A Tour Of Historic Northland

Earlier this year I was approached by the media manager of Landmarks NZ who asked if I could visit some of the the properties in Northland that they are charged with promoting and write about them in my blog. This seemed like a good excuse to visit some places that we haven’t been to, so I agreed and earlier this year we made the journey north. In a sort of roundabout way it was going to be up the West Coast and down the East.

Dargaville NZMCA Park
Such a familiar sign now around the country welcome to the Dargaville Park

First stop on the tour was going to be the NZMCA Park in Dargaville and although the local museum wasn’t on the list of places we had been asked to visit we felt that if we were doing a historic tour them we should start there. We walked from NZMCA Park up to the museum paying the small admission fee and started our tour of the place.

Sarah at the entrance to the museum
Sarah at the entrance to the Dargaville museum

If I had to rate this small town museum out of 10 I would give it an 11 it’s just packed with stuff at every turn and it would be easy to lose yourself here for hours looking and learning about the locals, their history and the strange thing they collect.

Kauri dieback
Kauri dieback

The following morning we headed up the coast making a quick stop at the Trounson Kauri Forest and were horrified by the devastation wrought by kauri dieback  disease. We wonder how long it will be before they close this forest as they have done with the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland.

From the Trounson Forest it was north to Rawene passing through the Waipoua Forest but not stopping as we visited this area in 2017. It’s another place where I am sure it won’t be long before they are forced to close the walking trails due to the dieback issue. It’s so sad to see these magnificent trees devastated by fungal infection.

Rawene was our first official stop on the historic tour with our visit to Clendon House where we met Lindsay one of a team of dedicated people who both look after the building as well instructing visitors as to the history of the place. We spent 20 or so minutes listing to Lindsay as he explained the abridged version of the Clendon family in the area and then had a self guided tour through the house and gardens.

I don’t know if quaint is quite the right word but Rawene has it’s own special feel. A place with the right mix of modern and history all wrapped up in a small village with great fish and chips!

Made it!
Made it!

With our visit to be to the Mangungu Mission in Horeke we chose to overnight at the amazing Wairere Boulders a valley that is strewn with boulders leftover from a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Over all these years the boulders have been shaped to all sorts of strange formations and through it the people who who own the place have formed a number of trails for all levels of fitness.


Entry to the Boulders attraction gives you a free nights stay in their purpose built camping area that comes with clean toilets and some of the friendliest hosts that you could hope to meet. Do yourself a favour and spend a night here, it’s a special place.

Just 3kms down the road from the Boulders is the second oldest standing building in New Zealand and were the largest number of Maori Chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi at the Mangungu Mission house the first Wesleyan Mission station in New Zealand. It was here that we our host Ianthe treated us to some of the stories and history associated with this place.

It was fascinating to hear about the 70 chiefs that signed the treaty on that day with the bay below the house having around 400 Waka parked up on the beaches it really would have been an amazing sight. Just down from the Mission house is the small hamlet of Horeke site of the oldest pub  and Post Office in New Zealand as well as some other really interesting sights making the trip well and truly worthwhile.

The plan was to spend that night at the NZMCA Park in Kerikeri to visit our friend John who lives just down the road from the Park. With Te Waimate Mission on the way to Kerikeri it was the next logical stopping point on our tour.

It was here that we met Alex who besides managing the Mission House here also overseas the two other mission houses we have visited so a really busy man. Not to busy however to spend a good 15 or so minutes giving us a run down on the history of this place both as a church mission as well as a model farm and army base.

There is some really well preserved history at this place and with plenty of parking it’s an easy visit just of SH10.  Sadly not long after we visited here the oldest Oak tree in New Zealand which was growing on site passed away (blew over in a storm) thankfully there are cuttings that they will replant as a memorial.

It’s not just the Mission House here at Te Waimate there is also a historic church and graveyard to wander around and although not open to the public the old Sunday School house is an interesting piece of history at the end of the driveway.

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Staying at the NZMCA Park in Kerikeri gave us the chance to catch up with our friend John who lives just down the road and also a rare opportunity to wash the MH as we don’t have the facilities on the farm where it’s stored.

Of course right after we washed it we discovered that there are 14 kms of metal road to the next destination on our tour. The Rangihoua Heritage Park site of the first Christian church service in New Zealand. It’s also home to this fantastic visitor centre and a really pleasant walk to to the beach were that service was held.

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Like a lot of the places we visited this one was almost devoid of visitors and on such a fabulous day with a really pretty beach at the end of the walk it seemed such a shame. If you coming here during summer make sure you allow plenty of time to take advantage of the natural beauty and bring a picnic and togs.

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We stopped that night at the Whangaruru Beachfront Camp directly across the water from my personal favourite camp Puriri Bay a DOC camp where the family have spent many happy holidays, but this was the first time on the other side of the water. What a fabulous place to stay right on the water with power at a very reasonable rate. Bookings are essential here over the summer months but come outside then and you just about have the place to yourself.

Final stop on our tour of sites promoted by Landmarks NZ was the Ruapekapeka Pa located about 6kms down a metal road just off SH10 south of Kawakawa. With us arriving to discover what is the largest and best preserved fortified Pa site in New Zealand completely deserted. What looks like holes made by a giant rabbit that has gone mad making burrows everywhere is actually an amazing set of fortifications that held the British army at bay for 10 days when the army had cannons and mortars and the Pa had nothing of the kind. It really is quite an incredible story.

So it’s at this point that I need to say thanks to Claudia and the team from Landmarks NZ who work tirelessly behind the scenes promoting these properties on behalf of Heritage NZ, DOC, Local councils and various private owners. Without this invite I might never have seen or been to any of these places and Sarah and I are both much richer for the experience each of these places has provided.

Each of the above short tales has a link to the blog that I wrote about each place and would seriously recommend that you take the time to visit some of these places or stay at the campgrounds that I have mentioned or follow our route and so the whole thing on your own safari round Northland.

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 

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