Paihia and Waitangi
As the main vacation base for the Bay of Islands, Paihia is an unremarkable stretch of motels at odds with the quiet beauty of the island-studded seascape. With its handful of hostels, plus the long and safe swimming beach, it's popular with a young backpacker crowd. Most of the boat and fishing tours leave from the central wharf, as do the passenger ferries to the historic village of Russell. The nearby suburb of Waitangi, however, is one of the country's most important historic sites. The Treaty Grounds, a lovely nearby park, was where the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document for modern New Zealand, was signed.
The main Bay of Islands visitor bureau, in Paihia, is open daily. There is a really good toilet facility at the southern end of the strip.