Best Things to do in Paihia: A Perfect 24 Hours

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best things to do in Paihia! I think I’ve made it clear on this blog just how much I loved my time in New Zealand. The whole country was gorgeous, from the South Island to the North. But perhaps my favorite time in New Zealand was the 24 hours I spent with the Best Things to do in Paihia. Paihia is often called the gateway to the Bay Islands. These islands are a delightful place for New Zealanders to look at fish, catch fish, and then eat the fish.

We won’t have time to do quite all those things. But with 24 hours of the Best Things to do in Paihia, we’ll definitely be able to go on two different boats, two different scenic walks, and eat two different meals. Plus a cranky old Irish lady will yell at us. Let’s go!

Best Things to Do in Paihia

What to Pack and Where to Stay?

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You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

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This is as tan as I get folks.

New Zealand is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.

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Finally, if you’re not from Australia, New Zealand, or the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. NZ electrical outlets don’t work with American or non-UK European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.

Now that you’re packed, do you need a hotel? Fortunately, there are tons of lovely hotels in Paihia to choose from. And if you’d like to find great deals on over 100 hotels in Paihia, click here! I’m sure you’ll find something in your budget!

Best Things to do in Paihia

Best Things to do in Paihia

Morning: Explore Paihia

One of the charms of staying in an adorable sea-side (bay-side?) town like Paihia is that you can take an entire morning to mosey about and explore its charms. For those who like knowledge, which I hope is all of us, there’s many historical fun facts to learn. But aside from that, I suggest spending as much time on the water as you can! In fact, taking to the waves will be number one on our…

approximately top 5: Best Things to do in Paihia

ferry to russell new zealand
1) Ferry to Russell

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the area around Paihia by ferry boat. Ferries are one of the quaintest ways to get around along with riverboat, steam-powered locomotive, and Oregon Trail covered wagon. It’s just a short ferry ride from Paihia to the neighboring town of Russell. (You can check the exact ferry schedule here.) I assume that Russell Crowe was named after this town. After all, he is from New Zealand.

Russell is one of the oldest European settlements in all of New Zealand. Back in the 19th century, Russell had a bad reputation because of all its smugglers, ladies of the evening, Jack the Rippers, and whatnot. In fact, it used to be called the Hell Hole of the Pacific. You can see what I mean in this photo:

russell new zealand

ARRRR! Look at that hell hole! Methinks I see Long John Silver scurvying around in the back there. Shiver me timbers, ye bilge rats! But in all seriousness, I think you’re more likely to find doughnut holes in Russell nowadays than hell holes. I suggest taking about an hour to wander around the little Victorian houses and contemporary art galleries. That will leave you plenty of time to head back to Paihia for the rest of our adventures.

st paul's anglican church
2) St Paul’s Anglican Church

There were two major historical sites I visited during my exploration of the Best Things to do in Paihia and this was the first. St. Paul’s Anglican Church dates back to 1925, though there were other, older churches on the same site. I assume they burned down or were sacked by the Prussians. That’s usually what happens to churches.

Though St. Paul’s is not the oldest church in the whole wide world, it has certain distinctive features. For one, it is decorated with the birds of New Zealand.

st paul's anglican

See! Even the minister is a bird! I wonder if he learned to speak English, or if he only speaks Kiwi.

24 hours in paihia st paul's

You should also take the time to pay your respects in the graveyard. Paihia has had both Maori and European residents for a long time. You can see from the graves that interracial families are not uncommon.

waitangi walk
3) Walk to Waitangi

It’s getting near lunch time, so we’re going to walk up to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It’s a pleasant stroll along Paihia Beach, so you can see the sea birds soar above Te Ti Bay. New Zealand is apparently the sea bird capital of the world. I personally thought New Zealand was the Sheep and Hobbit capital of the world. But I suppose that just means it’s an island nation of many talents.

Cricket Sign

If you’re a cricket fan, you’ll spot this sign pointing out where the first cricket game was played in New Zealand. I personally think cricket is not a real game, but an elaborate joke that the British invented as payback on the Americans for the Revolution.

american flag paihia

This American flag quietly lying on the ground agrees with me.

24 hours in paihia waitangi treaty grounds
4) Lunch at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are arguably the most historically significant place in all of New Zealand. This is where the first treaty agreement between the Maori and the British government was signed in the 1840s. (They say that the British government did not live up to the agreement, which I find terribly shocking.)

The treaty was actually translated from English into Maori by Henry Williams, who founded St. Paul’s Anglican, which we visited earlier today. (I assume he was human, not a bird.)

Now I can feel all my Kiwi readers getting ready to send me angry emails letting me know that you need to spend an entire day at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, not just come here for lunch. How very true! But I only had 24 hours in Paihia because I was visiting with a group from Intrepid Travel.

If we had 48 hours in Waitangi, we’d definitely spend an entire day here. But since our time is limited, lunch at the Whare Waka Cafe will have to do. You can pay your respects to this important part of history, stare at a beautiful duck pond, and eat some fresh baked goods.

waitangi treaty grounds scone

I merely noshed on a scone, but I suggest getting something more substantial. You’ll need the energy for our afternoon’s activity.

