Our guide to New Zealand's best places - Northland
As Dorothy remarked in the Wizard of Oz, “there's no place like home”, and it's often stated that travellers need
to experience their own country before ticking others off on their bucket list. With that in mind, we have spent
the past year visiting many New Zealand landmarks before embarking on another overseas adventure. From the far
North's stunning beaches to the scenic but rugged beauty of wild Southland, the following blogs will detail a few
of our favourites.
Northland with its topical climate (by New Zealand standards) Northland has an abundance of coastal beaches and picturesque islands for swimming or boating enthusiasts. Nowhere in New Zealand is the distinction between rich and poor more evident than in Northland. Affluent Kerikeri has lawn tractor and spa pool shops, while other nearby towns experience high unemployment and socio-economic disparity.
This ancient kauri tree has been standing for approximately 2,000 years. Visitors realise its significance when they are instructed to clean their shoes upon entrance to the site, and observe the signs not to touch the tree as they gaze up at its majestic size (to protect it from tree diseases rather than any spiritual reasons). Whether you believe it has sacred properties or is just a really old tree that has stood the test of time, it's very rare to find anything in New Zealand that has survived several centuries let alone past a millennium.
It's amusing when European explorers claimed to discover countries which were already inhabited. In New Zealand's case the Maori people first arrived here over 1,000 years ago and named the two main islands (Aotearoa – land of the long white cloud). Abel Tasman, the explorer decided on the name New Zealand after the Zeeland province in his native country Holland, while the British who were far less original settled on the North and South Island for the two islands that made up their new colony New Zealand.
New Zealand's early god-fearing Missionaries tried to convert the Maori to Christianity, and luckily despite this influence the Maori retained much of their traditions and language. Waitangi is perhaps the most well-known place where visitors can experience Maori culture. Richie was even picked to be chief. It's not exactly a mystery why he stands out in a crowd!
Tour guides at the Waitangi grounds also share details surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi, which is considered New Zealand's founding document, Unlike the US and Australia where colonists simply stole land from its original inhabitants, the early British in New Zealand did negotiate and sign a written agreement between the the crown's British representatives and many leading Maori Chiefs of the time. Like many bi-lingual texts the treaty's meaning was lost in translation, with the bungling British concluding New Zealand was a bargain that the native Maori had given up for some blankets and ammunition. The Maori however thought they were merely handing over governance while they retained control of their lands. Whether the British intended to deceive the Maori or were just incompetent, the resulting ambiguity led to millions in claims being paid by successive governments over 150 years later to the descendants of the tribes who signed the 1840 agreement.
New Zealand's oldest building
If you are expecting stone-crafted castles or ornate cathedrals you have come to the wrong country, but New Zealand's oldest building dating back to 1822 is found in Kerekeri. Known as the Mission house, it was build for early Missionaries under the protection of local Maori. it is a two-storey dwelling constructed from native kauri that has been restored as close as possible to its original condition.
The nearby stone store was most commonly used as a general store, and today is home to a gift shop with some interesting 19th century wares, including old fashioned boiled sweets, a creepy looking hand wall hook and vintage coasters with classic NZ slang like Sweet As and Choice One Bro.