Step into the History in the Bay of Islands
One of New Zealand’s most historic locations, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is a must-visit when travelling to the Bay of Islands. It’s so significant that there is even an official public holiday called Waitangi Day. Not only is Waitangi, a 5-minute drive from Paihia, a stunning coastal location, but it is rich with history. Visit the museum, see a Maori cultural performance, watch videos, have a coffee and visit the five main sights of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds listed below!
You’ll instantly get a feel for what New Zealand is all about as you walk through some native bush across boardwalks to see Maori artefacts and British influence rolled into one. This exactly represents the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi: a founding agreement between the Maori and British. It has a fascinating history mixed in controversy, which you can learn the basics about in our Maori history article.
1. The Carved Meeting House
To symbolise the partnership between the British Crown and the Maori, a stunning traditional Maori meeting house was built facing the Treaty House (see below). The meeting house is impressive and projects all the power of the Maori culture through carefully carved wood. Spend time looking through all the small details carved in its walls and pillars. It is also the location of scheduled Maori performances throughout each day.
2. The Treaty House
Also known as “the residency”, the treaty house was the base of the British government of New Zealand from 1833 to 1840. James Busby represented the crown from there and conducted his business from his parlour. Today you can visit the accurate refitting of the 1800s house and learn more about the ins and outs of the British colonisation.
3. The Flagstaff
To mark the exact emplacement where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, a huge flagstaff has been erected. The flagstaff flies four different flags, one being the United Tribes of New Zealand’s flag, the second being the British Union flag, then the New Zealand Ensign flag, and lastly the New Zealand flag flies on top.
4. The War Canoes
The world’s largest Maori ceremonial war canoe is displayed in the waka house. Impressive in numbers (6 tons dry and 76 paddlers minimum), the fully carved canoe is launched once a year on 6-February to celebrate Waitangi Day. An event not to be missed if you are in the area.
5. The Museum of Waitangi
One place to basically learn all about one of New Zealand’s most defining moments in history is at The Museum of Waitangi. This modern museum is full of fascinating Maori and European artefacts, art and some short movies to watch a re-enactment of the Treaty of Waitangi signing.