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The small town of Paihia is known as the gateway to the Bay of Islands. One of the best things to do in Paihia is to take a boat tour of the Bay of Islands, but you can also visit the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds, go wine tasting, go skydiving, spend some time in the historic town of Russell, or day trip to the nearby places on the North Island.

An Overview of Paihia

Paihia is a small coastal town on the North Island of New Zealand. Its handy location makes it a great home base for touring the Bay of Islands, the nearby towns of Kerikeri and Russell, and day tripping farther into Northland.

This town contains a nice list of restaurants and accommodations. Plan on spending a few days in Paihia, which gives you enough time to cruise the Bay of Islands, explore Paihia and the neighboring towns, and day trip to the northern tip of New Zealand.

Interesting Fact: Charles Darwin visited Paihia during his famous voyage on the Beagle.

Best Things to Do in Paihia, Russell & Kerikeri

This list of things to do is organized geographically. It starts with things to do in Paihia, followed by things to do outside of Paihia, in the towns of Russell and Kerikeri. At the end of this list, you can see all of them on a map.

Best Things to Do in Paihia

1. Take a Boat Tour of the Bay of Islands

Paihia is known as the gateway into the Bay of Islands and taking a cruise into the bay is one of the main reasons people visit Paihia. The header photo for this article was taken during our tour of the Bay of Islands.

Bay of Islands New Zealand

Bay of Islands


Hole in the Rock Bay of Islands

Hole in the Rock

Consisting of 144 islands, the Bay of Islands is known for its beautiful blue water, dramatic shorelines, and picturesque coves.The Bay of Islands was originally settled by the Māori about 700 years ago. Captain James Cook was the first European to visit the Bay of Islands and gave the archipelago its name in 1769. And the town of Russell, also known as Kororāreka, became the first European settlement in New Zealand.

There are a wide range of boat tour options available. These include cruising the bay to look for marine life, stopping at one or two islands to hike, swim, snorkel, paddleboard, or kayak, and cruising through the natural narrow tunnel of Hole in the Rock.

Popular places to visit in the Bay of Islands include Hole in the Rock, Urupukapuka Island (the largest island in the Bay of Islands), Otehei Bay (one of the bays at Urupukapuka Island), Russell, and Motuarohia Island (the original landing site of Captain Cook).

For more information about things to see and do in the Bay of Islands, don’t miss our Guide to the Bay of Islands, which is filled with more photos and helpful tips for planning your visit.

Boat Tours of the Bay of Islands

There are numerous boat tours to choose from. We took this half day tour which includes Hole in the Rock, a 1.5 hour stop on Urupukapuka Island, and the opportunity to see dolphins and other marine wildlife.

This 5-hour boat tour also includes Hole in the Rock, two island stopovers, and the chance to go paddleboarding or snorkeling.

For something a bit more thrilling, this hour and a half jet boat tour includes a visit to Hole in the Rock.

Or, spend the entire day cruising the Bay of Islands on a catamaran.



2. Take a Helicopter Tour of the Bay of Islands

An aerial tour of the Bay of Islands provides a unique perspective. Seeing groupings of islands from above can be more picturesque than seeing the islands from sea level.

While we enjoyed the cruise around the islands, we wish we had booked a helicopter tour in order to capture the panoramic beauty of the islands.

Aerial view of the Bay of Islands

Aerial view of the Bay of Islands | trabantos/shutterstock.com

Helicopter tours of the Bay of Islands are offered by Salt Air and depart from Paihia. They offer three different experiences that range from a flight over the Bay of Islands (20 minutes), a flight plus landing at Hole in the Rock (35 minutes), and a flight plus nature walk led by a Māori guide (60 minutes). They also offer a flight + cruise combo so you can experience the Bay of Islands from both the air and sea.

Check the Salt Air website for more details, updates on their helicopter tour options, and pricing.

3. Go Skydiving

The Bay of Islands is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand to go skydiving. Without a doubt, this is the most thrilling thing to do in the Bay of Islands, and to see the 144 islands from this height is an unforgettable experience.

Tandem skydive from 9,000 to 20,000 feet with up to 85 seconds of free fall. This experience takes about an hour and a half and is best booked in advance since spots are limited.

