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I loved Paihia. It was a beautiful little town. It was laid-back and relaxed. It was quiet and simple. Everyone seemed happy.
The hostel I stayed at used to be a motel, so the rooms were limited to just four people and they had private bathrooms—a rare thing in hostel world. Each room opened up onto the main patio which was filled with tables and chairs where guests could eat or hang out. It was very communal without breeding loud parties—another seemingly rare hostel quality. I spent many hours sitting on the patio while the rain poured from the clouds, planning my next move and looking for a job.
What I liked most about Paihia was being able to walk along the beach, sit on the big platforms that surrounded the trees in the town center, and just look out on the water. I love being near the water but I’m not really much of a beach person—laying out in the sun in my bikini isn’t my preferred way to spend the day. So finding seaside towns that are easily enjoyed in cloudy weather, without swimming or “tanning”, is always an exciting find for me.
I had hoped to see more of the Bay of Islands area and get out onto the water, but many of the tours were cancelled due to the weather while I was there. I didn’t get to go to Hole in the Rock or see dolphins, and I didn’t get to spend the day on Otehei Bay. I did get to spend a few hours in Russell, however–an even smaller and quieter town than Paihia. I was also really looking forward to taking a tour up to Cape Reinga & 90 Mile Beach, but that didn’t quite work into my itinerary.
Looking back, I realize I didn’t really do much of anything while in Paihia, but that’s part of why I enjoyed it. It was nice to just be for a few days and convert to “island time”. I also bonded with some wonderful women, which was such an important thing for me that early on in my New Zealand adventure—one from Maryland, one from the Netherlands, and one from Tasmania (Australia).
At the time, I really thought Paihia was the most wonderful place. I even considered applying for a job there and staying put for a while. While Paihia was great, I’ve quickly found that every place I visit in New Zealand is better than the last…
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