Historical Places in the Bay of Islands, Hokianga and Beyond
New Zealand’s human history starts in the Northland region, from the very first Maori explorer, Kupe, who first set foot on New Zealand at the Hokianga Harbour to the first European settlements in the Bay of Islands. Both New Zealanders and internationals can learn about the origins of New Zealand society today through a wealth of historical sites set in awe-inspiring landscapes. See what historical places in Northland you can’t miss in the list below!
Note that there is an admission fee to access and tour many of the heritage buildings listed below. However, there is still a good selection of free attractions, such as Cape Brett, Maori pa sites, and the Rangihoua Heritage Park. For a dose of natural history, be sure to explore the 8 Breathtaking Kauri Forests in Northland.
1. Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Walk among the very grounds where the founding document of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed by Maori chiefs and the British Crown on 6 February 1840, which you can learn all about in the innovative Museum of Waitangi. There is also a carved meeting house (whare), a waka house (canoe), the Treaty House, bush walks and more to discover. Book your Waitangi Treaty Grounds entry here.
Location: Tau Henare Drive, Waitangi.
2. Ruapekapeka Pa
Not only will you see the remains of a Maori pa site (fortified village), but you’ll also stand in the site where the final battle of the New Zealand Wars in the North took place! Wars were fought between the northern Maori and British colonials during 1845-46 over conflicting interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi. The defences of Ruapekapeka Pa are still evident today with ditches, bank defences and even a cannon used by Chief Kawiti.
Location: Ruapekapeka Road, Towai – off State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa.
3. The Stone Store & Kemp House
Standing in the picturesque setting of the Kerikeri River, The Stone Store and Kemp House carries stories of when the first Europeans and Maori lived together. The Stone Store has been trading since 1836. What used to sell building supplies for early settlers now sells a selection of gifts. Upstairs in the Stone Store is an interactive museum. Tours of the Kemp House, New Zealand’s oldest surviving house, run from the Stone Store. Find out more things to do in Kerikeri here.
Location: 246 Kerikeri Road, Kerikeri.
4. Kororipo Pa
This once fortified fortress of the famed Maori chief, Hongi Hika, provides a historic walk in Kerikeri. Situated opposite the Stone Store and Kemp House (see above), Kororipo Pa has a short walk with interpretation panels telling the history of Maori and European trading. There’s also a viewing platform for some amazing photo opportunities.
Location: Opposite the Stone Store on the banks of the Kerikeri River.
5. Pompallier Mission and Printery
Situated on the waterfront of New Zealand’s first capital, Russell, the Pompallier Mission and Printery is New Zealand’s oldest industrial building and only surviving printery. From the Pompallier Mission, French Marist missionaries promoted Catholicism to the Maori. they used the printery to print religious texts in the Maori language and distribute them to the Maori settlements in the Northland region.
Location: The Strand, Russell.
6. Cape Brett
Otherwise known as Rakamangamanga, Cape Brett has been moving boats safely to the Bay of Islands for centuries, from the earliest waka to the European ships. The Cape Brett Lighthouse has stood at the end of Rakamangamanga for more than 100 years and is still in use today. Cape Brett can be seen from either an 8-hour one-way hiking track or via cruises with Explore NZ and Fullers GreatSights departing from Paihia and Russell.
Location: 30km (19 miles) northeast of Russell in the Bay of Islands.
7. Mangungu Mission
The site of the largest Treaty of Waitangi signing is on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour at the Mangungu Mission. The Mangungu Mission was built in 1839 and is still furnished with authentic relics from the time, including the very table where more than 70 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Check out more places to discover on the Hokianga Harbour here.
Location: Motukiore Road, 3km (2 miles) from Horeke, Hokianga Harbour.
8. Rangihoua Heritage Park
On the stunning shores of the Bay of Islands, Rangihoua Heritage Park is the site of New Zealand’s first planned European settlement. Here, Europeans and Maori lived side-by-side through an agreement with Chief Ruatara and Reverend Samuel Marsden. Walkways in the Rangihoua Heritage Park, taking 1-hour return, lead to lookouts over pa sites and lead down to the old mission settlement where the Marsden Cross memorial marks the place where the first Christmas service in New Zealand was held in 1814.
Location: Oihi Road, off Rangihoua Road, 30km (19 miles) north of Kerikeri.
9. Te Waimate Mission
Visit New Zealand’s first farm and walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, who spent Christmas of 1835 in this English farm and mission station. The mission house and farm was built to teach British farming techniques and Western ideals to the local Maori. Learn about it all on the archaeological trail around the property.
Location: 344 Te Ahu Ahu Road, Waimate North.
10. Clendon House
Delve into the stories of an early colonial family at the Clendon House. This stylish home was built in 1860 for James Reddy Clendon and his Maori wife, Jane. However, when James died in 1872, Jane was left to raise eight children while trading her way out of the debt that her husband left behind.
Location: 14 Parnell Street, Rawene.