4. Tour the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are one of the most important historical sites in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) is Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding document. It is a written agreement between the Māori chiefs and the British Crown to share power in New Zealand. It was first signed at Waitangi on February 6, 1840, and copies of the treaty were sent throughout New Zealand and signed by Māori leaders.

The treaty was designed to share power between the Māori and the Europeans, but it was largely ignored until the late 20th century. In 1975, the Treaty of Waitangi Act established the Waitangi Tribunal to establish a partnership between the Māori and non-Māori, to protect and celebrate Māori culture. You can learn more about the Treaty of Waitangi here.

At the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, learn more about the Treaty of Waitangi at the Museum of Waitangi and the Museum of the Price of Citzenship, see Te Whare Rūnanga (a beautifully carved meeting house), visit the Treaty House, and see the Ngātokimatawhaorua (the world’s largest ceremonial waka (canoe)). The flagstaff marks the spot where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

 Treaty House Paihia

Treaty House


Te Whare Rūnanga New Zealand

Te Whare Rūnanga

You can also attend a live cultural performance and hāngi dinner or take a guided tour. We had breakfast at the Whare Waka Café and it was delicious.

Learn more about the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and get pricing and hours on the official website.

5. Opua Forest Lookout Track

This 1.6 mile out-and-back hike starts in Paihia and takes you through the forest to a lookout point over Paihia and the Bay of Islands. On this trail you can see kauri trees that are 400 years old. This hike takes about one hour and is rated as moderate.

6. Haruru Falls

Located just a few minutes outside of Paihia is Haruru Falls. This is a quick visit, with a 2-minute walk from the parking area to a viewpoint of the waterfall. It’s worth the stop if you plan to drive through Haruru, either to get to Kerikeri or on a day trip to Northland.

Haruru Falls Paihia New Zealand

Haruru Falls

Things to Do in and around Russell / Kororāreka

1. Stroll through Russell

Russell, also called Kororāreka, is famous for being the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand.

This small, coastal town is home to Christ Church, New Zealand’s oldest church that was built in 1835. It is a delight to stroll through, with a charming waterfront area and collection of restaurants.

Like Paihia, this is another popular place to stay to visit the Bay of Islands.

Christ Church Paihia

Christ Church


Russell New Zealand

Russell New Zealand Beach

Walking through Russell


The easiest way to get from Paihia to Russell is to take the ferry. There are two ferries to choose from, one that connects Paihia and Russell and one that connects Opua and Okiato. The Opua to Okiato ferry is a bit farther away from Paihia, but it runs more frequently and travels a shorter distance, so it might be faster than the Paihia to Russell ferry (we used the Opua to Okiato ferry to get back and forth from Paihia and Russell).

For timetables and pricing of these car ferries, click here.

2. Enjoy the View from Flagstaff Hill

Flagstaff Hill sits high above the town of Russell. From this viewpoint you get panoramic views over Russell, the Bay of Islands, and Paihia.

Russell Bay of Islands

The view from Flagstaff Hill

3. Go Wine Tasting

There are several vineyards located near Russell. These are wonderful places to go wine tasting, have lunch or dinner with a view, or even spend the night.

We had lunch at the Sage Restaurant at Paroa Bay Winery and highly recommend this experience for foodies and wine lovers. They offer an a la carte menu and a tasting menu with optional wine pairing. The food, the wine, and the setting are outstanding. If you have the money to spend, take a look at Tarapunga, their premier villa that overlooks Paroa Bay, has an infinity pool, sauna, and gourmet kitchen.

Where to Eat Paihia

Sage Restaurant

The Omata Estate Vineyard & Kitchen is another winery that is located near Russell. You can go wine tasting at their cellar door or dine on pizza or gourmet platters at their kitchen.

Things to Do in Kerikeri

Kerikeri is a small town that is located north of Paihia. From Paihia, it is a 25-minute drive to get here.

1. Visit the Stone Store & the Kemp House

The Stone Store is New Zealand’s oldest surviving stone building. It was built between 1832 and 1836 for the Church Missionary Society to be used as a trading post. It was eventually converted into a library, then a barracks, a boys’ school, and now it is a shop and museum.

