The Northland town of Kerikeri has a long, colourful history. The area was home ground for the fearsome Maori chief Hongi Hika, who terrorised many tribes throughout the North Island in the early 1800s. Yet he was kind to missionaries, allowing Samuel Marsden to establish New Zealand's second mission station here.
The Kerikeri Mission Station, also known as Kemp House, is New Zealand’s oldest standing European building. Built to house the Reverend John Butler in 1821, this elegant wooden home has the protection of the Historic Places Trust.
Nearby is the Stone Store, which dates back to 1832 and is New Zealand's oldest stone building. Designed by Wesleyan missionary John Hobbs and built by an ex-convict stonemason from New South Wales, the store was meant to house large quantities of wheat from the mission farm at Te Waimate. When the wheat failed, the building was used as a kauri gum trading store.
The terraced pa site, Kororipo, sits above the Kerikeri basin. It was once a stockaded fortress, but not in European times. When the missionaries lived here in the early 1820s, it was the site of an unfortified village where some of Hongi Hika’s people lived. Today the pa site is protected by the Department of Conservation.
Kerikeri now attracts visitors for its boutique wineries, shopping, galleries, and restaurants; those in search of life’s more indulgent moments. Kerikeri has two weekend markets; The Packhouse Markets and the Bay of Islands Farmers Market offering fresh regional produce. Dine at one of the many outdoor cafés or wineries, indulge in delicious handmade chocolates or limoncello. Kerikeri also has its own natural skincare range, which is ‘made of New Zealand’.
The road leading into Kerikeri is bordered by orchards with roadside stalls offering the chance to buy seasonal fruit. Look also for signs showing the way to artists’ studios; resident potters and painters have given this district a creative personality.
Within minutes by car or an hour's walk from the Kerikeri Basin car park is the 27 metre Rainbow Falls, one of five waterfalls in the area, all linked by walking tracks. Further afield lies the Puketi Forest, an ideal place to tramp and view kauri trees from a boardwalk which also has wheelchair access.