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Bay of Islands: 10 Rainy Day Ideas

June 7, 2023

Paihia and the Bay of Islands is known for beautiful beaches, islands and walks, which are great in the sunshine, but what to do in Paihia and the Bay of Islands when it’s raining? While you could head out in a raincoat to enjoy the Rainbows or the pumping Haruru Falls, there are a lot of activities here that are mercifully indoors. Museums, restaurants, markets and historic tours are just some of your options. So stay warm and dry and be entertained by our rainy day ideas below.

Charlotte's Kitchen

1. Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Make sure you visit the new museum at the Treaty Grounds: Te Rau Aroha. Te Rau Aroha was opened in 2020 and pays tribute to the effort and sacrifice of Māori in the NZ Armed Forces. The modern building and displays hold stories of the soldiers, their heroic feats, the loss and the aftermath of the world wars. It also dives into more recent conflicts. Portraits by renowned photographer Jane Ussher of returned servicemen, and personal effects and taonga of soldiers are on display. Attending this museum is a very emotional experience – even more so for whānau of the soldiers.

2. Makana Confections, boutique chocolates & café.

Family at Waitangi Treaty Grounds

At this specialty chocolate shop, chocolatiers make artisan treats as you watch through a glass window – and best of all, they offer you samples. Our favourite is the macadamia butter toffee crunch, which is completely addictive – buy at your own risk! Their café next door has amazing hot chocolate and homemade croissants that will lift any rainy-day spirits.

3. Wine tasting in Russell

Omata Estate is a gorgeous vineyard on a historic site overlooking the bay. Their wine tastings are fun, informative, and unpretentious - and they do divine wood fired pizzas. Paroa Bay Winery & Sage Restaurant is another place with views to die for, and the food here is all locally sourced. Every dish gets rave reviews, but the seafood platter is spectacular (it includes a whole crayfish and more…). The waiters will carefully match the food with the appropriate wine from the cellar door.

4. Wine tasting in Kerikeri

Wine tasting in Kerikeri

Five minutes out of Kerikeri, Ake Ake Vineyard has great wines – this vineyard is a good opportunity to taste homegrown Chambourcin red wine, from a French vine that is perfectly suited to the Far North terroir. While you might not be sitting on the deck in the rain, the vines are right up close to the restaurant so you can taste wine whilst viewing its picturesque source. Ake Ake’s vineyard platter comes highly recommended.  Also just a few minutes’ drive from the village, Marsden Estate is another gem. The restaurant has a cosy, homey vibe, with a roaring fire and an enclosed outdoor decking area with heating. The gardens, which you overlook from the deck (or take an umbrella and go for a stroll) are absolutely gorgeous, with a small lake and views over the vines. Their flagship wine is the Black Rocks Chardonnay (awarded top Chardonnay in New Zealand, Australia and 71 other countries). But for lunch we would recommend you order the Ras el Hanout Spiced Lamb Backstrap – delicious.

5. Russell Mini Tours

Get the local gossip and learn about Russell’s history: embark on an entertaining hour of being driven to all the points of interest around historic Russell, with a guide regaling you with stories of the town’s chequered past. You’ll go past Flagstaff Hill, out to Tapeka Point, to Long Beach, and many more places difficult to reach on foot – and by the end of it, you will know all there is to know about Russell and its history.

6. Pompallier Mission & Printery

This historic building is where Catholic missionaries translated religious texts into Maori, then printed them and bound them in leather. The best days to go are Wednesday to Sunday, when they run the tour which really brings the place to life. They’ll tell stories about the leather tanning and bookmaking methods of more than 170 years ago. The guides are super knowledgeable and know how to make it an entertaining tour for people of all ages.

7. Russell Museum

This charming little museum has a new interactive digital map display called Ipipiri.

This display is great for adults and kids alike: it describes two stories. One is about how the Tahitian chief Tupaia managed to deescalate violence between Maori and Pakeha in 1769, because he understood local protocols. The other story follows Maori beliefs about creation and how New Zealand with its unique ecosystems came into being and changed with human settlement. Otherwise, the museum features local artefacts and history, and has a large model of Captain Cook’s ship. The grounds are well kept, worth a walk around with an umbrella – you can see the remains of the cottage of respected Northland chieftan Tamaki Waka Nene.

8. The Old Packhouse Market

On Saturday and Sunday mornings in Kerikeri, this is the place to be, rain or shine (half the market is under cover in the main building, half is outside under pitched tent stalls). Every week there is live entertainment from local musicians, and loads of colourful stalls – fresh vegetables, fruit, and artisan breads, organic honey, handmade jewellery and soaps, vintage clothing, and importantly you’ll find delicious morning eats like French crepes and croissants, German Bratwurst sausage, and great coffee. The place has a great vibe – lots of locals come here to catch up, and the shopping makes for great souvenirs for visitors. There is a cash-out facility onsite.

9. Eat out at a restaurant

The Old Packhouse Market

Go for brunch at Whare Waka Café: near the Treaty Grounds, it has great coffee and food, and a pond with eels and ducks to entertain the kids. Or, you could grab a gourmet pizza for lunch at Charlotte’s Kitchen: the meals have real flare, and you can enjoy a great tap beer too while you relax with views of the water and the Russell ferry. If you’re up for some real indulgence, go for a fine dining experience at Terra Restaurant. Up there with the world’s best, the food at Terra is divine, well-priced, beautifully presented, and takes advantage of the region’s stella local produce. Our favourite meal at Terra is the Canterbury duck, with acorn squash, mango, and Kerala spice.

10. Diving in the Bay of Islands

If you’re going to get wet, you may as well get really wet! A rainy day is as good a time as any to dive the HMNZS Canterbury, in Deep Water Cove near Cape Brett. Since 1971 the former navy frigate had been in service all around the world, from the Falklands War to East Timor peace-keeping to the Mururoa anti-nuclear protests. In 2005 it was decommissioned and scuttled to provide a fantastic dive wreck. Schools of fish team around the barnacled funnel and bridge, and beautiful anenomes and seaweeds wave in the currents. Divers can reach the bow at about 20-metres, and can swim through the helicopter hangar at 27m. Advanced divers can enjoy the lower levels of the wreck which are at about 36 metres.

So whether you’re a raincoat-wearing, umbrella-holding lover of all seasons, or you just want to stay warm and dry next to a roaring fire, you can have an amazing experience in Paihia on any day, rain or shine. Get amongst!