Culture & Heritage

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Whangarei Falls

© Sara Orme

This is where it all began: To learn about New Zealand’s fascinating history, you need to visit Northland first.

Landing on the shores

Over a thousand years ago the great ocean-going waka Ngatokimatawhaorua arrived in New Zealand on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour. Kupe and his people had travelled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean with only the stars to guide them. Today, many iwi trace their ancestry back to Kupe and some of the oldest traces of Maori settlement, or kainga, can be found in Northland.

Not only did the first Maori canoe land in Northland, but it was also where the first European settlers arrived – whalers and wenches, closely followed by the missionaries.

The arrival of the European

In the late eighteenth century the Europeans arrived. They came on voyages of exploration initially, followed by traders, whalers and sealers. News of the temperate climate, the fertile land and the potential of kauri logging and kauri gum filtered back to the homelands - a big motivation for the migration which followed. Missionaries headed the next wave of arrivals.

Stone Store (1832), Kerikeri
Stone Store (1832), Kerikeri

Historic Landmarks

Northland with some 30 Category-1 historic buildings, foremost among them being Kerikeri’s Mission House & Stone Store. Visiting these heritage sites, you will see some of New Zealand’s earliest surviving European buildings.

Northland is where European settlers planted the first grapevines (planted in the Bay of Islands by the missionary, Reverend Samuel Marsden in 1819), olives and fruit trees and where the first ever Farmers’ market in New Zealand started and still thrives today, in Whangarei.

The coming together of a nation

The region has a rich history that ties both Maori and non-Maori people together. The Waitangi Treaty Groundsin the Bay of Islands is the place where the historic signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (between Maori and the British Crown) took place in 1840. The second signing of the Treaty took place at the Mangungu Mission House in the Hokianga.

Experience authentic Maori culture

The many stories and myths that moulded this wonderful land are still being told. Whether it’s through one of the intricate bone carvings, visual shows, museums, guided night walks, the spirit of the people touches you.

Paddle a traditional Waka (maori war canoe), visit a Maori village, or share a Hangi dinner. Soak in the healing waters of Ngawha Springs, a taonga, (treasure) of the North.