Stone Store New Zealand

Stone Store

Next door to the Stone Store is the Kemp House, New Zealand’s oldest surviving European building. It was built in 1822 for Reverend John Butler and occupied by the Kemp family until 1974.

Kemp House New Zealand

Kemp House

Together, these two buildings comprise the Kerikeri Mission Station.

On a visit here, you can tour the Kemp House, which is now a museum, go shopping in the Stone Store, and have a bite to eat at the Honey House Café. There are a few parking spaces next to the Stone Store. The better place to park is the larger parking lot at the end of Landing Road. From here, it’s a short walk on the Kerikeri River Track and across the Waipekakoura River to get to the Kerikeri Mission Station.

2. Photograph Rainbow Falls (Waianiwaniwa)

This is the most beautiful waterfall in the area. To get here, you can hike from Kerikeri Station (3.5 km one-way on the Kerikeri River Track) or park in the closer public parking lot. From the parking lot, there is a paved path that leads to several different viewpoints of the waterfall, for a total of roughly 800 meters of walking, if you visit all of them.

Rainbow Falls Paihia New Zealand

Rainbow Falls

3. Feed the Birds at the Parrot Place

At the Parrot Place, you can feed, hold, and learn about 300 birds from around the world. A visit here lasts about 30 minutes and is fun for all ages. If you are visiting Paihia with kids, this one of the best things to do. We loved feeding the birds and getting them to talk to us.

Parrot Place New Zealand

Feeding a Parrot

4. Have Lunch at a Winery

Sitting right outside of Kerikeri are two wineries. We had a fantastic lunch at Sovrano Estate & Winery (formerly AKEAKE), but Marsden Estate Winery & Restaurant also gets very good reviews. Both wineries also offer wine tastings For the best experience, make your reservation in advance.

Sovrano Estate New Zealand

Sovrano Estate and Winery

5. Manginangina Kauri Walk

Kauri trees are the largest trees in New Zealand. Seeing at least one of these trees is one of the top things to do on the North Island. From Paihia, the easiest place to see these massive trees are on the Manginangina Kauri Walk.

This 350-meter boardwalk trail makes a loop through a native forest, giving you a glimpse of these majestic trees. It is an easy walk and the trail is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. To get here, it is 20-minute drive from Kerikeri and a 40-minute drive from Paihia. It is free to visit.

Manginangina Kauri Walk

Manginangina Kauri Walk Paihia

Manginangina Kauri Walk

More Things to Do near Paihia

Kawiti Caves (Waiomio Glowworm Caves)

The Waiomio Glowworm Caves are the best place to see glowworms near Paihia. On a visit here, you will take a guided tour of the limestone caves, walking on a 200-meter boardwalk. Not only do you get to see glowworms but you can also see stalactites and stalagmites.

Kawiti Caves is located 25 minutes south of Paihia by car. Learn more about Kawiti Caves on the official website and make your reservation in advance.

Day Trip to Northland

Paihia not only makes a great home base for exploring the Bay of Islands, but from here you can also day trip to the nearby destinations in Northland.

From Paihia, it takes about 3 hours to drive to Cape Reinga, which is on the top of the North Island. On this very scenic drive, you will pass through charming towns, drive alongside Ninety Mile Beach, and have the option to detour to coastal walks and a few small museums.

Learn more in our Guide to Northland, New Zealand (coming soon).

Cape Reinga New Zealand

Cape Reinga

Best Things to Do in Paihia, Russell & Kerikeri: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

How Much Time Do You Need in Paihia?

I recommend spending a minimum of two days in Paihia. With two days, spend the first day cruising the Bay of Islands and sightseeing in Russell and the second day visiting Kerikeri, wine tasting, and seeing the sights in Paihia. A third day allows you to day trip to Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach.

Paihia Itinerary

Here is a sample itinerary for Paihia.

Day 1: Morning cruise of the Bay of Islands, afternoon in Russell, dinner in Russell or Paihia
Day 2: Sightseeing in Kerikeri and Paihia
Day 3: Day trip to Cape Reinga

New Zealand Guide

How to Get to Paihia

The best way to get to Paihia is by car. Here are the driving distances and times from nearby destinations.

