Islands for good reason. Make your experience your own, choose whatever you like, but don’t miss out. You don’t have to spend heaps of time there, but it is worth it.
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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Mellyboo April 17, 2012, 8:15 am

    Great post Kate! :) Can’t wait to get up there in a few days :)


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