Historic must-dos in Northland
June 7, 2023
Te Tai Tokerau, Northland, is easily the region with the most historical significance to Aotearoa. It is the location of the earliest interactions between Māori, British and French settlers, as well as whalers, sealers and traders from many other countries. This history is well documented at several special spots throughout the region – making them must-dos during your visit to Northland.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Waitangi Treaty Grounds is New Zealand’s most important historic site. It is the place where the bicultural nation of Aotearoa New Zealand was formed in 1840, but it has a much longer history. Traditionally named Ruarangi, what is now the Treaty Grounds was the home of Maikuku and her husband Hua long before Europeans arrived. There was a reason James Busby was told to put his house on this whenua, and it was not for the views.
Stone Store and Kemp House
A 30-minute drive from Waitangi and you will find the Kerikeri Mission Station. Established in 1819, this is one of the first places in Aotearoa where Māori invited British settlers to live amongst them. Kemp House is New Zealand’s oldest building, completed in 1821-22 by missionary carpenters and Māori sawyers. The nearby Stone Store, built in 1832, was a Church Missionary Society warehouse and a general store. Today guides will show you around both the Stone Store (which still operates as a shop) and Kemp House.
Te Ahurea is in the Kerikeri basin, a short walk across the bridge from Kororipo Pā, the Stone Store and Kemp House. Te Ahurea features displays of taonga, as well as a walk through native plants with explanations on their historic and contemporary uses. There is the option of exploring by yourself or taking a guided tour. If you take a guided tour, you can learn about Kororipo Pā and the nearby kainga where Hongi Hika, Rewa and Tāreha resided.
Rangihoua Heritage Park is worth the 40-minute drive from Kerikeri. Rangihoua acknowledges some of the earliest meetings between Māori and British missionaries. Make your way along the track to the Marsden Cross memorial, erected in 1907, which marks where the first Christmas Day Service in New Zealand was held in 1814.
Established in 1828 as a Wesleyan Mission station, Māngungu, can be found on the shore of the Hokianga Harbour. The Mission House was built in 1838-1839. It is also the site of the largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – whereafter lengthy debate over 70 chiefs added their name before a crowd of around 3,000 people. This event is marked each year on 12 February.
Ruapekapeka (the bat’s nest) is the last battle site of the Northern War. The site today has remnants of the trenches, rifle pits and tunnels that demonstrate the intricate nature of the pā. It features signage and interpretation on the movements of Kawiti and Hōne Heke’s forces, and the British position. Only a few kilometres off State Highway 1, the pā is well worth a visit.