Northland: Paihia, Opua, Russell, Kerikeri

Winterless North in the Bay of Islands

In September 2020 we unpacked the car in Paihia, Gateway to the Bay of Islands and stayed two months. This region is ialso known as the Far North and is wildly beautiful.

Paihia is a small seaside tourist community. From here you can walk to Opua.

Opua Coastal Walk

Between Paihia and Opua, (2 hours, one-way): I walked this beach and coastal trail at least once a week. From either Opua or Paihia, you can catch the ferry and continue on to Russell.

Or Make it a Full Day Hike

The Opua Coastal Walk (8.2 km) resumes after taking the Opua car ferry across to Russell. Walking through a forest and mangroves, it continues through the town of Russell where another ferry carries you to Paihia, closing the loop. The entire loop is an 8 hour walk…but you can easily parse it.

The trail takes you past Omata Vineyard, Russell.

Russell – Spending Time in the Historic Town

The Mauri name is Kororāeka, Translation: “How sweet is the penguin)

Prior to the Waitangi Treaty (click here) Russel was a town of historic debauchery, known as The Hell Hole of the Pacific. “It earned a very bad reputation as a community without laws and full of prostitution”.  (source: wikipedia/Russell New Zealand).

Today…simply beautiful!

Tapeka Bay at the northern tip of Russell

We stayed a week in Russell’s Tapeka Bay at the north end of the peninsula. A sweet beach, sunsets and the Tapeka Hill Track down the street from our AirBnb.

Jim’s Walk (Trail)

A forest trek from Tapeka Bay Point to Russell.

Sailing from Russell

The Hole in the Rock

Urupukapuka Island – the BEST

Urupukapuka (“a group of puka trees“), NZ’s largest pest-free reserve, is the largest of 144 islands in the Bay of Islands. Trails meander alongside grazing sheep. (Be mindful of the gates and the poop.)

The Town of Kerikeri

Kerikeri, 30 minutes from Paihia, is a larger town with retirement appeal: ample shops and services and 5 hikes to waterfalls all within walking distance of town. The walks vary from 3 to 8 km in length – a total of 16km to walk them all.

The Kerikeri River Track

Commencing behind The Stone Store, an 1822 Mission Station, NZ’s oldest surviving stone building, the track is a two-hour walk to Rainbow Falls through forests with giant old soul trees.

Wharepuke Falls

Located on the Rainbow Falls track, approximately 20 minutes walk from the Stone Stone. 

Rainbow Falls – 27 meters (88 ft)

The River Track is 2-hour walk to Rainbow Falls (or 10 minutes from a carpark) with viewing platforms at the top of the falls and a path to the bottom.

Te Wairere – “The Waterfall”

Lost for 60 years, Te Wairere track (2.5 km) reopened in 2017, accessed From the Stone Store carpark or off Cobham Road (the track is more fun). The falls can be viewed from bottom and a walk along the top.

A tiny surprise to look for is Secret Waterfall on the Wairoa Stream (if it’s running)

Charlies’s Rock Falls (Landing Road)

A sweet swimming hole. Due to a watermain project, the track was not accessible (“temporarily closed”) during my hike…unless you climbed over the ditch and balanced over the waterworks-in-progress, and pushed on. (I wasn’t the only one.)

Paihia’s Haruru Falls “Big Noise”

A 3-hour walk from Paihia via the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (or 5 minutes from a carpark). Māori legend says a water monster (tainwha) lives in the lagoon.

Short drives east/north are heaps of coastal walks with breathless views, and ancient kauri forests.

  • At the tiptop is Cape Reinga – take a deep breath and click HERE
  • More Paihia Day Trips: Click HERE
  • Northland sights Doubtful Bay (east) and Hokinga Harbor (west) click HERE

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8 thoughts on “Northland: Paihia, Opua, Russell, Kerikeri

  1. Marlene thanks for sharing these blogs as always! I trust you and Steve are safe and unaffected by the recent earthquakes.

    1. We are fine…made it through the day long tsunami alert unscathed. We had a coastal hike planned for today, but postponed when the alerts went off. Key word “coastal”.

    2. Great to hear all is well!

  2. Beyond gorgeous! I recall that our original itinerary called for maybe three nights in Paihia??? Clearly not enough!

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