Still a great place to visit in winter
With Summer holidays, New Year parties and Waitangi Day over, the Bay of Islands settles down a bit.
The Bay of Islands has earned the nickname ‘the Winterless North’ because of it’s warm climate, especially when you compare it to the rest of New Zealand. But, it has been known to rain occasionally.
Don’t let a little rain stop you. In fact, there are plenty of things to do in Paihia when it’s raining. So why not plan a winter getaway to the Winterless North and experience a different side of what the Bay of Islands has to offer?
When is winter in the Bay of Islands?
Autumn in New Zealand runs from the beginning of March to the end of May, with winter lasting from June through to August. The lowest average temperature around this time is 15°C. While far from tropical, it’s fairly balmy compared to other parts of the country.
What will I need to pack?
With an average low temperature of 15°C in winter, you don’t need to fill your suitcase up with thermals. On the other hand, you will need plenty of wet weather gear. When it decides to rain in the Bay of Islands, it can rain hard. Waterproof jackets, something with a strong hood to stop the rain going down your back, plus waterproof trousers and portable umbrellas.
You won’t need lots of warm layers underneath, but with a good waterproof layer on top you can still get around and see the sights.
What’s open in the off season?
It’s true that the Bay of Islands are quieter over winter, but there is still plenty to do. You may find that the ‘touristy shops’ on the waterfront of Paihia and Russell are closed, but there are still plenty of shops showcasing locally made wares for you to explore.
Not to mention, it’s also much easier getting a table at the local bars and restaurants.
Staying in the Bay of Islands in winter
You may find accommodation is a bit cheaper in winter compared to summer. With fewer people needing a place to stay, you’ll have more options to choose from. If your budget is going to stretch a little further, why not stay a couple of extra nights and see some more of the Bay of Islands?
Travelling around the Bay of Islands in winter
You have a number of options for travelling around the Bay of Islands in winter, depending on what you want to do. If you’re using a local tour operator or visiting the local wineries, they may be able to pick you up from your accommodation. Just ask.
For short trips around town, the Bay of Islands is home to a few local taxi companies. Alternatively if you really want to head out and explore on your own, you should consider hiring a car.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Visit the birthplace of New Zealand, where our founding document was first signed between Māori chiefs and European settlers.
Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds offer some of the best views over the Bay of Islands looking out towards Russell, but there’s plenty to see here on a rainy day.
Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi holds a stunning collection of stories and taonga (treasures) illustrating the history of New Zealand and the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Newly completed in 2020, Te Rau Aroha commemorates the service and sacrifice of Māori in New Zealand’s Armed Forces. From World War I to the present day, this new museum within the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a must for those interested in the ANZACs and the stories of our brave men and women who have served.
History and culture combined
With your day pass to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, you will receive a guided tour, a Māori cultural performance in the carved meeting house and entry to the two museums. You will also be able to see the Treaty House, one of New Zealand’s oldest structures, and the world’s largest ceremonial waka or war canoe.
The tours are interactive, and guests are encouraged to take photos and ask questions. This is a day out for the whole family.
While most of these attractions are indoors, you will need a jacket for those short walks from one building to another.
The best kind of tour is one where you get to try some chocolate!
Based in Kerikeri, the delicious Makana confections make quality chocolate from local, natural ingredients. What better way to get a taste for New Zealand?
Open daily between 9am and 5:30pm, you can join a tour of the Makana chocolate factory, see how the incredible treats are made, try a few and buy some more to take away with you.
Not had enough of a sweet fix? You can relax with something to eat and drink in the Makana Chocolate Cafe once you’re done.
A fun family outing
The chocolates are made by hand, in small batches, with no artificial flavours or preservatives. Plus, because you’re going straight to the factory, this is as fresh as chocolate gets.
Visiting Makana is a fun, half-day trip for the whole family. Better yet, come back without the kids so you can really indulge.
Haruru Falls Walking Track
One of the Bay of Islands’ most accessible waterfalls is Haruru Falls. While not very tall, this horseshoe shaped waterfall is quite wide and is an impressive sight when water levels are high.
