341 Days on the Road
Our Northland adventure continues today to the famous Bay of Islands! This area of New Zealand is steeped in history where New Zealand was established as a nation and where the first capital city was. If you like good weather, then the baking summers and mild winters make spending time on the beaches and out on the water more of treat. We have all of this to come starting with a mix of history at the Mission Station and natural beauty at Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri!
Onwards to Kerikeri!
We hit the road from Whangarei, passing through some of Northland’s quaint towns and farmlands basked in sun until we arrive at Kerikeri. Our first port of call today is at some of New Zealand oldest buildings, Kerikeri Mission Station.
Situated beside the Kerikeri River with its many cascades and wild bird visitors, Kerikeri Mission Station is made up of the Stone Store and Kemp House. Even if you had no idea they were here, the large stone building unlike most buildings in New Zealand is bound to draw you in. Indeed, it does just that to us!
The Stone Store
Wandering around the whole bottom floor filled with tasteful souvenirs and gifts gives a good sense of the heritage building. Even the store assistant is dressed in old-worldly attire! We can learn more about what the Stone Store used to be upstairs in the museum.
When we get to the stop of the first set of wooden stairs, we come to a room decorated with old building supplies: ropes, boxes of nails, tools, etc. Yep, more than 170 years ago, the Stone Store was in trade. It’s pretty cool to think that it’s function has not changed even if the wears have.
Learning about historic Kerikeri at the Stone Store Museum
Displays tell the story of what the Stone Store signifies: one of the first places where Maori invited visitors to live among them. Stories of both early European settlers and the native people are told through interactive timelines, makeshift books made from leather, fabric-made interpretation panels, and displays where you need to pull and push things around. It might be a small museum, but the way its presented is definitely pleasing to the eye taking a “less is more” approach in the design. What’s more, they can definitely afford to do that because there is yet another floor to the museum with more displays to fiddle around with.
The Kemp House Tour
When the store bell rings downstairs, this indicates the time for a tour around New Zealand’s oldest surviving house! Shannon, the lady behind the counter wearing the most marvelous dress and top hat, takes us next door into the garden of Kemp House. Here, she tells us and our fellow tour-goers about how the Kerikeri Mission Station came to be. She tells us of the relationship of the new European settlers who were on a mission to spread their Christian message to the local Maori who were initially in the midst of tribal warfare.
Checking out the displays in the Stone House loft
The oldest surviving house in New Zealand
The tour continues inside Kemp House, where we take our shoes off in order to not damage the floors of this house built in 1821. We are surprised to find out that the house has mostly been left unchanged, even down to some furniture which we can see set up in various living rooms, dining area and kitchen downstairs. Display cases show the Maori weapons gifted to the house occupiers, whom have some fascinating stories of their own. Shannon tells us more about the Kemp family’s story in the kitchen equipped with some state-of-the-art cooking facilities (for those days, of course).
After about a 20-minute tour and talk of some of New Zealand’s early European and Maori history, we get some time to investigate the remainder of the house even down to the creepy-as-hell dolls and teddy bears lying on the childrens’ beds. Jeepers!
Next stop, Rainbow Falls
Now we have our dose of history, we can now get our dose of classic New Zealand natural beauty at Rainbow Falls. The waterfall is only an hour’s walk from the Mission Station alongside the Kerikeri River. Alternatively, there is a car park right beside the falls. We don’t want to admit we decide to be lazy by driving, but with Robin just on day two of his broken arm we think it’s smarter for him to take it easy.
The majestic Rainbow Falls!
From the Rainbow Falls car park, it is literally about 20 seconds until we reach the first viewpoint overlooking Kerikeri’s spectacular waterfall. The wide, single-drop waterfall plunges 27 metres into the pool below kicking up a huge amount of spray. We suspect that the spray mixed with the sunlight gives the waterfall its name, but are not seeing any rainbow colours just yet..
The second viewpoint brings has us looking right on top of the waterfall, seeing that the raging falls comes from a river so calm that ducks are sleeping on a rock a couple of metres from where the water takes a tumble. Fantails and monarch butterflies also make up our wildlife viewing of today.
A walk down to spray central
We walk for a couple of minutes down to the final viewpoint of Rainbow Falls from beside the plunge pool, taking us through forest and alongside jagged rock formations carved by the waterfall God-knows how many hundreds of years ago.
The further toward the plunge pool we get, the more the land is carpeted in moisture. The bottom viewpoint is indicated by a concrete circle, which we stand for as long as our sprayed faces can stand, trying to see if there is a rainbow… Even with the sun shining right through the spray, we see no such thing and conclude we have been scammed just like hundreds of backpackers before us… Well, we can’t complain that the waterfall looks completely badass!
Checking in at Hone Heke Lodge
Although we know that the large cave behind the waterfall is completely accessible to those with the ability to scramble over the stream and over rocks, we just look at Robin’s arm and decide to head back to the car to check into our accommodation for the next three nights: Hone Heke Lodge!
It’s a pretty cool first night in the sociable hostel where we play a few card games with a couple of Germans also on the last leg of their gap year. We’re still happy to have 23 days left to go, with tomorrow’s activity involving a hike on the Twin Coast Trail (instead of bike because, ya know…) Join us then!
Awesome views of an awesome waterfall Theta 360 Loading...
Why wouldn’t you? Get your eyes on these articles!
- Bay of Islands – Guide for Backpackers
- 12 Most Wonderful Waterfalls in New Zealand
- The Card Game Every Backpacker Should Play in Their Hostel
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See you tomorrow!