Here’s a little Bay of Islands information to help you gain an idea of things to do and what there is to offer. The area is blessed with rich history, great people and a stunning marine paradise. There are over 100 islands right on the doorstep and beautiful beaches and Kauri forests close to town. Paihia is the main town and hub of the Bay of Islands and is around 3 hours drive from New Zealand’s capital Auckland.
If you are after something a little quieter and relaxed; Russell, just over the Harbour, is a fantastic option. Russell is accessed by either the passenger ferry from Paihia wharf or the car ferry from Russell. The passenger ferry takes around 10 minutes and leaves every half hour. The car ferry runs around every 15 minutes from Opua and is only a 10 minute ride.
Free or cheap activities in Paihia
There are soo many options of things to do around Paihia and the Bay of Islands. The Bay of Islands is one of the top tourist destinations for both international tourists and New Zealanders. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back from the tours and groups and get out there on your own and do things at your pace.
Walks in the Bay of Islands
There are many really nice walks around Paihia and Russell that take up a few hours or the whole day.
- The School Road walk that starts up the road it is named after is an easy to moderate walk up to a beautiful lookout to the ocean, islands and inner bay. This takes around 1 hour round trip.
- Walk to Haruru Falls through the mangrove and bush track which starts on the other side of Waitangi Bridge. Takes around 2 hours return on a flat track.
- For a full day walk try the Paihia to Russell coastal walk which cuts around the beaches and coast to Opua….. just on the car ferry to Russell side and enjoy the walk through the bush and board walks to Russell. Grab a beer or a bite to eat before getting the passenger ferry back to Paihia. Takes around 5-6 hours.
Ngawha Hot Springs
Located about 20 minutes outside of Paihia towards Kaikohe are natural hot pools that bubble up straight out of the ground. There are over 15 pools that are all different temperatures, They are perfect after a days kayaking with us or on a cooler evening. At $4 per person they are basically free.
The Bay of Islands area is surrounded by artisan products and amazing produce. The best place to get a taste of the area is the local markets. A smaller market is held on the village green in Paihia on Thursdays. A really good market with lots of stalls is held every Saturday in the Pack House Market on the main road into Kerikeri.
Bay of Islands Vineyards
With the rich soils and great weather in Northland there are fantastic wines available at the many vineyards around the area. Treat yourself to a tasting of a few and perhaps some lunch, as the food is as good as the wine.
Our top vineyards to check out wine and food are.
Just past the car ferry to Russell. This vineyard makes amazing wines and also delicious pizzas.
Sage Vineyard and Restaurant
Located on top of a hill in Paroa Bay this vineyard has breathtaking views of the Bay of Islands and serves up some 5 star food.
This is one of the many vineyards around Kerikeri and is one of the best around. The wines are top notch and so is the food.
Another Kerikeri great that makes wines and also brew fantastic beer! Perfect if not everyone is into the grapes and just wants a few delusions cold ones.
Waitangi Treaty grounds
With the Bay of Islands being the birth place of the New Zealand this is a must visit in the Bay. This is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed and they also have a new museum.
Kayak and Paddle Board Hire @ Otehei Bay
Some of the best information in the Bay of Islands you can get for a cheap day out in the Islands is to get to Otehei Bay. Explore has regular ferries from Paihia and Russell out to Otehei Bay. From here there is a cafe/bar right on the beach and the island is covered in amazing walks and cultural sites. We also have our BEACH BASE located on the beach which gives you the option of exploring the coast and bays around Urupukapuka Island from the water at your own pace. The water is crystal clear and there are so many beaches to explore and call one your own.
Places to Stay – Paihia
This is a great hostel that feels like you will be staying with friends. Lots of character to go with the characters staying there. Great place to meet people.
Paihia Top 10 Holiday Park
This is a relaxed campervan park located just outside of Paihia. Perfect for people with campers and it also has cabins available. Located right by the water.
A little Posh
On the water front as you come into town. Great location and nice place to stay. Right next door to Alfresco’s for dinner.
Located right next to town so an easy stroll in for dinner or if you need anything. Rooms also come with kitchens. Run by a lovely couple.
Located right in town but set back from the street. Great views of the water to wake up to.
Places to Stay – Russell
Russell Top 10 Holiday Park
This holiday park is close to the middle of Russell and also the main wharf. walking to everywhere is easy and Long Beach is just over the hill.
A little Posh
This is a beautiful lodge located right on the waterfront in the heart of Russell. Lovely owners and so close to restaurants and bars for dinner.
Great little bed and breakfast with amazing views. Located just out of the main town of Russell.