If you find yourself in Paihia when the tide is going out, you have a spare couple of hours and happen to have your running shoes on you, here’s a thing.
There’s a run that is so varied you have no chance to get tired. It starts on the rocks at the south end of Paihia beach. They’re solid slabs, thinly scored and not at all slippery but you’ll get distracted by the rock pools with the outgoing tide. You’ll need to keep your eyes down when you’re running. Soon you’re crossing swooping sandy bays and you have to look up because there are boats and islands and the irresistible view across the harbour to Russell, and the hills where a flagpole stood was chopped down. This isn’t a history piece, so I’ll skip the whole thing about the hell hole of the Pacific for now. I’m sure to come back to it later. I’m here a month.
As the tide goes out there are fingers of sand that stretch out into the bay where you can run around the seagulls. Continue along a beach, over & under a bridge, around a headland and onto a boardwalk through the mangroves.
If you’ve never run a boardwalk though mangroves, put it on your bucket list. It’s so full of damp life you feel you’re running through the intestines of the land. All that stuff that nature does—this is where it happens. It smells of mud and hot wood and sweet rot. If they could make a beer that smelled this good it would rock every beardy guy who ever sipped a brew.
Then there’s a coastal track. It’s narrow and there are ups and down, windy curves, a few crumbling steps and spectacular views out into the Bay of Islands. I saw a tall ship passing by. It might have been the R. Tucker Thompson coming in from a day with tourists out to the islands, or I may have stepped back a couple of hundred years to witness the arrival of the Church Missionaries in the land. Hard to tell.
Near the end there’s a long stretch along the water front, a kiwi-style sea wall with a few baches in the bush and kayaks pulled up on the shore.
It’s a total of 8km to Opua, where the car ferry noses through sailing boats and there are people again. Here you have a choice: cross to Okiato and continue the long loop with a ferry ride back to Paihia, hitch hike back (boat or car), or turn on your heels and run back.
Unlike most runs, I thought the way back felt shorter, perhaps because by then I was in such a happy place.