We were back at what is now the NZMCA Park we have visited the most, in Kerikeri for a catch up with fellow Dethleffs motorhome owner John who we had met firstly at the NZMCA Park in Plimmerton then later in Blenheim (twice) and then later at a meeting of fellow Dethleffs van owners back here in Kerikeri. Refer to my blog about the catch up here.
One of the issues with living in the heart of New Zealand’s biggest city is the lack of space for our motorhome. We have it stored on a rural property in West Auckland. However where we store the van has no water so washing the van there is a no go and it’s really hard to find places that are large enough to wash a 9 metre motorhome.
With this in mind we had asked John if we could wash the motorhome at his place, just down the road from the Park in Kerikeri to which he kindly agreed. He also allowed us to fill with water as there is none at the park in Kerikeri and the tap at the local dump station is one of those terrible push button jobs. I honestly don’t know why they fit those push button taps to the potable water, you are still going to hold it until the van is full it’s just really painful using them.
The real reason for our visit to the area (sorry John) was to continue our exploration of the historical sites promoted by Landmark Whenua Tohunga We had already visited a couple of the mission stations in the Hokianga and this was to be our first visit to somewhere that wasn’t a building.
Landmarks Whenua Tohunga are charged with promoting a number of sites around New Zealand. These are sites that belong to Heritage New Zealand, DOC, Local Councils and even Private ownership that are perhaps less well known or more out of the way than the more popular places.
The Rangihoua Heritage Park is part of the DOC network and they look after the day to day running of the park, tree plantings, pathways etc whilst Landmarks promote the place to visitors.
The reason that I started this story with me washing the motorhome was that the last 14 kilometres of the road leading to this park are gravel road. With me thinking all that hard work would be wasted. Thankfully as it was a dry day the motorhome just collected some road dust rather than being re coated in mud.
The road into the heritage park must have also been recently graded as it was fairly rut free. Much better than some of the roads we drove down in the South Island. Arriving in the car park the place was basically deserted. With only one other car there so tons of places to park the motorhome without having to worry about squeezing into some spot that’s designed for a mini rather than a motorhome.
The entrance to the Park is set amongst some native shrubs together with rose creepers along the fence line creating a very welcoming atmosphere. About the only thing letting it down would be the no dogs sign for some, this is because there are Kiwi present in the bush.
Sadly also the sign states no camping, given the remoteness of the site and the fact that there are toilets a short stroll from the carpark I would have thought this might have been an option. Even if the number of spots available was limited to 4 or 5 I think it would be a great spot to park up for a day or so. Especially with the beach a stroll down the path.
With the sun shining on a glorious winters day we put together a picnic to take with us on the stroll through the Park. We could tell this place was going to be somewhere special as we came through the gates and saw the views.
Recently opened and just inside the gates is the visitor centre which opens up to the most spectacular views down towards the site of the original settlement. This is where the first ever christian service was held in New Zealand on Christmas day 1814. This service was led by Samuel Marsden and was witnessed by the Maori who lived in the Pa adjacent to the site of the service.
From here it’s just over a kilometre downhill towards Marsden Cross a memorial erected on the centenary of the service in 1914. So you might wonder what happened for the bicentenary and the answer to that question is that on 21st December 2014 the Governor General of New Zealand opened the visitor centre.
The walk heads off from the visitor centre with the first stop a viewing point giving you a magnificent view of the whole Kerikeri inlet. There is also a 3D relief of the area with numbered points showing the highlight areas. I really didn’t want my shadow in the photo but there was no way to take the photos with the shadow in them. So sorry about this.
At this point I should mention that there is a really informative website (www.rhp.nz) that has been built for this place with each of the attractions numbered and by following the commentary you can learn a huge amount about this place. This blog is mostly about our visit to this park the history here plays an important part but that’s an experience you should gain by visiting here. My intention is more to talk about what a great place this was to visit.
The walkway takes you through landscaped bush areas that have been covered in native planting with these destined to provide shade as they grow. The bush really adds to the walk adding to the feeling that you are in a remote place. As you work your way down the path there are numerous story boards that add to the commentary available online and explain the history of this place.
The story boards begin to expand on the local Maori and their worldwide travels on merchant and whaling ships. They also cover the stories of the people who settled this land and those who helped build the mission.
These story boards greatly add to the walk and provide some really interesting facts. Such as the group of convicts who came from Sydney arriving here to help build the place and when the building was completed they where shipped home again. I never knew we had a convict work force in New Zealand! Apparently one also fathered a child with one of the mission wives, I bet that was the scandal of the day!
We reached a junction in the path, deciding to turn left rather than continue straight to Marsden cross. Here we came to what I guess are the remains of someones garden with a couple of really old lemon trees and huge old apple tree.
The lemons where unlike any fruit you see in the shops these days with a really rough almost wart like surface and thick skin suggesting that the tree might be very old. In fact an article online suggests it might be the oldest fruit bearing tree in New Zealand.
Leaving the old orchard we arrived at the memorial to Thomas Hansen who became New Zealand’s first non missionary settler. There is a large amount of material online about the Hansen family and you can access this, if interested here. For me it was another case of finding out just how much I don’t know about the history of New Zealand.
The path then leads to a memorial stone to those who passed away on this site. Including John King who served as the minister from 1814 till 1832 when the mission was closed. John stayed here however until he passed away in 1854. It also commemorates the first European born in New Zealand. Thomas Holloway who was born in 1815 sadly he died 3 years later.
This place is about the Marsden Cross and about the fact that this was the first permanent settlement by Europeans in New Zealand but it’s also about the Maori Pa located on the hill in the back of this photo. Sadly access to this park is restricted to areas of the park that don’t include the Pa. I imagine that there are cultural reasons for this and for that reason we didn’t venture on the Pa but it would have been fantastic to be able to stand up there and imagine what it would have been like in 1814.
Yes the history here is important but this park is also a place of huge natural beauty and you could quite easily spend the day here just enjoying the park. In fact we strongly recommend that you come here and take the time to relax and enjoy and maybe learn a little at the same time.
The painting at the gate gives the best representation of what the Pa would have looked like. As you can see it looks very well fortified as was the case in those days.
Down at the water we found a convenient log to sit down and have the picnic lunch we had brought with us. It’s such a sheltered bay that had it been a bit closer to summer we probably would have gone for a swim. Considering that it’s only about 1 km from the carpark and how few people we had met here it could be a great place to come during summer.
As we sat there eating our lunch we watched a launch come into the harbour and drop the anchor it was all just so peaceful. I think next time we visit I would come with my fishing rod, there looked like a couple of great spots just off the rocks.
Heading back towards the motorhome we remarked to each other how this had been another really great place to visit and where surprised by how few people where here. It was such a wonderful day that there really was no excuse not to get out and about. It could be that nobody knows about the place (well you do know) or it could be the 14 kms of metal road to get here. Whatever it is you should now find the reason to come and visit this place it really is quite special.
You can keep up to date on all that is happening with Landmarks Whenua Tohunga and their site by either following them on Facebook , Twitter or clicking on their Website. Next stop on the tour will be the Te Waimate Mission. You can also visit the DOC website or their Facebook Page and checkout what other parks they have in your area. You may be surprised just where some of the DOC parks actually are.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.
To view the Ratings we have done for other camps click here