The largest town in New Zealand is Kerikeri. The town has a rich and colorful history and today it has become a popular tourist destination. It is widely known for its fantastic chocolates, boutique vineyards, art galleries, cafes and crafts. Sunday mornings are the mornings to head for the Farmer’s Market. To taste some wines you have to explore the Vineyard Trail.
The Main Street has a tropical flair.
Here you’ll find Wharepuke, a sub-tropical garden. The name Wharepuke means “house on the hill”. The garden is located on the Stone Store Hill and was developed in 1993 by owner Robin Booth in a valley that runs down to the historic Stone Store. At one time this valley was a citrus orchard, today two very old Tangelo trees remain. Here people can relax among trees and plants that grow well in sub-tropical conditions. In the garden are several walkways and some adventurous trails. There is a visitors center with information about the garden and some small plants for sale. If you give prior notice refreshments and lunch can be available.
Visitors to KeriKeri enjoy seeing the latest sculpture by Chris Booth in the central domain. The sculpture is called Te Whiringa o Manoko which in translation means the interweaving of cultures in Kerikeri. It stands 11 meters tall, with stacked boulders and bronze elements in five vertical columns and one horizontal.
In the town you’ll also find New Zealand’s oldest building Kemp House. It was built by Maori sawyers and missionary carpenters who came from the London-based Church Missionary Society in 1820 -21. Kemp House predates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by almost 20 years. You can view a lot of furniture and personal items that were once owned by the missionary families, living here. It sits in the shadow of Hongi Hika’s Kororipo Pa (hill fort). Pa can also refer to any Maori settlement. Kemp House is the sole survivor of the Musket Wars of the 1820s.
Rewa’s Village and Discoverer’s Garden is a full-scale reproduction of a Maori village. It was traditional for each sub-tribe to build a pa (fortified village) on a hilltop or some other easily defended position.
The idea of the garden started with a collection of plants including living specimens of the many species of Northland plants which were used for food. When you enter the garden on the left hand side of Rewa’s Village there is a large bed called Te Wao Nui a Tane. The plants here were used for nourishment and were also beneficial to the early European settlers. Other plants from rocky places, the seashore and offshore islands have been placed around a tiny wetland pond. At the top of the rise people will find seats and a border of trees that are valued for their timber. A shady walk leads through the trees. Many varieties of ferns can be seen.
The Stone Store was built to hold mission supplies and wheat from the mission farm. The building was leased as a kauri gum trading store. Today people can shop for authentic frontier trade goods and classically branded Kiwiana products. It is located right next to Kemp House. The Stone Store counts as New Zealand’s oldest stone building.
Ake Ake Historic Reserve is a fortified headland pa that offers fantastic views of the western part of the Bay of Islands and guards the entry to the Kerikeri and Te Puna inlets.
Take the time to explore Puketi Kauri Forest. The ancient kauri trees are visited by about 50,000 visitors per year. They use the elevated wooden walkway to get up close to these trees.
Here you’ll find wildlife such as the Kokako, North Island Brown Kiwi, Kukupa (NZ pigeon), and the more common Fantail, Pied Tit, Tui, Grey Warbler, Shining Cuckoo, and Kingfisher.
Another distinctive creature is New Zealand’s unique Kauri snail, a carnivore that feeds mainly on earthworms, slugs and soft-bodied insects.
Visitors enjoy The Parrot Place, a Bird Display and Breeding Center in the heart of Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. Here you can delight in about 300 birds from all around the world. Stroll through walk-in aviaries that will get you up close to these colorful birds. You can get up close to their friendly pet parrots and get a photo taken with them or feed them in the aviaries. Children can enjoy the play park and picnic area.
You can wander through subtropical gardens and enjoy the antics of native and exotic parrots including the New Zealand Kakariki.
Visit Aroha Island that can be reached by way of a permanent causeway through the mangroves of this 5-hectare island. The island provides a safe haven for the North Island brown kiwi and other native birds. Here you can also have a lovely picnic. There is a visitors center, kayaks for rent and after dark walks to spy on the kiwi in the wild.
See the beautiful Rainbow Falls, a cascade that encloses a moss-covered cavern It is part of the Kerkeri River Track.
Makana Confections manufactures and retails high-quality chocolates at its boutique chocolate factories in Kerikeri and Blenheim. It has become a popular visitor attraction in the Bay of Islands, along the Marlborough Wine Trail. Visitors can see how chocolates are hand-made, enjoy samples and shop. Their products are unique in that they never use preservatives, artificial flavoring or coloring.
You’ll find a large range of handcrafted unique products from New Zealand native timbers – kauri, rimu, totara and pohutukawa. So take a look at The Kauri Workshop where you’ll find small to large wooden products for every occasion and budget. Items range from spoons and toys to ancient kauri bowls and carvings, carbon dated up to 50,000 years old. In the workshop you can see products being made.
Pete’s Pioneer & Transport Museum highlights transportation and collectibles centered around New Zealand’s history both pre- and post-European times. You can see vintage cars and pioneer exhibits as well as grocery shops and school houses from way back when. There is period clothing and a small theater that show footage from a range of past events.