15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia

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Free or Cheap Activities in the Bay of Islands

With stunning beaches, waterfalls, native forests and more, Paihia is a playground for backpacker-budget-friendly activities. Whether it’s grabbing yourself a kayak from the hostel and exploring the bay or stepping onto historical ground in Russell or the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, you’re bound to find some awesome free things to do in Paihia.

And it’s not just all about the bay! Even as you head inland, there are plenty of walks to get a great perspective of the Bay of Islands. Have a trip out to Kerikeri to find more walks and free things to do, as listed in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Bay of Islands.

1. Walk to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds… – CHEAP

See where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed! Turn left at the visitor centre in Paihia and follow the beach and coastline for about 45 minutes. You’ll then see the famous Te Ti Marae, which Māori chiefs used to discuss signing the treaty. The price of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for non-New Zealand residents might be NZ$60. However, if you have a New Zealand driver’s license, the fee is NZ$30. Learn more about this fascinating historical attraction in  The Waitangi Treaty Grounds: Visitor Tips & 5 Reasons to Visit.

Location: Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi, approximately 3 km (2 mi) from Paihia town centre.©

2. … Then Walk to Haruru Falls – FREE

This 2 hr 30 mins walk to Haruru Falls is through a sheltered bushwalk next to the Waitangi River. Take the boardwalk through the mangrove forest – a whole ecosystem growing from the water. Alternatively, take that free kayak you could hire from the hostel up the Waitangi River to the Falls.

Location: The Waitangi River Walk starts opposite the road from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi, approximately 3 km (2 mi) from Paihia town centre. Alternatively, drive to the falls via Haruru Falls Road, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Paihia town centre.©

3. Take the Ferry to Russell – CHEAP

The ferry from Paihia to New Zealand’s first capital, Russell, is less than NZ$20. The relaxing ferry ride there quickly displays some of the small islands making up the Bay of Islands. Once you get to Russell, there are some great places to eat, a beach, walks (see Flagstaff Hill below) and some people like to jump off the wharf there. Take the ferry at sunset and you probably have the cheapest sunset cruise in New Zealand! For more experiences in Russell, check out the 10 Best Things to Do in Russell.

Location: Passenger ferries are available from Paihia Wharf. Vehicle ferries are available from Opua, 6km (4 miles) south of Paihia.©

4. Hike Up Flagstaff Hill – FREE

Not only will you get an awesome view once you reach the lookout point, but you will also be standing on a piece of Māori and European history. Flagstaff Hill is a circuit walk just north of Russell. You’ll also likely experience encounters with a flightless bird called a “weka”. See more free attractions like this in the 10 Best Historical Places in Northland.

Location: Russell. At low tide, start from the end of The Strand and walk across the beaches to Watering Bay. At high tide, start at the corner of Wellington and Kent Streets.©

5. Take a Day Trip to Urupukapuka Island – CHEAP

Take the Explore ferry (approximately NZ$60) from Paihia Wharf or Russell and enjoy an amazing outing on Urupukapuka Island. Enjoy sheltered bays for swimming, kayak and paddleboard hire, a cafe and a number of free walks around the island. With several sailings to the island throughout the day, you can stay for as little or as long as you please.

Location: Ferries depart from Paihia and Russell Wharves – see this page for ferry bookings.

10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia©

6. Take in the Views from the Waitangi Golf Club – FREE

Either walk or drive up to the Waitangi Golf Club to get some amazing vistas of the Bay of Islands. There is a large parking area at a scenic viewpoint, which is a great place to take a picnic and admire the view.

Location: Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi, approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) from Paihia town centre.

10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia© Destination Northland - Tourism New Zealand

7. Walk to the Opua Forest Paihia Lookout – FREE

Easy enough to access from central Paihia, the Opua Forest walk (now commonly known as the School Road Track) is only a 1-hour return walk. Make your way through native forest until you reach a lookout seeing as far as Paihia’s surrounding towns, and of course, the islands out on the water. The Oromahoe Traverse links the School Road Track to the Opua Kauri Walk, taking a further two hours.

Location: The track starts at the end of School Road, approximately 700 m (765 yards) from the Paihia town centre.

