Historic Waitangi

Discover Historic Bay of Islands and Northland

New Zealand is still a very new country, especially when you consider many of us have ancestral roots in Britain, Ireland, and Europe that are steeped in history.

Northland holds the lion’s share of New Zealand’s history where Europeans first began setting up home in our beautiful land, and much of the oldest buildings and significant events happened in this area.

For any history buff, Northland will not disappoint as all historical sites and landmarks are a scenic drive away from each other. Most of our customers choose to pick up a rental vehicle from Kerikeri airport, with our map in hand, ready to explore.

Here are our top suggestions for your next historical adventure. For more Northland must visits, check out our destinations page.

Kerikeri Mission Station
The Kerikeri Mission Station is one of the first places where Maori invited visitors to live among them. Fierce warriors, drunken sailors and, missionaries trying to convert the masses make for some great storytelling from those working at The Stone Store and Kemp House – part of the station grounds.

Christ Church, Russell
As the oldest church in New Zealand, this charming little church sits in the beautiful Bay of Islands’ township of Russell. See if you can spot the musket and cannon ball holes in the side of the church from battles between Maori and British forces from 1845.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds
With rave reviews on Tripadvisor, this is a must see when visiting the Bay of Islands. This is New Zealand’s most important historic site where in 1840 New Zealand’s founding document was signed and the relationship between Maori and European settlers began. The ground includes an excellent museum, guided tours, and a cultural performance. There are also Hāngi & Concert evenings during the Summer months.

Rangihoua Heritage Park
The Marsden Cross memorial recognises New Zealand’s first Christmas led by Reverend Marsden back in 1814. You could say this was the first real community of Maori and Europeans living peacefully together. Not far from Kerikeri, the park offers sweeping views of the Bay of Islands. To download a brochure of other Northland landmarks, click here.

Tane Mahuta and the Hokianga
Northland’s Waipoua Forest is home to the famous kauri tree, Tane Mahuta.
It’s big. Very big. An estimated 1,250 and 2,500 years old it’s certainly a humbling experience as you try to take in the sheer size of this thing! Visiting the forest is a great day out for the family, with Tane Mahuta just a short walk from the forest car park and lots of New Zealand native birds, flora and fauna to watch out for when travelling along the forest paths.

Cape Reinga
The lighthouse alongside the famous world signpost offers ample photo opportunities and spectacular views. As Cape Reinga is a sacred site, eating is not permitted, but if you’re looking for a place to stop on the way, head to Waitiki Landing which is 50 minutes from the Cape. Tours to Cape Reinga

The Kauri Museum
Just 90 minutes North of Auckland is the Kauri Museum, Northland’s largest undercover attraction covering 4500m2 of undercover exhibits. Here you can find stories and facts based regarding the impressive kauri tree, and the history of early settlers and the harsh challenges they faced.

Need a rental car for your trip around historical Northland? Far North Rentals offers high-quality and reliable rental vehicles, 24/7 roadside assistance and competitive rates. Check out what our customers have to say!

Arriving in the Bay of Islands on a Cruise Ship or simply looking for a tour?  Our associate company Mullarkeys Tours offers short 1, 2 and 4 hour tours. They visit places like the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves, Kawakawa, Kerikeri, the Puketi Forest and Haruru Falls.

Cycle Trail

Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Bike hire and shuttles.
The Twin Coast Cycle Trail is the Far North’s most recent tourist attraction.

It runs for 87 kms from Opua in the Bay of Islands to Horeke in the Hokianga Harbour.

The trail is “one way” and can be ridden in either direction.  It is divided into 4 sections:

Opua to Kawakawa (11 kms) Grade 1

Kawakawa to Kaikohe (34 kms) Grade 1 – 2

Kaikohe to Okaihau (14 kms) Grade 1 -2

Okaihau to Horeke (28 kms) Grade 2 – 3

Starting from the Opua end, the trail initially follows the route of a disused railway line as it heads towards Kawakawa and passes through a tunnel, across bridges and alongside the estuary. From Taumarere, about 4 kms from Kawakawa, the trail shares the track with a heritage train line – the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway.

Entering Kawakawa you ride for a short section through the middle of the township on State Highway 1. Stop for a few minutes and view the world famous Hundertwasser toilets.

The trail leaves Kawakawa from behind the railway station and continues past Moerewa and on to Otiria, climbing gently. You will pass old industrial areas and farmland as you head to Otiria which has beautiful waterfalls and impressive suspension bridges. Prior to Kaikohe is Kaikohe Aerodrome which was built by the Americans during the Second World War and used to boast scheduled air services to Auckland. Kaikohe is the highest point on the trail and the main town of the mid north.  There are supermarkets, accommodation and cafes here. Kaikohe is roughly the mid point of the trail.

The trail between Kaikohe and Okaihau is again over a disused railway line. The feature of this part of the trail is an 80 metre long curved railway tunnel. The trail then descends towards Lake Omapere, the largest lake in Northland.

Okaihau to Horeke is the most remote part of the trail.  On this section you will initially ride beside the road and then head steeply down a series of hairpins to the Utakura Valley. Here you ride alongside swiftly flowing streams, across a ford and beside the river. After this is probably the most spectacular section – a 1 km board walk ride through the mangrove estuary.  The last 3 kms are shared with the road as you finish towards Horeke and the Mangungu Mission House. Please also be aware the cell phone coverage can be very patchy on this section of the trail.

Transport and bike hire on the Twin Coast Cycle Trail
We are able to offer transport for you and your bike at any point on the Cycle Trail through our associate company Mullarkey Bike and Shuttle.  They have bases for bike hire in Opua, Kawakawa and Kaikohe.  Please contact them for all your transport or bike hire needs.