If you ever find yourself in Paihia, you’re pretty much obligated to get out on the water. One of the best ways to explore some of the Bay’s 150 or so tiny, uninhabited islands, is to book a boat tour.
If you get a InterCity FlexiPass, you can book a Fuller’s Great Sights Dolphin & Hole in the Rock Tour with your hours. You could also book it for $95 from the tourist center near the docks. There are two tours a day, morning and afternoon, and each tour is four hours long.
It may seem a bit expensive, but it’s well worth it. This was my favorite part of my trip to Paihia. You get to set sail on the sapphire and turquoise speckled ocean, dotted with islands comprised of rolling emerald hills or rocky cliff faces.
After cruising through the open ocean for a bit, the boat stops to let the dolphins come by. The bay is full of common and bottlenose dolphins who love to entertain the boats.
The dolphins are so cute and friendly. They swim under and around the boat, then speed away to do jumps in exchange for our shrieks and applause.
Once the dolphins lose interest and swim away, it’s back out to sea.
If you’re lucky, you can also catch a flock of birds swirling through the air, then diving down to grab some of the little grey fish that fill these waters. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but the contrast of the white against the deep blue and the way they seem to move as one animal is mesmerizing.
Finally, you’ll reach the Hole in the Rock. If the water isn’t too rough, like it was when I went, you’ll be able to pass through the hole in the boat. Right next to the Hole in the Rock is Cape Brett Lighthouse. It’s now automated, like all lighthouses in New Zealand, but it’s strange to think that someone had to live somewhere so isolated in order to care for it.
You’ll get a chance to stretch your legs when the boat docks at Urapukapuka Island Reserve. There’s a small hotel on the island that sells overpriced junk food, like most places that cater to tourists. They also have maps of the island in case you wanted to go on a short hike. The island is home to many different species of birds, and has just enough elevation to give you a decent view of the bay if your climb up a hill.
The trip back from Urapukapuka is uneventful, but gorgeous nonetheless. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone in the area. I’ve never been anywhere as beautiful as this bay, and I doubt I’ll find somewhere that beats it.