The name ‘haruru’ means ‘big noise’ and if you happen to visit on a wet day you’ll understand why. Legend also has it that a taniwha (monster) lives underneath the waterfall, adding his roar to the noise of the waterfall.
Visiting Haruru Falls
Depending on what the weather is like and how adventurous you are feeling, you could start the Haruru Falls Track by the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and enjoy the 2.5 hour walk through ferns and a mangrove forest until reaching the falls.
If you have your own transport and want to enjoy the falls without the walk, you can drive straight to Haruru, hear the roar of the water in the carpark, and walk two minutes to see the mighty waterfall. It’s up to you.
If you’re travelling with children, bring some bread with you to feed to the family of roosters who live in the Haruru Falls car park.
Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri
Only a ten minute drive from Kerikeri, Rainbow Falls are utterly breathtaking.
Much higher than Haruru Falls, Rainbow Falls are a picturesque sight on a rainy day as water droplets bouncing up from the lake meet the raindrops falling down.
Rainbow Falls are highly accessible. Just a gentle 10 minute walk from the car park for a close up look, or you can appreciate the falls in a wider vista just one minute from the carpark.
Visiting Rainbow Falls
Just follow signs for Rainbow Falls from Waipapa Road, follow it for the next 1.1km before turning left onto Rainbow Falls Road.
Enjoy a wine tasting tour
The Bay of Islands is home to some of New Zealand’s best wineries. If the weather is terrible, why not sit inside and watch the raindrops fall while sampling a delicious drop or two yourself?
Sit back and relax with a guided tour
Want to enjoy a range of wineries and not worry about a sober driver? There are a number of tour operators who can take you where you want to go, and give you a guided tour of the countryside along the way.
- Rogue Pony Tours can take you around wineries in style. From 4WD Jeep Wranglers to a 500hp Mustang GT you’ll get safely to where you’re going and look good doing it.
- Total Tours can organise a wine trip for your group, as well as options for lunch or dinner.
- Bay of Islands Tours cater for small groups of people and can create a tour option to suit your interests.
Are there particular wine varieties you love? Is there a particular region within the Bay of Islands you want to try? Do you want to pair your wine with food? Just let your guide know in advance.
Remember, don’t ever drink and drive
If you’re travelling on your own or don’t want a guided tour, there are taxi options available to make sure you get home safely.
Alternatively, some wineries offer luxury accommodation so you can enjoy some drinks and dinner without worrying about travelling until the next day.
Russell Mini Coach Tours
Did you know Russell was New Zealand’s capital city? Did you know Russell was also dubbed the “Hell Hole of the Pacific” because of the town’s lawlessness?
Spend a comfortable hour aboard a mini bus and take a journey back in time as you’re taken around interesting areas off the beaten path, not easily covered on foot.
Booking a coach tour in winter
During winter, tours depart from Russell Wharf on the hour between 11am and 2pm. You’ll get a full rundown on some of the most important events in New Zealand’s history, and perhaps see some sights you want to revisit on your own in finer weather.
Built in 1842, this is New Zealand’s oldest industrial building, as well as the oldest of rammed-earth construction. Pompellier house is French in style and makes use of local materials including sand, rock and timber.
This was where the Bible was originally translated into Te Reo Māori (the Māori language) from Latin, before being printed and bound. Today you can visit to learn more about original printing and bookbinding.
From European whaling boats to Māori artefacts, you can find it all in the Russell Museum. It has a number of interactive exhibits that are popular with children, and is a must visit for anyone with an interest in maritime history.
In winter, the Russell Museum is open daily from 10am – 4pm.
Bay of Islands Farmers Market
Food is best fresh and direct from the grower. At the Bay of Islands Farmers Market, you can enjoy some of our best food, drink and local crafts direct from the producer.
Sunday Mornings in Kerikeri
Rain or shine, you’ll see gazebos in the Post Office car park in Hobson Ave in Kerikeri on a Sunday morning.
