Having worked, stayed, and played in the Bay Of Islands for nearly 7 months I have put together my top picks while visiting the true north of New Zealand. I have also rated each in pricing and have included something for everyone’s budget. So here’s my inside guide on how to eat drink stay in the beautiful Bay Of Islands.
The Sandpit $
Situated on Kings Road, The Sandpit Bar & Pool Hall is tucked behind the Hideout Restaurant. During summer & peak times, this lively bar hosts top local DJ’s on weekends, a cosy bar area and 7 American-style pool tables. Get there before 9pm and enjoy free pool daily as well as happy hour from 6pm-8pm. This is also one of the few bars open til late in the Bay Of Islands.
Terry & Donna are English ex-pats who have now run the Sandpit for 6 years! They are incredibly friendly and made us feel so welcome during our stay in the bay.
They offer a wide range of amazing custom shots as well as some of the most competitive prices in Paihia.
One of my top venues with a real local & friendly vibe. This is my true local for Paihia.
The Tipsy Oyster $$$
If day-drinking cocktails with a sea view is what you’re after, then this is your spot. Newly refurbished and a host to regular live music afternoons and evenings, it is easy to see why this place requires reservations during peak periods. The Tipsy Oyster also specialises in Oyster plates sourced right in the Bay.
Situated on Marsden Road, it boasts great views and a lively vibe. This is on the more high end for costs but definitely worth it with some awesome custom-made cocktails as well as the old classics with a twist.
However, don’t turn up at 9 pm expecting drinks into the nighttime. The establishment is definitely more of a day and early evening watering hole. Don’t be surprised to see last orders already called at 9pm.
The Swordfish Club $$
The Swordfish ‘club’ itself is the oldest in New Zealand and there are two in the Bay of Islands. One in Paihia and the oldest and original being in Russell. With the Bay Of Islands being one of the top spots in the world for game fishing, nothing gets caught without the ‘Swordy’ knowing.
See some amazing mounted marlin throughout the clubs as well as some record-breaking catches. They both boast amazing views of the bay and serve up some great food and really competitively priced drinks. Hanging around for a while? Why not become a member and join some great fishing expeditions to win prizes and discounts?
The best pub quiz in Paihia is hosted by local legend ‘Quiz Man Dan’ Tuesdays in Russell and Thursdays in Paihia. Bar vouchers to be won and always a great laugh with great people. A must to join in with, and a great way to meet some of the locals!
EAT IN THE BAY
Charlottes Kitchen $$$
Located at the end of Paihia Wharf, Charlottes is the last bar/restaurant before you walk the plank. With uninterrupted views into the gorgeous glistening bay, this is a top spot to watch the world go by.
Enjoy a drink and watch the busy local ferry to Russell chug away or the locals fishing off the pier as the Kaiwai start to jump at dusk. A great spot to just watch the world go by and with some amazing food on offer and regular weekend live music. Charlottes is always worth a stop-off.
Top tip… drop in on a Wednesday evening for $1 dumplings!
Third Wheel $$
The coffee house choice among locals in Paihia and a secret delight. This little barista heaven is slipped down a side street. You could easily visit Paihia and never stumble across it. A fully vegetarian cafe with some of the best local fresh baked cakes, savoury and sweet muffins & amazing filled bagels. Don’t forget to ask for a loyalty card and get your 8th coffee free! Trust me, you will get to that free coffee faster than you think.
Tom & the team serve you in a quirky open-front cafe with some awesome local artwork on display, all for sale should any take your fancy.
An absolute must for any coffee addict. The best ‘Fika’ I have had outside of Sweden!
Madly Indian $$
Located in the local RSA (Returning Servicemans Association) this may seem like an odd spot for an Indian restaurant. However, don’t let this fool you. Madly Indian is situated upstairs and has some of the best Indian cuisines on offer in the Bay Of Islands. A great choice menu with very reasonable prices.
What tops this place off, you have to go down the stairs to the RSA bar for your drinks. This means you are getting some of the most competitive prices for drinks around.
Once you’re finished your meal, you’re more than welcome to join the locals in the bar with free snooker, darts and pool as well as multiple TV’s and live sports. Also one of the few bars with Pokies for those who fancy a flutter.
Ocean 68 $
Sometimes, on a bright summer evening, there really is no better feeling than eating fish and chips by the sea. This may be the Englishman coming out of me, but salt and vinegar doused chips with a sea breeze? Come on!
Located with epic views of the bay and open from breakfast to 9.30 pm, you literally have every opportunity to drop in at some point during your day.
With great offers and incredible fresh NZ fish on offer such as Red Snapper, John Dory or even their incredible burgers, you will not be disappointed!
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STAY IN THE BAY
Haka Lodge $
The Haka Lodge BOI is part of the Haka and Haka Tour group found throughout New Zealand. This one has to be the jewel in the crown of the portfolio. This backpackers hostel boasts views that rival any hotel in Paihia. Ranging from ensuite doubles to 6-bed dorms, the Haka BOI really does cater for everyone. Its party piece is most certainly the panoramic views from the open plan and generously sized common room and kitchen area. Not to mention how immaculately clean all common rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms are kept.
Wake up and sit at the custom-carved kauri tree table and enjoy your free tea or coffee as the sun rises over the incredible birthplace of New Zealand.
I had the pleasure of being part of the team that reopened Haka for the first time in 2 years. This is a top spot for travellers on a budget who get what they paid for in views alone! However, don’t just drop in and expect a bed. As you can imagine, word gets around fast and this gem of a hostel needs booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Riverside Homestead Waitangi
Away from the town and run by a dear friend of mine, this guest lodge is situated in the tranquil setting of Haruru. This homestay gives you a chance to see and stay in the BOI with a real contrast to anything else on offer.
The Riverside Homestead is a spacious lodge-style hosted guest accommodation in the Bay of Islands, with lawns running down to the Waitangi River. This modern accommodation in the Bay of Islands features comfortable ensuite rooms, river valley views, and high-quality breakfasts featuring natural estate ingredients.
Rev Chris Wharehinga Swannell and wine and food tutor/writer Michael Hooper are your professional, attentive hosts, assisted by curious alpacas, a flock of free-ranging hens (The Breakfast Committee) and two adorable, well-behaved pussycats.
Just a short walk from the impressive Haruru Falls, the tranquil setting is great for those who love the country air. There are some great walking and hiking trails near for those who love the outdoors. A top spot from here is Cook’s Lookout.
The Duke Of Marlborough
The Duke is the oldest pub in New Zealand and the first to officially hold a liquor licence. It is located just a 10-minute ferry ride from Paihia in the small township of Russell/Kororareka. The Duke is both a licenced bar and restaurant as well as one of the most historical hotels in all of New Zealand. Being burnt down 3 times during its existence, this resilient piece of history really deserves a visit. Enjoy a glass of New Zealand red or white as local artists perform on the waterfront as the evening unfolds.
So What Are You Waiting For?
Now you are armed with this invaluable information, why not book your stay today and get to one of the most picturesque locations in New Zealand? Need further assistance? Don’t hesitate to get in touch so I can help bespoke your trip and offer the best possible deals to stay in the Bay of Islands.
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