Free or Cheap Activities in the Bay of Islands
With the stunning beaches, waterfalls, native forest 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 in the Bay of Islands. Take a look at Bay of Islands – Guide for Backpackers for more inspiration.
Many of the free things to do are provided by the hostels in the area, so be sure to check out our article: 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Paihia.
1. Go Kayaking – FREE/CHEAP
Yes, you read that correctly! You can borrow a kayak for free in Paihia if you stay at one of the hostels which have kayaks. Choose a hostel from our list: 8 Best Backpacker Hostels in Paihia. Then head down to the beach and go exploring.
2. Go Biking – 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.
3. Walk to Waitangi – 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 Maori chiefs used to discuss signing the treaty. [Update: the price for non-New Zealand residents has been bumped up to NZ$50. However, if you have a New Zealand driver license, the fee is NZ$25. Get your ticket here].
4. Then Walk to Haruru Falls – FREE
This 2h30min 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.
5. Go to Russell – CHEAP
The ferry from Paihia to New Zealand’s first capital, Russell, is only NZ$12. 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!
6. 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 Maori and European history. Flagstaff Hill is a circuit walk just north of Russell. For more information on how to get there, check out Bay of Islands – Guide for Backpackers.
7. 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 some of the Kapiti Ice Cream!
8. While You Are at It, Eat Some Fish n’ Chips Too – CHEAP
This Kiwi tradition is best enjoyed at the beach. If you have been out fishing, you can bring your catch to Vinnies Fish and Chips for them to cook for you. Otherwise, just buy some of their delicious seafood.
9. 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.
10. 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. To get there go to the far end of School Road. The track starts 700m (765 yards) from the Paihia township.