Paihia: Gateway to the Bay of Islands

It’s definitely going to take more than one post to do the Bay of Islands justice. Paihia is the main coastal town with access to the bay and its 144 islands, so many people start out there. The town itself is pretty small but understandably boasts quite a range of accommodation. I stayed at the Pickled Parrot Backpacker Lodge, which was great, and with a name like that, who would expect less? It came complete with resident dogs, so needless to say, I was in heaven.

Paihia is on the east coast of Northland, New Zealand’s northernmost region, also known as the “Winterless North.” It takes some getting used to being in the Southern Hemisphere and having the climate get warmer as you go north, but again, I can’t complain. I arrived in Paihia the day after Christmas, or Boxing Day here, after about a five-hour bus trip from Auckland.


I headed straight for the waterfront, which is basically most of the town, and let’s just say I was NOT disappointed. The beach was surprisingly uncrowded.


The water in New Zealand is just absurdly beautiful everywhere you go. How is this place real?!


As you can see, some of the islands are quite close in, but a lot of them require a longer boat trip to reach. I’ll be covering some of those in the next posts.


New Zealand’s “Christmas tree,” the Pohutukawa, provided the perfect frame for holiday beach shots. I could get used to this kind of Christmas!

I decided to make use of the beautiful day and set off on the Opua Coastal Walk, which winds alongside the bay for just under 4 miles before reaching the small town of Opua.


The tide was going out, and I walked through the shallow water for part of the trek. I ended up with mud spray all over my legs, but it was well worth it.


I headed to drier land for the next portion of the track.


While setting up the camera, I ended up cutting myself on one of the sharp clam shells that cover most of the rocks along the shore. Damn. Those things hurt worse than a paper cut. Again… worth it.

Next, I found a tree Dr. Seuss would surely approve of, so I had to take a photo beneath it.


After rounding the next bend, the trail began to climb through coastal forest. When there were breaks in the trees, the view was incredible.



I heard some interesting birds, one of which sounded like it was laughing, but I still haven’t figured out what it was. Maybe it was just some weird human. I also came across this unbelievable spiderweb. Even New Zealand’s spiders take things to the next level.


Nearing Opua, the weather got cloudier, but the views were still wonderful.


It reminded me of a Kiwi version of Rockport, Massachusetts.

The path hugged the rocks along the coast and didn’t allow much room for more than one person, but luckily I didn’t pass too many other hikers.


I love how the track changes colors as the sediment shifts.

I turned around just before Opua and made good time on the way back, thinking about cooking up some dinner at my hostel and relaxing on the porch. Still time for pictures, though!


These little nuts were everywhere along the shore, turning the whole coast yellow and green.


As I neared the end of the trail, I discovered a piece of sea glass in the sand. I was surprised, since most of New Zealand’s beaches don’t really have any. Then I found another and another. Pretty soon, I realized this was one of the best beaches I’ve ever come across for sea glass. I think it’s secluded enough that most people don’t stumble upon it, or maybe only Americans are obsessed with these little pieces of history carved by the sea. I could’ve spent hours combing that stretch of sand, but decided I’d call it a day and come back again, since I still had four days in Paihia.



Up next, my voyage to Urupukapuka, the bay’s largest island!

2 thoughts on “Paihia: Gateway to the Bay of Islands

  1. Great descriptions – sights, sounds & sensations – of a gorgeous place, Kelsey! Can’t wait for the next installment.


    1. Thanks! It was such an incredible spot.


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