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Town of the Month (Part III)

by Kerry Meadows-Bonner

Situated in the far north of the country with beautiful sandy beaches, plenty of history and no shortage of land and water activities sits the popular tourist destination, Paihia.

With Waitangi directly to its north, Russell across the shore by ferry and situated only 23 kilometres south-east of Kerikeri (the largest town in Northland) Paihia makes an ideal spot for tourists with plenty of things to see and do.

Its history dates back to 1823 when The Church Missionary Society established its own mission and later, was New Zealand’s first town to set up a printing press in 1835.


As a seaside town, Paihia has a big little feel to it and no shortage of outstanding food, drink and activity options. By day, book one of the many popular recreational activities including boat cruises where you can spot (and even swim!) with dolphins, see the infamous Hole in the Rock at the top of the peninsula, or hire a kayak and explore any of the 144 islands that surround Bay of Islands. For those looking for more adventurous options, try parasailing, swim with stingrays at Wairoa Bay or partake in one of many scenic walking or bike tracks in and around Paihia.



After a long day of activities, try one of Paihia’s many restaurants situated on its waterfront or township, Charlotte’s Kitchen or Zane Grey’s. If you’re a big seafood fan, then you’ll be in heaven with all of the bountiful options too and if you’re after something a bit simpler Paihia has outstanding curry and Thai options at Green’s and gastro pub style like CBK’s. Then, why not stop off for a nightcap at the quaint deli, off licence bar medley that is Bad Habits.



The most surprising spot is the Pizza Shack on the main road and if you’re after great coffee and insanely good cabinet food (with vegan options too) try Third Wheel Coffee with its one of a kind off beat artwork done by a local artist or Orange Frog café for vegetarian/vegan options and smoothies.


As one of the most historic and visited sites in the country, Waitangi is only 3 kilometres north west of Paihia town and the site where the founding document outlining the relationship between Maori and British Government, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between Maori and British Captain, William Hobson, representative of the British Crown.

With the Waitangi Treaty House and grounds the most popular tourist thing to see, much has changed throughout the years to create an experience for visitors far and wide. Since 2016 the grounds house two museums, alongside an optional guided tour, cultural performances in an authentic meeting house, carving studio with live demonstrations, café, gift shop and beautiful views across the Bay of Islands.



Only a quick five minute ferry ride across the shore is tiny historic town of Russell with an even smaller population but equally stunning with its history and scenic views.


A short 5 minute walk from Russell beachfront is the historic Christ Church, New Zealand’s oldest surviving church. Explore its grounds including the graves of Maori Chiefs and whalers whose headstones tell of untimely deaths and see the stray musket holes that remain from the Battle of Kororareka in 1845.


Visit the French style printery and tannery steeped in Maori and French history and explore its beautiful gardens followed by a coffee in its French coffee house.



Finish off your day with a bite to eat and a drink at the historic waterfront building that opened in 1827 and was the first establishment in New Zealand to receive a liquor licence in 1840.