Kerikeri’s Top Five Attractions

Welcome to the largest town in New Zealand’s Northland, and a great place to begin your exploration of this region that offers all you could hope for in a holiday. There are spectacular landscapes, beautiful islands and exceptional Māori history. They don’t call this region the birthplace of New Zealand for no reason. 

You’ll need three or four days to see everything from Kerikeri, so jump in your rental car and get exploring the best parts of Northland. 

1. Explore the Bay of Islands 

There are 144 islands lying off the coast between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula, so the best way to see the best of the Bay of Islands is from the water. You can go like the locals and catch the passenger ferry between Paihia and Russell. Otherwise, take your rental car on the car ferry from Opua and Russell. And there’s good reason to get there; Russell is a historical town that still looks much like it did in 1843, although it’s much more peaceful now. Back when it was a shore station, it was known as the hell hole of the Pacific. Watching the sunset from the shoreline, or from the verandah of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, which has been operating since 1827, is a lovely way to end the day.

It would be a shame not to see more of the islands, so head out for
a half-day tour with
Dolphin Cruises. As the name suggests, you’re likely to see dolphins, whales and other marine life, but the tour also goes to the Hole in the Rock on Motukōkako (Piercy Island). Māori legend says warriors would paddle their canoes through it on their way to battle; having drops of water fall on them from the cave roof was a good omen. If the conditions are good, the captain of the cruise will guide the boat through the narrow gap.  

From Paihia, you can also take a guided sea kayaking tour that weaves past uninhabited islands as you watch the marine life below you through crystal clear waters. 


2. Learn About the Treaty of Waitangi 

On 6 February 1840, the British Crown and 540 Māorirangatira (Māori chiefs) came together to make an agreement, in English and Te Reo Māori, that ceded sovereignty of New Zealand to the British, guaranteed Māori full rights of ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries and other possessions, and gave them the rights and privileges of British subjects. It was known as the Treaty of Waitangi and the day is now a public holiday. 

At the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, you can visit two museums, watch Māori cultural performances in an authentic Meeting House, take guided tours, visit native forest and a carving studio, and see the world’s largest ceremonial canoe. 


3. Go North to Cape Reinga 

There is one part of New Zealand that’s further north, but North Cape is a scientific reserve and closed to the public. Instead, you’ll need to be satisfied with Cape Reinga, a two-and-a-half-hour drive in your rental car from Kerikeri. Here, you’ll see a gnarled pohutukawa tree, thought to be more than 800 years old. It’s said the spirits of deceased Māori would leap from this tree into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. You’ll also want to do the short walk to the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, which overlooks the water where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. 

Cape Reinga is a sacred site, so you can’t eat your picnic lunch there, but there are many beaches and bays around it where you can stop. Toputaputu Bay is a sheltered spot that’s lovely for lunch and a splash in the ocean. 


4. Visit New Zealand’s Largest Kauri Tree 

Its name is Tāne Mahuta and you can find it in Waipoua Forest, where it’s a very short and easy walk beneath the canopy to the country’s largest living kauri tree. At about 52 metres tall and with a girth of 19 metres, it’s thought to have been growing in this forest for between 1,250 and 2,500 years. Also known as the Lord of the Forest, the tree has been known to bring some visitors to tears. 

For a unique experience, join
Footprints Waipoua on a twilight walking tour, where a Māori guide will lead you on a cultural journey through the forest to see Tāne Mahuta and another gigantic tree,Te Matua Ngāhere, which has been growing here for about 3,000 years. 


5. Relax in Luxury 

The Purerua peninsula is a patch of paradise just a half hour’s drive from Kerikeri. Green hills roll down the ocean where tiny islands rise from the blue. It’s where you’ll discover The Landing, a luxury retreat and winery. Stay in one of the four impressive residences and villas and get set to do either a little or a lot. 

Take a guided tasting of the wines made from grapes grown in the 11-hectare vineyard and enjoy the daily menu of dishes prepared using produce from the farm and local region. If you go fishing, the chefs will even prepare your catch. The property has six private beaches, for snorkelling and swimming, and is surrounded by 400 hectares of native bush with tracks for hiking. Board the Iti Ranga, The Landing’s boat, for a tour of the local bays, or join a guide on a torch-lit night walk looking for kiwis. You might never want to leave. 


Ready to discover Kerikeri and Northland? Hire a rental car to get exploring.