The Kerikeri Farmers Market is a ritual for most locals and a must see for visitors. From 8:30am until noon, come and try the freshest local produce or enjoy bunch made to order from local ingredients. Pick up some baked goods for later in the day, or sample what local breweries and wineries have on offer all in the one place.
No longer hungry? At the Kerikeri Farmers Market you’ll also find a range of crafts and artisan made clothing or jewelry. Or you can relax with a massage.
Some of the stalls are exposed to the elements, so if it’s a wet day a jacket is a must. However there are plenty of sheltered spaces for sitting, enjoying a coffee, listening to one of the buskers, and savouring the aromas of multiple kitchens preparing delicious foods.
Thursdays in Paihia
Want to eat in while staying in Paihia? Pick up some of the freshest fruit, vegetables and produce on a Thursday afternoon.
From 1pm until 4pm on Paihia’s Village Green you’ll find local growers and producers with some of the best food on offer.
This is a smaller version of the Sunday morning market in Kerikeri, with a greater focus on produce. If you can only go to one market, Kerikeri has more to offer.
Go Diving in the Bay of Islands
If it’s raining, you might as enjoy the water because you can’t get any wetter.
From beginners to advanced divers, the Bay of Islands offers a range of experiences if you want to explore under the waves.
You can visit shipwrecks, dive for crayfish or just take in the sights of the underwater life. The water will be a bit colder than it is in summer, but if you want to get out and dive a little rain won’t stop you.
Since 1978 the team at Paihia Dive have been taking people out to explore the water. Visit the wrecks of the Rainbow Warrior and HMNZS Canterbury, as well as reefs around Cape Brett.
Whether you’re young or old, an experienced diver or this is your first time, Paihia Dive can show you the wonders of the underwater world.
Enjoy a meal out
The Bay of Islands is a bustling hub in summer. In winter, it’s decidedly more relaxed, giving you greater freedom to choose where you want to eat and drink.
Eating out in Paihia
35 Degrees South
For a real seafood experience, it’s hard to beat a restaurant on a pier with an aquarium.
Enjoy watching boats go out across the bay, gaze across to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, or be fascinated by the up-close look at undersea life right in front of you.
This waterfront restaurant is a unique dining experience.
Jimmy Jacks Rib Shack
Exactly as the name suggests, if you love ribs and a hearty meal you’ll find it at Jimmy Jacks Rib Shack.
It has a very family friendly vibe so is a great place to bring the kids. It’s also ideal if you’re not a fan of seafood or you’re incredibly hungry. Either way, Jimmy Jacks does not disappoint.
Eating out in Russell
Duke of Marlborough
This is New Zealand’s earliest pub, with the oldest liquor license in the country. A copy is framed on the wall for you to see.
This family friendly restaurant has lots of antiquities on the walls to keep everyone occupied while waiting for your delicious seafood or world famous Governor’s Burger.
Enjoy delicious dining in one of Northland’s premiere wineries.
Omata wines have won international fame and awards, and will enhance your dish to make the food sing with flavour.
With a range of pizzas and grazing platters, Omata is a relaxed, cozy setting to enjoy a glass of wine or some local craft beers and spend an evening.
Eating out in Kerikeri
Ake Ake Vineyard
Fresh local produce paired with wines made on site and served in a relaxed bistro style. What more could you want from an evening out?
Because all ingredients are sourced locally, the menu is updated constantly so there’s always something new to try.
Dining at Ake Ake is an excellent way to sample the best the Bay of Islands has to offer.
Food at Wharepuke
Award winning food in a unique setting. You’ll find Food at Wharepuke in an old American Army Barracks offering European and modern Thai inspired cuisine.
World class food made from locally sourced ingredients and pulled together with a fusion zing. Everything is delicious at Food at Wharepuke.
Plenty to enjoy in Paihia
The Bay of Islands is much more than a summer holiday destination. Rain or shine, you’ll find plenty to keep you and your family occupied and entertained.
There’s plenty to do in Paihia when it’s raining, so plan your next holiday to the Winterless North!