Paihia and Russell (Bay of Islands)

A week after arriving in Paihia on a rain-soaked, blustery night to find that there was no room in the inn, so to speak, I’m still here.

I’ve had some luck with the hostel situation, managing to stay at Base Backpackers every night since my first, despite requiring others’ cancellations to do so. Incredibly this is the first time I’ve stayed at Base, though I’ve visited their hostel bars on various occasions. I’ve got to say, there’s a really positive vibe about the place. The staff are really friendly and more than willing to help people out when things go awry. One of the great things about Base is that it’s closely affiliated with the Kiwi Experience. This means the hostel is nearly always close to capacity and new people arrive daily. Of course any friendships made are transient at best, but such is the nomads life (sigh)…

Paihia is more of a village than a town, but it serves the Bay of Islands well, and in modern times when tourism is by far the largest industry, that is all that is required of it. King’s Road is where the majority of the hostels are located, including Base. There is a ‘bottle shop’ (liquor store), a couple of bars, and a nightclub called The Sandpit. This is where the majority of backpackers hang out at night. If you are staying for a while, or aren’t interested in the party scene, you may want to check out Mousetrap Backpackers or Saltwater Lodge. These places seem a little more relaxed and you are less likely to be disturbed by a bunch of revellers in the small hours.

Paihia BeachPaihia beach

William Street in Paihia has a number of shops and restaurants. Having a meal or drink here will cost you, but I’ve heard good things about Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack. There’s also a small Countdown where I would suggest you do your grocery shopping as it is much cheaper than the convenience store on King’s Road.

Russell Sea FrontRussell sea front

There is so much to do at the Bay of Islands: skydiving, horse-riding, kayaking, scuba-diving, snorkelling, paragliding, fishing, helicopter rides, plane rides, day trips, boat trips, the list goes on… All these are available for booking on Kiwi Experience. But, if like me, you are making your own way, there is a fantastic site, bookme.co.nz, where you can get some pretty decent discounts on said activities. These apply all around New Zealand as well as Australia, so definitely worth checking out if you are travelling in the Land of the Long White Cloud or the Land of Oz.

Store in RussellAcross the bay is the small village of Russell. It costs twelve dollars return in a ‘fast ferry’ from Paihia, so worth having a look if you have a spare hour or two. There is a free museum there, with an emphasis on the now defunct whaling industry. Pretty interesting. Quaint wooden buildings line the shore front, housing restaurants and bars. You can walk around Russell in literally ten minutes (at a leisurely pace), but it is old and, as I said, quaint. And that’s all I can think of to say about it, so I’ll say no more.

Ever been? Let me know down below.