Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – New Zealand chapter on The Bay of Islands & Northland has to say about Paihia:
“Undeniably pretty, the Bay of Islands ranks as one of NZ’s top drawcards. The footage that made you want to come to New Zealand in the first place no doubt featured lingering shots of lazy, sun-filled days on a yacht floating atop these turquoise waters punctuated by around 150 undeveloped islands. The reality is that New Zealand has many beautiful spots and this bay, while wonderful, could be a teensy bit overhyped.
What sets it apart from the rest is its fascinating history and substantial tourist infrastructure. Paihia has one of the best selections of budget accommodation of anywhere in the country. After that the budget goes out the window as a bewildering array of boat trips clamour to wrestle money out of your wallet. There’s no point coming here if you don’t head out on the water, so be prepared to fork out.
The birthplace of New Zealand, Waitangi inhabits a special, somewhat complex place in the national psyche – aptly demonstrated by the mixture of celebration, commemoration, protest and apathy that accompanies the nation’s birthday (Waitangi Day, 6 February).
It was here that the long-neglected and much-contested Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori chiefs and the British Crown, establishing British sovereignty or something a bit like it, depending on whether you’re reading the English or Maori version of the document. If you’re interested in coming to grips with New Zealand’s history and race relations, this is the place to start.
Joined to Waitangi by a bridge, Paihia could be a fairly nondescript coastal town it wasn’t the main entry point to the Bay of Islands. If you’re not on a tight budget, do yourself a favour, get on a ferry and get thee to Russell, which is far nicer.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
From everything we read, the little town of Paihia wasn’t much to write home about. We had been driving inland from the coast along Highway 1 for much of the day and pulled into the Haruru Falls Resort for the night. Had we realized that the actual falls were situated on the Waitangi treaty lands, we might have made the effort to cross over the small bridge and visit the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. We didn’t realize the site was so very close to where we spent the night.
As write this journal entry, and study the map of the Bay of Islands and Paihia, I see that we also missed another historical site in the region, one that Anil would have appreciated very much. There is a small monument on the spot where the first recorded game of cricket took place. It was an end of school treat on December 20, 1832 for 50 children of all ages, a bi-cultural event with families gathered to cheer on the players.
It was great to be back near the water again, and though the beach at Paihia was lovely, we didn’t stop as we had a lot of ground to cover before the day was done. We planned to carry on to Auckland, pass through the city and continue towards the Coromandel Peninsula to the south and west of the city.