10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia© Department of Conservation

8. Go Kayaking – FREE/CHEAP

Yes, you read that correctly! You can borrow a kayak for free (or very cheap) in Paihia if you stay at one of the hostels which have kayaks. Choose a hostel from our list: 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Paihia. Then head down to the beach and go exploring!

Location: See the link above for hostel names and locations.

© Pixabay

9. Go Cycling – FREE/CHEAP

That’s right, you can borrow bikes too! The hostels that have kayaks usually have mountain bikes to borrow too, so you can explore the Bay of Islands a bit further. Otherwise, if you have your own mountain bike, there are some awesome trails for a range of abilities at the Waitangi MTB Park which can be used by donation.

Location: See the link above for hostel names and locations. Waitangi MTB Park – 33 Bayly Road, Waitangi, approximately 4.5 km (3 mi) from Paihia town centre.©

10. Have Some Ice Cream – CHEAP

You can’t be in a seaside town without having ice cream on the beach. The Paihia go-to for a good range of ice cream is Cellini’s Ice Cream and Espresso. Or, if you take the ferry to Russell, be sure to have something sweet from Delish Coffee and Ice Cream!

Location: Cellini’s Ice Cream and Espresso – Williams Road, Paihia. Delish Coffee and Ice Cream – 4 Cass Street, Russell.

Pixabay© Pixabay

11. While You are at It, Eat Some Fish and Chips Too – CHEAP

This Kiwi tradition is best enjoyed at the beach and is one of the best-value meals in Aotearoa. Try some classic Kiwi-style fish and chips at JFC or Oceans 68. Or, if you take that trip to Russell, choose Russell Fish Co.

Location: JFC – 40 Marsden Road, Paihia. Oceans 68 – 68 Marsden Road, Pahia. Russell Fish Co. 2 Cass Street, Russell.

10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia©

12. Go for a Swim – FREE

With the ocean in front of you, how can you resist not taking a dip? Unless the weather is appalling. In that case, you’re best to try some of the 15 Things to Do in the Bay of Islands on a Rainy Day

Location: Paihia Town Beach and Te Tii Bay are the best swimming beaches in Paihia.

10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia©

13. Tackle the Bay of Islands Coastal Walkway – FREE

For a full-day adventure, follow the Coastal Walkway from Paihia to Opua (3 hours one way) over beaches and through coastal and mangrove forest. Either return the same way to join the ferry service from Opua (all you need is some spare change for this) over the water to Okiato. From Okiato, walk through a mix of wetlands and forest to historic Russell. We recommend having a look around the historic town before hopping onto a passenger ferry from Russell Wharf back to Paihia. The whole loop takes approximately 8 hours.

Location: The walk from Paihia starts on the coastal side of the road immediately after the Te Haumi Stream road bridge, approximately 2.5 km (1.5 mi) south of Paihia town centre. You can follow the beaches and coast all the way from Paihia.

10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia© Unsplash

14. Fish From Te Haumi Bridge – FREE

Speaking of the Te Haumi Stream Bridge, this structure just happens to provide the perfect position for rod or handline fishing – no expensive boats or equipment needed! Kahawai, trevally and snapper are fish that can be caught here and make for good eating fish. Learn more about this favourite Kiwi pastime in our guide, What You Need to Know About Fishing in New Zealand.

Location: Te Haumi Stream road bridge, approximately 2.5 km (1.5 mi) south of Paihia town centre.

10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Paihia© Northland Inc

15. Admire the Architecture of St Paul’s Church – FREE

Paihia might not be a destination for architectural sightseeing perhaps with the exception of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and St Paul’s Anglican Church. Easy to find along the beachfront guarded by two gnarling pohutukawa trees, St Paul’s is made from local bluestone and has been a church site since 1823. The first organ to be used in New Zealand was used in this church.

Location: 36 Marsden Road, Paihia.

More on the Bay of Islands

That’s it for our list of the free and cheap things to do in Paihia. For more budget-friendly tips, check out the following:

Finally, dind more free stuff in the 50 Best Free Things to Do in New Zealand.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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