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Swimming with dolphins, whale encounters and unbelievable big game fishing all centred around Paihia (and Russell). Travelling to the Paihia in the Bay of Islands; an unbelievable plus is there are no long queues for activities, like many other major tourism centres...and there are beaches of absolute solitude in and around the bay.
Adrenaline junkies have jet boating (through the Hole in the Rock), parasailing (amazing aerial views of Paihia - right), scuba diving and skydiving on tap. The only skydiving business in New Zealand that offers 16,000ft jumps; no-one jumps higher! Dangling 1200ft above the water or diving 20ft below the water, you will get your kicks no problem. If you are a complete` extreme sports’ novice, many operators offer introductory courses with no experience necessary. No ski fields up here, but with all this...who needs them!
If you don’t have age (or insanity) on your side, you may want to take the peaceful option; a ferry ride to Russell, fish and chips on the wharf, a cruise on a tall ship, or golf at the Waitangi Golf Course (million dollar views).
Water taxis can take you island hopping around some of the 144 islands in the bay. For the fisher-person or diver, there are plump beds of scallops awaiting you in crystal clear waters. Snapper are plentiful; accommodation with a kitchen, you can salivate while cooking your pan-fried fish or scallops for breakkie.
“This sounds like a boys big adventure playground!”...don’t worry girls; if you don’t want to be an action Jackson, there are plenty of indulgent luxuries to partake in. New Zealand’s Leading Spa Resort (World Travel Awards Winner 2010) is right here on the waterfront in Paihia. Receive an Indian head massage whilst fragrantly wrapped in.....chocolate. After hubby has jumped out of his plane, he may want to relax with a Swedish massage and sauna before dinner.
Paihia has a 60,000 litre salt water Aquarium in the middle of a Restaurant on the water’s edge. They have carpet sharks, blue mau mau, granddaddy hapuka , crayfish, and two Kingfish who appear to rule the tank. Great place to have your pre-dinner drinks. Plenty of restaurants and bars in Paihia to suit every taste and budget!
Fascinating history at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds; it’s highly recommended as a guided tour, as even New Zealanders are overwhelmed by how much they didn’t know about the controversial history at Waitangi. A short walk through the trees and you get to the award winning Waikokopu Cafe, where they offer fantastic concoctions like the ‘Rainbow Warrior’- Thick French Toast sunk with Bacon, Banana & Maple Syrup.
Shopping and eating (save the best for last)...The ice-cream shop in the main street of Paihia serves great coffee! ‘The Hokey Pokey ice-cream in a waffle cone topped with cream and caramel’ is MY fave, and gets others looking with order envy. Embarrassed they were, when I asked for a huge lump of whipped cream on top, but you can walk away feeling pretty good about the decision as you take your first delectable bite.
There is shopping to suit every taste and budget; from touristy t-shirts through to beautifully handcrafted jewellery, art, and clothing. Farmers Markets and stalls with all sorts of local produce and products feature in Paihia weekly. Paihia is becoming an increasingly popular port of call for international cruise ships such as Queen Mary II (pictured), and the Queen Elizabeth.
“If you have to ask how much something costs, you can't afford it.” The Eagles Nest (in Russell, across the water from Paihia) has been voted the `World's Best Luxury Coastal Hotel’ in an exclusive competition. My close personal friends Harrison, Calista, Demi and Ashton all spent time there, but unfortunately we couldn’t catch up this time round. The 75ha estate was also the setting for the US reality show The Bachelor, in season 13... aah... lifestyles of the rich and famous. (Demi, call me!)
Just a wee bit famous: Home to `NZ’s Leading Spa Resort’, the `World's Best Luxury Coastal Hotel’ and `the birthplace of a nation’ (as Russell was New Zealand’s first capital).
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