After visiting Auckland, our next destination was Paihia, “Jewel of the Bay of Islands.” Paihia is the perfect base for exploring New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. With 144 islands to discover, the Bay of Islands is a great place for fun, adventure and relaxation all year round. However, this northern region of New Zealand has so much more to offer. Quirky towns, historic sites and natural wonders. Driving to and from Paihia enabled us to stop and experience some of these locations. Honey farms, magnificent waterfalls and the elegant town of Russell, were a few of the many activities available around the Northland of New Zealand.
Paihia is a decent-sized town where accommodation, supermarkets and eateries are plentiful. The Visitor Information Centre located next to the Paihia wharf, offer an extensive range of water activities and cruises around the Bay of Islands. Adventure seekers will love parasailing over the islands, swimming with dolphins or scuba diving among epic shipwrecks. Or if you prefer a more relaxing scene, then take the short ferry ride across to the legendary town of Russell.
For a very brief period during the first European settlement, Russell was New Zealand’s first capital city from 1840-1841. Formerly known as Kororareka, Russell is rich in history with many stories to tell. In fact, the Maori legend tells that once upon a time, a Maori chief, who was wounded in battle, drank penguin broth to heal him, declaring “Ka reka te koroa” (how sweet is the penguin) Therefore revealing, Kororareka. Korora (the blue penguin) and reka (sweet).
The local museum is a great place to check out the history of this waterfront town. One of New Zealand’s oldest pubs (Duke of Marlborough) and New Zealand’s oldest church can be discovered in Russell. Russell is a delightful place to enjoy an afternoon of relaxation and good food at one of Russell’s renown cafes or restaurants while watching the sunset over Paihia and the Northland.
Not far from Paihia are the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. A spiritual place of cultural learning and the origin of where the Treaty of Waitangi was initially signed between the British Crown and more than five hundred Maori chiefs, thus uniting in agreeance that New Zealand would become a British Colony.
Further along, the thundering roar or Haruru Falls can be heard as you approach the small bit wide waterfall. The rare horseshoe-shaped waterfall site is an ideal place to take a picnic and enjoy the scenic surroundings.
Whilst driving we encountered the Honey Centre in Warkworth. A great stop to gain a deeper understanding and respect for the simple honeybee. With on site bee colonies and beekeepers and high-grade quality honey, the Honey Centre is perfect for picking up gifts and souvenirs to take home.
Another recommended stop between Auckland and Paihia is Whangarei Falls. This picturesque waterfall stands 26.3m high and majestically drops over basalt cliffs. With almost half of the population of Whangarei consisting of Maori, Maori influence remain strong in Whangarei. Many legends are still told today, and the importance of sacred ground prevails. It is reported that the base of the Whangarei Falls may have once been tapu (sacred) as the pool below the waterfall was once used by Maori tribes for washing the wounded and was known to Maori as the place for healing. Today the waterfalls attract many tourists. From the car park there is an easy two-minute walking track to view the falls from street level. The steep decline to the bottom is not too far, though may not be suitable for those with walking difficulties.
Unfortunately, with only one day in Paihia, we were limited as to what we could see, hence eliminating many sights. Nevertheless, this popular New Zealand summer destination proved its undeniable natural beauty and lures me to return to discover the undiscovered.
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