Cape Reinga: 215 km, 3 hours
Whangarei: 70 km, 1 hour
The Kauri Museum: 130 km, 2 hours
Auckland: 230 km, 3 hours

Where to Eat in Paihia & Russell

This small town is home to several very good restaurants.

We had an amazing dinner at Terra Restaurant. The tasting menu changes seasonally and they are also open for lunch. Definitely make your reservation in advance.

Dinner at Terra Paihia

Terra Restaurant

Our best lunch experience was at Sage Restaurant, at Paroa Bay Winery near Russell.

Sage Restaurant Paroa Winery

Wine tasting at Paroa Bay Winery

We also recommend Zane Grey’s Restaurant and Bar. This restaurant is located on the water, right next to the Paihia Wharf. It has a fantastic setting and serves seafood dishes and pasta.

We also had a very nice dinner at Charlotte’s Kitchen but had overall better experiences at the three restaurants already listed.

In Russell, the Duke of Marlborough gets rave reviews as does The Gables Restaurant.

Where to Stay in Paihia

We stayed at Abri Apartments in Paihia. This small property is located in the residential area behind Paihia, so it is quiet but still within walking distance of the waterfront. At this property, there are two small houses (the Treetops and the Palms) and a one-bedroom suite to choose from. We stayed in the Treetops, which had a kitchen, living area, and private bathroom and from the balcony had a beautiful view of the Bay of Islands. We had a great experience here and highly recommend it.

Allegra House is also located in the hills behind Pahia. This property gets rave reviews and rooms have a view of the Bay of Islands. Note that children are not allowed at this property.

The Waterfront Suites is located on Marsden Road near the Paihia Wharf. Rooms range from one to three-bedroom suites, there is a pool onsite, and this is a great pick for families.

Pioneer Waterfront Apartments is also a good pick for families or small groups, with multiple two-bedroom apartments that can accommodate five or more people. There is an onsite pool and the apartments have a washing machine.

Changing Tides BnB is located a short drive outside of Paihia. This adult-only accommodation offers queen rooms with spectacular sea views and gets exceptional reviews on Booking.com.

Paihia New Zealand


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth visiting Paihia?

Paihia is known as the gateway to the Bay of Islands, one of the most beautiful places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. While in Paihia, you can also learn about the historic Treaty of Waitangi, photograph waterfalls, go skydiving, and day trip to other nearby destinations on the North Island. For those who want to visit the Bay of Islands and journey to the top of New Zealand, a visit to Paihia is worthwhile.

Is it better to stay in Paihia or Russell?

Paihia has a more convenient location, being on the mainland, so it is quicker and easier to visit the nearby destinations. To get to Russell, you will have to take a ferry, which increases travel time. For convenience, we recommend Paihia over Russell, but for those who want to stay in a historic town, then Russell is worth considering.

How long should I stay in Paihia?

I recommend spending a minimum of two days in Paihia. With two days, spend the first day cruising the Bay of Islands and sightseeing in Russell and the second day visiting Kerikeri, wine tasting, and seeing the sights in Paihia. A third day allows you to day trip to Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach.

If you have any questions about the best things to do in Paihia, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand

NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (one of the best day hikes in the world), spending a day or two in Auckland, visiting Waiheke Island on a day trip from Auckland, touring Hobbiton, visiting Rotorua and Taupō, spending a day or two in Wellington, and journeying to Northland, the far north of New Zealand. For the full list, read our article about the Best Things to Do on the North Island.

NORTH ISLAND ITINERARY: In our New Zealand North Island Itinerary, we list 5 different ways to plan your trip, ranging from 5 days to 2 weeks.

AUCKLAND: Get started with our article Best Things to Do in Auckland, which also has hotel and restaurant recommendations. Learn how to plan your time with our Auckland Itinerary. And don’t miss our guide to Waiheke Island, an amazing day trip from Auckland.

SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, hike the Hooker Valley Track, visit Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, go on a helicopter flight to see Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers from the sky, and learn about the best things to do in Queenstown. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.

We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, and the Milford Sound.


Paihia New Zealand Bay of Islands

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