24 hours in paihia Kayak

Best Things to do in Paihia

Afternoon: Kayaking

I only spent about 2 weeks in New Zealand. But from what I could gather, the typical Kiwi is big into nature. He might spend his morning going tramping through the mountains, his evening kayaking down a mighty river, and his nights curled up in a tent staring at the stars with his best friend. (I assume his best friend is a sheep.)

Well, I may not be up to New Zealand standards, fitness-wise, but I can still go for a lovely walk and kayak. So I recommend doing one of the Waterfall tours with Coastal Kayakers. They’ll show you how to paddle out to the Haruru Waterfall, and they’ll guide you to the perfect place for a nature hike. All I can add is the…

three fun facts about kayaking

1) Is Kayaking difficult?

Hmm. That depends on what you mean by difficult. I’ve been canoeing before, and I’d say that kayaking is quite a bit more difficult. Also I have the upper body strength of a wet noodle that’s been left out in the sun too long. But I had two things going for me. First, I am crazy determined. Second, my kayak partner was a stout (in both mind and body) Irishwoman who was about three times my age. Let’s call her Edna.

Anyway, Edna barked instructions at me, and she reminded me so of my Irish granny that I had no choice but to obey. In the end, Edna and I got where we were going, and she praised me on my ability to “take orders”, which sounds like a compliment and an insult simultaneously. But all that is to say, if I can do it, you can do it. Just think of Edna and fear her as I did.

kayak paihia
2) What can you do while kayaking?

A better question would be what CAN’T you do while kayaking? (The answer: make a frittata.) But Coastal Kayakers were enthusiastic about planning activities for us while we kayaked. There was an exciting kayak race. (Edna and I definitely lost mostly because I kept getting us turned around. But I didn’t cry, so in a way, I feel we won.)

Then we played a game called Hungry Hungry Hippos. In this game each team tried to pick up as many balls as possible while one partner was blindfolded. Edna and I came in second. I think this was largely because I cheated and peeked through the bottom of my blindfold because I was so scared to face the wrath of Edna.

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3) where will you go walking?

After the kayak, they drove us to Haruru Falls, which you can see pictured at the beginning of this section. It’s apparently exciting because it’s shaped like a horseshoe. I don’t think any horse I’ve ever seen could wear a waterfall for a shoe. But there’s lots of horses I haven’t met yet.

After getting gently splooshed with the waterfall, we went for a gentle stroll through a mangrove forest. I always get mangroves confused with mandrakes. Mandrakes are those plants that kind of look like people and supposedly you’ll get sent to Hell if you pull one out. But all that will happen if you pull up a mangrove is that New Zealand authorities will come for you. Probably that’s just as scary as Hell, but not quite as scary as an old Irish lady like Edna.

Stella Jane

See how calm and peaceful I look, even after all the crazy exercise we had today! But I’ve actually come to bring you a final warning. Do not bring a dog on this walk. I know you love your dog, but apparently some dogs like to attack and eat Kiwi birds. The poor Kiwi have basically no defenses so they are helpless in the face of Fido. I feel like Russell Crowe needs to teach self-defense classes to the Kiwis. He could teach them how to throw phones at the dogs and whatnot.

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Best Things to do in Paihia

Evening: Dinner at Charlotte’s Kitchen

Now, I may not be the world’s expert on kayaking or mangroves, Internet Stranger. But one thing I do know is food. So believe me when I say you should head straight to Charlotte’s Kitchen. This restaurant was named after Charlotte Badger, a New Zealand lady pirate with an awesome name. The place is just as fun as it sounds. In fact all the food we eat will be fun! Let’s start with some raw oysters. Even if you don’t like the texture, everyone knows oysters are an aphrodisiac, and what’s more fun than that?

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24 hour treat: pizza

Charlotte’s Kitchen is especially known for its pizza. They have a gorgeous pizza oven that looks like the center of a volcano. I was excited to find that they even important buffalo mozzarella from Italy for their pizza. (Yes, that’s mozzarella made with buffalo milk, and it is the greatest thing ever invented by humans. And the second greatest thing ever invented by buffaloes.)


And what fun meal would be complete without the most fun dessert: chocolate. This is a chocolate marquise. It’s like a chocolate mousse that’s richer than Rockefeller, Scrooge McDuck, and Daddy Warbucks combined. To the side is churros with chocolate ice cream and bottomed with dulce de leche. This was Lady Pirate Charlotte Badger’s favorite dessert. I mean, I don’t know that for a fact, but I assume it’s true because she was a woman of exquisite taste.

That’s a the Best Things to do in Paihia

What do you think are the Best Things to do in Paihia? Has an Irish lady ever bullied you into kayaking? And why hasn’t there been a TV series called Charlotte Bridger, Lady Pirate? Please leave your thoughts below.

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the Best Things to do in Paihia. If you’d like to add some time in Auckland, try this itinerary or this itinerary.

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