Our journey from Auckland to Paihia was the start of our 5 week trip with the world famed Kiwi Experience! Of course, we were late getting to the bus so myself and travel buddy Jess had to sit seperately (school bus horrors flashing back) but this was actually a blessing in disguise. With a salute to the Auckland Harbour bridge as we drove over it, we headed to the North!
As with everything in the Southern Hemisphere, the further North you go the warmer the climate and, with that comes lush forests, clear waters and sandy beaches ready for us to tan on. You will notice here that Maori culture is rich all over New Zealand, but I really felt the history here. We had a quick stop at Whangarei, which if you have time you should explore - I hear there is some awesome diving available. In fact, Poor Knights Islands off the coast has been listed many times as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world! So basically - if you have an urge to submerge get your butt down here.
We crashed at the Pipi Patch, one of the hostels here and definitely a great place to crash - who can complain when there’s an all you can eat BBQ for just $5? It’s also home to a bar that seemed pretty popular with the locals so you’re going to get to meet some real Kiwis to teach you their ways! It’s also got a pool, and is less than a 5 minute walk to the beach with an ice cream in hand.
As I mentioned, when you head north the weather generally gets better here, and we enjoyed sunshine and swimming dips in the ocean despite it being March! The bad news though? Because the Ozone layer is so depleted above New Zealand, the sun's rays are extra strong and so extra damaging. All this sciencey stuff I don’t understand makes it happen, but I hear it’s to do with us using too many aerosols or something (thanks to BuzzFeed for that nugget of information!) What this means for you though is that you need to be extra liberal with the sun cream, especially if you are pale skinned, blessed with ginger hair or just Irish who tend to embody both of these traits. The Kiwis stock extra strong suncream in all shops as a lot of our Northern Hemisphere equivalents don’t do the trick, if you burn easy you may want to buy some out here.
So other than eat ice creams & BBQs while lying on or near a beach, what else is there to do in Paihia you ask? SO MUCH! You will not get enough time here, if you’re a beach bum and activities include my following fabulous list. Bare in mind that everything with a * are things you can only do here and no-where else on this trip (that I know of) so are must hit activites. You can also get a discount on most of these if travelling with Kiwi Experience too, just book through your driver!
Nature Walks - $ FREE
Hire a Bike - $15 for two hours
Maori History & Culture - $ FREE (just ask the locals)
Be a Beach Bum - $ FREE (minus that $2 ice cream…)
Kayak Tours - $85 for a half day
Snorkelling - $15 kit hire
Sailing - $100/boat for half day
Skydive (as listed in Top 5 Place to Skydive New Zealand) - $399
Paddle Board - $40 for two hours
Kayak Solo - $20 for two hours
Dolphin Swim - $115
Deep Sea Fishing - $90
Horse Trekking - $95 for two hours
Diving - $ Provided on Request
All these prices are in NZD which work out at awesome value for the experiences you’ll get! Definately make sure you hit up the Cape Reinga trip while you’re here - it’s a must do for those of you who would like to stand on the most northerly and southerly points of New Zealand, you get to see the point where an ocean & sea join then end with an explore of the ancient Kauri forests.
The Kauri tree is very important to the Maori history as this is what they would build their war canoes out of. Built from only one Kauri or Totara tree, these canoes would be up to 25m long and full to the brim of warriors. I don’t know about you, but the haka the All Blacks perform before a rugby match is intimidating enough, let alone a boat full of them! When you’re on this trip you get to walk the forests, hug a Kauri tree and see the famous Kiwi Fern in the flesh within about 30 minutes - it’s a jam packed day of excitement!
Now for all these reason listed above, you can tell why this is a popular holiday destinations for the people of New Zealand. It has been popular for years and Europeans settled here way back when they first arrived. It became a hub for the whaling industry and was full of pubs / taverns for all to find merriment in after long weeks at sea (land ahoy and all that). The only thing there were more of than places to find booze? Brothels. To find out more of the charming history that the first european settlers wrote, check out the Waitangi Treaty House not far from the centre of town. It’s actually pretty interesting even if you were a huge fan of your school history lessons, as they don’t have to tell you the PG version here!
All in all, Paihia has a lot to offer and will ease you into the Kiwi way of life - chilling out & enjoying what the outdoors has to offer! My few days here were sensational and I made friends on that first bus journey that will last probably forever, and those bonds were formed while chatting on the beach (with an ice cream) then rubbing aftersun on each others burns. If only we had listened to the advice of our Kiwi driver who told us the sun is extra hot here...
Photo Credits by Tyne Grant