Winery options in the Bay of Islands include intimate, family-run vineyards, those with luxury boutique accommodation, many that boast innovative, sustainable growing techniques, and loads and loads of deliciousness!
You’ll also find acclaimed restaurants to match the wines, and best of all, every wine from the Bay is made in small batches of limited editions. Each vineyard in Northland is slightly different in aspect, soil, and micro-climate. So you’ll be sampling something of consistent quality but also unique to each bottle or batch.
Which varieties are grown in the Bay of Islands?
Northland is the warmest growing region in New Zealand, and amazingly, nowhere is more than 50 kms from the sea. Conditions like this are perfect for ripening a wide range of fruit, including grapes.
Warm spring temperatures, sunny, dry summers, and crisp autumn days with limited rain mean the fruit ripens early. This means full-bodied, rich flavours.
The main varieties of whites enjoyed up this way are tropical Chardonnays, Pinot Gris and vibrant Vigoniers. And with a climate similar to the Mediterranean, we see the consistent production of smooth reds. In particular, Syrah’s, Pinotage’s and the popular red, Chambourcin.
Top Bay of Islands wineries
Here we feature the region’s top wineries and highlight what to look for at each. But if you would prefer to jump straight to our listings, there’s a full list of wineries here.
Remember, don’t ever drink and drive. There are plenty of taxi options listed at the bottom of the page.
Paroa Bay, Russell
Paroa Bay Winery is a boutique estate where you can book luxury accommodation, taste traditional handmade wines, and dine in their new Mediterranean influenced restaurant.
They use dry grown viticulture, hand pruning and traditional winemaking techniques, all on site, to produce sustainable wines. It’s all about low volumes but high quality.
Matching to good food is the best way to get the most out of a winery’s liquid offerings!
Sage is fairly new but has been consistently well reviewed and is currently sustaining a five-star rating on Trip Advisor from guests. They serve authentic Mediterranean cuisine made with local ingredients and excellent wines, including theirs of course.
Best to book over summer. They do offer private events so better check their restaurant isn’t booked out for anything that day/night as well.
This winery has a luxury residence you can hire out called Tarapunga, that we haven’t tried ourselves – but hey, dreams are free!
Here’s the view you can look forward to:
This private, retreat is nestled amongst some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the world, and there are also two other smaller homes you can hire out.
The houses sit on seven hectares of gardens, are lavishly decorated, and have recreational facilities available, such as an infinity pool, spa pool, sauna, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and underfloor heating and even putting greens and tennis courts!
Have a ‘window shop’ on their website, or book online
Cottle Hill, Kerikeri
Cottle Hill is a small family run winery, and the team here pride themselves on offering a casual and relaxed experience from the highest peak in the Kerikeri area.
More than likely you’ll be greeted by one of the knowledgeable owners and winemakers themselves, Michael and Barbara Webb pictured here.
Don’t let their dated website put you off, the wines are well reviewed. And in fact where they seem to excel is in fortified wines and liquor. They make a white and a tawny port, which are both delicious, and even a walnut liquor that is popular with travelers.
Omata Estate, Russell
Omata Estate is a boutique vineyard on a stunning peninsular, about 8km out of Russell. Their vines grow on north facing slopes overlooking the ocean, a great spot for the grapes and picture-perfect vista for visitors.
They have around 8000 vines made up of Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes, all growing on clay slopes within a stones throw of the sea.
At their cellar door, a tasting takes punters through 5 different varietals of wine all grown on the property. Allow around 20-30 minutes for some quality sipping and chatting.
Restaurant: The Omata Kitchen
The Omata Kitchen is a relaxed style eatery serving gourmet platters and wood-fired pizzas. A huge drawcard is the incredible view.
They source as much as possible locally, and despite the seemingly small menu of pizzas and platters, there’s a wealth of options that are beautifully cooked and go exceptionally well with their boutique wines.
They also serve local craft beers, coffee, soft drinks, and even sangria jugs.
You can book a table online – probably best to do over summer when foot traffic is heavier.
Kapiro Vineyard, Kerikeri
This may be one of the smallest vineyards in the country, with only 255 pinot gris vines planted, but they do source other grape varieties from local growers including chambourcin, montepulciano and Syrah. And are also well known for a refreshing rosé.
This is a fairly new boutique winery. Owners moved here in 2007 and set up the vineyard and a quaint bed and breakfast set amongst trees and tropical palms.
The rustic shed that acts as a cellar door is cool in the summer and according to all Trip Advisor reviews extremely welcoming, thanks to the down to earth owners that will likely greet you.
The establishment has a cottage bed and breakfast, that’s set in a stunning vineyard landscape.
They even have a swimming pool and a tennis court out the back, and along with a yummy sounding breakfast will give you a complimentary bottle of their Pinot Gris.
