So after putzing around Auckland for a week, I decide I want to get out of town while I wait to hear about a job I applied to earlier in the week. I chat with the travel desk at my hostel and she suggests going up North to the town of Paihia. Sounds good and since I book it like the day before during shoulder season, there is room on the Stray bus but my wish for single rooms at the local hostels is shot down. Since I am in a new country and I want to try new things, I book a dorm in the hostel the bus stops at to try something new for 2 nights and if I want to stay longer, deal with it when I get there, as I’ll be a few days out plus not over a weekend. I am staying at the Surf and Snow backpackers up the street at this point because they have cheaper single rooms in Auckland and I leave most of my stuff in their storage as I’ll probably stay with them when I return to town in a few days, so all I have is a weekend bag.
The next morning, the Stay bus picks me up and we set off to Northland. I end up in the back with a guy and a set of girls and they had been all over New Zealand already and told me their favorite parts of the country. It was really interesting to hear, since I had just arrived. I think the guy had just been travelling around all summer while the girls did a bit of WOOFing in the South Island and they told me about driving the farm equipment. Sounded fun! We stopped at a Kaouri tree forest, Goat Island for some (very cold) snorkeling, Whangarei at the bird reserve (see my first kiwi and Woof-Woof, the talking tui!) and I am sure one or two other places that I can’t remember (check out the Stay guide for more details) before we got to Paihia. When I checked into my hostel, I immediately knew I wanted to stay at least one extra day, no matter what the cost and I immediately booked one of their single rooms for 2 nights later. I stayed at the Pipi Patch Hostel which looks like it’s a Base now. I am sure not much has changed, it was a total party hostel and my room was pretty gross with kids that had been living there all summer. The 2 nights in the shared room were pretty miserable and the moment I woke up on my 3rd day, I checked out, went on my swimming with dolphins tour and came back to the hostel, checked back into my double room and pretty much did nothing all day as there was a tv in my room and I hadn’t watched tv in over a week. I know this sounds so lame, but I was so tired after 2 shit sleeps and 3 very early mornings, that I didn’t care. I actually helped some people that were on all my Northland tours the past 3 days as they had checked out of the hostel and their bus wasn’t going back to Auckland until later that day and there was nowhere for them to shower after our swimming with dolphins tour, so I let them use mine in the cute little apartment houses the hostel had. They had been all over NZ already and this was their last tour so it was great to chat with them about their favorite parts of New Zealand.
Anyway, sorry, I am jumping all over. My first day in Paihia, I went on the far north tour, going up to Cape Reinga and 90 mile beach amongst other stuff. So beautiful up there, just driving around. So that took all day. And then after my second shit sleep, I woke up bright and early and went on a swimming with dolphins tour (can’t remember which one) and they threw us in the water for a little bit. The water was so warm up north (this was late February too, so late summer) that we didn’t even wear wetsuits. Didn’t get to swim with them too much, but saw loads, so got our money’s worth. And then day 3, didn’t do anything as I wasn’t feeling to well either. And after a week of go go go, I didn’t feel bad about lazying around. Whatever, it’s my trip, not every day has to be “on”. And then on the 4th day, I pretty much sat at the beach all day before going back to Auckland to resume the job hunt for the rest of the week (it was Tuesday when I got back to Auckland).
When my family was planning their trip to visit me at the end of the year and I talked my sister into staying an extra week, I suggested that we spend part of it in Paihia. While the weather was great for the part with my parents (the important part) when we got to our last 3 days in Paihia, the weather had turned to total shit and it rained nearly the entire time. And this was January! We stayed at Centabay Lodge and it was fine. Great outdoor area and we went wine tasting one day and brought back some bottles and the outside area was great to sit around and drink with a pizza. We also went on a swimming with dolphins tour, but since there were babies present, we couldn’t go in the water, but we saw loads. We also spent half a day at The Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the first (of many) treaty’s were signed between the Maori and Whitey. Would have been better if it wasn’t raining, but I still found it interesting, having been in NZ for nearly a year. Historical things were instilled in us at a young age and I think my sister liked it to, despite not knowing much about New Zealand.
We also went on like a 5 hour round trip hike over to Opau and back. It was lovely, except my toe was killing me so it was a little rough going for me. We walked past this crazy lighthouse tower and climbed up in it, because, hey, it’s NZ, no one cares about safety and had some great (but overcast) views of the harbour.
It was funny, the night we arrived in town, it was pouring, so we went to the info booth to book dolphin tours and to ask what was going on in town that night because of the rain and even at the info booth, they couldn’t tell us anything. Maybe I was used to answers like that or I am just a total homebody and NZ is perfect for that kind of person, but my sister was in shock that even the info booth couldn’t suggest anything for us to do! But that is NZ in a nutshell. We just ate at some restaurant and played cards all night, typical NZ!
Paihia is beautiful but a tiny town with not much besides tourism in the summer to keep it going. It’s known as the most constantly warmest place in NZ (well, it is the farthest north) and that is a selling point for a pretty cold country. It’s also a good jumping off place for backpackers to do fruit picking in the north as well. There are loads of places to do that in the area, hence some decent wineries in that direction as well. We stopped at 3 of them and my sister bought a bottle at each. There was some blend (that I can’t remember what it’s called) but it was a red and they can only make it in New Zealand and South Africa, because of the weather, so that was interesting as we have never been to South Africa.
Moral: I am really glad I have been twice, but it’s not really on my list anyone to return. Some people really really love it up there, but it seems to be hit or miss for me and there are places around New Zealand that I love more and would return in any weather. And Paihia isn’t one of them.