Auckland to The Bay of Islands (Paihia) and Russell
Bays, beaches, stunning views and almost seeing a kiwi bird…
Our first day on the Kiwi Experience hop on and hop off bus takes us to Paihia, a town in the Bay Islands right at the tip of the North Island of New Zealand. This area also known as the ‘Winterless North’ in New Zealand dues to their mild winters.
We woke up early and waited for our bus outside Base Hostel in Auckland and slowly in dribs and drabs backpackers of all ages (though the majority were noticeably younger than us) came to join on the pavement. I’ll admit we were anxious that this bus was going to be a party bus full of much young(er) backpackers… how were they going to keep up with us? ;). But as more people arrived there seemed to be quite a range of ages and types of backpackers.
After four hours on the bus, broken up only by a Pitt stop for brekkie, we rolled into Paihia, true to its nickname we were greeted by gorgeous sunshine and shimmering blue water broken up by islands of all different sizes.
There’s lots to do in Paihia and if you have the money you can spend it on island cruises, dolphin cruises, kayaking, para-sailing, sky diving (the cheapest you can do in NZ). The good thing is you can book all this on your Kiwi Experience Bus at a cheaper rate. However none of us were fussed about seeing dolphins (whales are cooler) so instead we visited the Tourist Information Center and found out about some walks and also about visiting New Zealand’s former capital Russell.
We took the Ferry from Paihia to Russell for $12NZD return. Russell used to be known as ‘Kororareka’ named by the Maori, which means ‘how sweet is the penguin?’ However that soon changed when The Brits came, took over the place and it became known as the ‘hell hole of the pacific’ due to the lack of law and high levels of prostitution. You’re welcome New Zealand.
Thankfully Russell is no longer known a hell hole and now is actually really pretty, it still has a lot of the old wooden buildings from the 1840s, some nice bars by the water and a really nice beach for swimming – Long Beach. I really wanted to visit Russell whist in NZ as I knew this was a place my Nan and Granddad visited and really enjoyed. To be fair I think they mainly enjoyed Russell because their last name is also Russell – good enough reason.
Once in Russell we did the short uphill walk to the lookout in Flagstaff Historic reserve.
Here you get a great view of the Bay Islands
We extended the walk further by following the footpath down from there to Waihihi Bay, which is a rocky beach but again offered some stunning views. It’s a steep walk down through a Kiwi bird protected area. Despite keeping an eye out we didn’t manage to see any Kiwi birds. Our kiwi experience bus driver Jarrord told us that he’s only met one person who has seen a kiwi bird in the wild. (Dreams shattered.)
We walked back into town and then over to long beach, we were short on time as we needed to catch the last ferry back but a dip in the sea here would’ve be nice. In fact if we had more time in Paihia Id definitely take the time to relax here more and enjoy the sunshine. We were very much aware that this is likely the warmest we will be in New Zealand so could have done with a few more hours on the beach!
Stunning views and having rocky beach all to ourselves in Russell!
The excitement of spotting a kiwi bird quickly turning into disappointment as we realised it wasn’t a kiwi bird I saw, but more likely some sort of moor hen.
Places of Note:
El Cafe – really good. We went here twice, the coffee (even by Melbourne standards) is pretty great and we liked the burritos so much we went back for breakfast the next day. You know the food is good when you look so sexy eating it….
Vinnes Fish n Chips – Cheap, ok food,
Places to Stay:
Lots of hostels to chose from!
Base: Much nicer than the Base in Auckland, bunks are located in cabins, pretty clean (4/5) $25 NZD per night.