Just book via their website.
Byrne Northland Wines (The Fat Pig Winery), Kerikeri
This winery only opened in 2013, but they’re already making a name for local wines with authentic style and flavours that are complex and distinctive. They also have a label called The Fat Pig.
Like many of the boutique wines in the Bay of Islands, the team have handcrafted everything, from pruning to plunging, leaf plucking to labelling – all from two small vineyard blocks just inland from Kerikeri.
The cellar door is a round tin shed, and oozes rustic, down-to-earth charm. The former kiwifruit orchard is home to chardonnay, pinot gris, syrah and sauvignon blanc vines, and friendly animals including a pig called Jenny Craig.
You can also find them for tastings at the Old Packhouse Market in Kerikeri, every Saturday from 8am-1.30pm.
Ake Ake Vineyard, Kerikeri
Ake Ake is the only fully certified organic winery in Northland, which is a great draw card for many customers.
They say that they simply guide the wine from grape to bottle with as little interference as possible.
”We usually add just yeast for the fermentation and a little sulphur to protect the wine once bottled. If the grapes are in good condition then it’s down to me not to mess it up in the winery”, says owner and winemaker John.
All wines have been clarified naturally using time and/or filtering rather than using, gelatine, eggs, and dairy or fish products. And they don’t add copper, gums, caramel or grape concentrates.
Visit their cellar door for tastings of their full range.
Ake Ake’s fashionable bistro-style, vineyard restaurant is set amongst the vines. We’d recommend booking a table on the deck if it’s fine.
The menu changes with the seasons, and it’s moderately priced.
Accommodation for motorhomes
Ake Ake welcomes travelers with motorhomes to stay overnight in their car park, free of charge if you purchase wine at the cellar door or are dining in the restaurant.
A nice touch!
Marsden Estate, Kerikeri
Just a few minutes’ drive from Kerikeri village, Marsden Estate offers wine sales, tastings and tours, and a popular restaurant.
Planted in the early nineties, Marsden Estate’s 10 acres of vineyards grow Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Muscat, Merlot, Pinotage, Chambourcin, Syrah and Tempranillo. Approximately 20 other smaller vineyards and growers in the area have their wine made here.
All the grapes for their wines are grown on site in with the exception of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and the Viognier, which comes from a vineyard in Mangawhai, (90mins south).
The relaxed atmosphere of its courtyard dining space is stunning, as it overlooks the lake and vines. The cuisine is matched well to their wine selections and they enjoy favourable reviews online – always essential to check!
Top winery tours in the Bay of Islands
We recommend the following tour companies:
Rogue Pony Tours
Rogue Pony tours are about showcasing the Bay of Islands as one of the finest locations in New Zealand – but from a VERY different viewpoint – their sexy V8 Mustang.
Their standard tours are all about mixing the cars with some local adventure, but if you do a customised tour, you could include as many wineries as you wish.
A great way to enjoy the drive, as well as the wineries themselves.
Extremely well priced with lunchtime dining stop off options.
Bay of Islands Tours
This company specialises in full or half day personalised, private tours. They’ll tailor the trip to you and your group, plus throw in a few personal favourites from their local guide if you approve!
They also have a list of set group tours that you can choose from.
History of wine growing in the Bay of Islands
Northland boasts the title of the birthplace of viticulture and winemaking in New Zealand, which is now of course a flourishing industry in many regions across the country.
Missionary, Reverend Samuel Marsden, planted the first vines in the Bay in 1819. Later, a bloke (well, a refined Scotsman) called James Busby planted grape vines at Waitangi and ended up making wines.
Busby has an interesting history. He was appointed in 1833 as the British Resident in New Zealand and became involved in drafting the 1835 Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand and the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.
But he is also famous for being the “father” of the Australian wine industry, as he brought the very first collection of vine stock from Spain and France over to Australia.
Around the same time, Croatian gum diggers arrived in the area, bringing their European tradition of winemaking to locals. Their insights and expertise soon spread to many other winemaking regions in New Zealand, and their influence has been the key foundation of the burgeoning wine industry we see today.
Now, two hundred years later, Northland winegrowers are still considered pioneers, always searching for the perfect soil, variety, and micro-climate to blow your discerning palate away!
“A man who could sit under the shade of his own vines with his wife and children about him, the ripe clusters hanging within their reach, in such a climate as this, and not feel the highest enjoyment is incapable of happiness and does not know what the word means.”
James Busby (early 1800’s, Bay of Islands)
Bay of Islands taxi contacts
+64 (0)9 407 9515
Mobile: +64 (0)21 407 951
A.B.C. Shuttle and Private Hire Service
Mobile: +64 (0) 22 025 0800