With less than two weeks left in New Zealand, I’ve been saying “fuck! I’ve only got two weeks left in New Zealand” a lot lately. My plan of “work Monday-Friday and travel on the weekends” didn’t happen quite as much as it should’ve and, though I love the weekends I’ve spent here, I’m pretty much kicking myself that I didn’t explore a bit more.
Oh well. Next time.
While thinking on where I needed to visit a few weeks ago, the weather forecast was looking gorgeous so I decided to head to the Bay of Islands. It was gorgeous!
I arrived in Paihia on Friday night and checked in to my hostel…
…well, no, I didn’t check in to my hostel. Reception closed at 7pm and I got in around 9 to find an envelope with my name on it taped to the front door. Inside was a key and some instructions. The owner popped his head out and said “Oh hey. Yeah, I can’t be bothered to turn everything on again. Just come see me before you go and we’ll take care of payment and stuff.” This is so quintessentially Kiwi it’s insane! Hotdamn I love this country. Anyways guys, Saltwater Lodge in Paihia – I’d really really recommend it.
Saturday rolled around and I hopped on a bus tour up to Cape Reinga. On the way there we stopped at an old gum digger’s camp (gum is kind of like sap from old trees…or something? I wasn’t into it so I was looking at bees a lot. Wiki.) It wasn’t so great. I mean, the trees were cool but…meh.
After the gum camp we hit up Cape Reinga, one of the northern-most points of New Zealand. It was gorgeous! Right at the cape two oceans meet; the Tasman and Pacific. Pretty sweet!
From the cape we had lunch on a beach, then headed to some sand dunes. They were insane. Super high and super super duney and really awesome. We climbed up the dunes (IT WAS SO HARD) and boogie-boarded down. It was sweet!!! I climbed up a few times and slid down a few times…if you ever get the chance to go boarding down dunes, do it.
After that we drove down 90 Mile Beach, which is still classified as a highway (speed limit is 100km/h). It was really cool to drive beside the ocean, and this got a little tense when we almost got stuck between a rock and the ocean (we had to wait for the tide). Our driver was great, though, and got us through!
The day ended with a stop at the world famous Mangonui Fish Shop, which was delicious and beautiful. I honestly could have eaten like six pieces of fish it was so good.
So! That was Saturday. If I don’t sound too enthused about it, it’s because I wasn’t. I mean, I had a good time; the driver was great, the small size of the group was great (just 12 people!), the scenery and stuff was beautiful…but the bus tour wasn’t really worth it. The gum digger thing was boring and unnecessary, we only had 40 minutes at the Cape, which one could easily spend half a day there doing treks and picnicking on the beach….though the sand dunes and 90 Mile Beach were awesome, and I guess I wouldn’t have had a chance to visit them on my own…but if you’re going to do a tour specifically for the cape, I’d really recommend just renting a car and doing it yourself. My two cheap cents.
Sunday I spent on a leisurely 4 hour boat ride around the Bay of Islands. Highlights: it was sunny and gorgeous, and I saw DOLPHINS!!! I had never seen dolphins before, and these ones were wild and awesome. Curious and jumping and hanging out…bah, it was sweet! On the way back, I had a good long chat with one of the guys who worked on the boat, who turned out to be super interesting. I love solid chats with cute strangers.
My time in Paihia was pretty alright. I really would recommend you spend more than two days there as there’s lots to do, and I’d also recommend taking a car so you could spend as much time as you wanted where you wanted to. The town itself is beautiful and a great mixture of small-town Kiwi and busy tourist hub. There’s a great old church that has an old cemetery in the backyard which is neat, and be sure to take note of the cute public toilet in town. Aww.
If you’re in New Zealand, definitely head to Paihia and the Bay of Islands; it’s absolutely gorgeous and totally worth it. Just give yourself enough time to really take it all in – at least 3 days. And, honestly, get out to that fish n chips shop. Because daaammmn.