Kerikeri – is this North Island’s best small town?

With a population of only around 7000 people, Kerikeri in the Far North of Northland punches above its weight in the pecking order of New Zealand‘s towns. Home territory for Maori chief Hongi Hika, a man with a scary reputation, Kerikeri was first settled by Europeans back in 1814. Somehow the missionaries managed to hit it off with him, setting up a base five years later.

If you plan on visiting this beautiful town, here are some recommended things to do in Kerikeri.

Things to do in Kerikeri: Kerikeri River by Kaiwhakahaere, in the public domain
Kerikeri River: Kaiwhakahaere, in the public domain

Things to do in Kerikeri

First for everything?

Kerikeri is home to New Zealand’s oldest house, Kemp House. Once known as the Kerikeri Mission Station, it was built for Reverend John Butler back in 1821. Nearby is the popular Stone Store, built in the 1830s. Needing somewhere which could keep the vermin from ruining the food, stone was chosen as the material best suited to its construction and an ex-convict stonemason was brought in from Australia to build it. It wasn’t a success for storing wheat, as the crop failed, and instead became a kauri gum trading store.

Kerikeri isn’t content to leave it at that. It’s got the oldest fruit tree in the country, a pear tree, with a plaque to prove it. And if that wasn’t enough, the town also lays claim to planting the first grape vines in the country – just how many firsts does one town need?

A treat for nature lovers

One of the best things to do in Kerikeri is hiking. The town is blessed with two “Gardens of National Significance”. Palmco and Wharepuke gardens both lend themselves to gentle strolls on a fine day. Palmco, as its name suggests, is a showcase for palms, its memorable display garden the result of years of hard work. Wharepuke is also a subtropical garden with two acres packed full of exotic plants including some rare imported specimens. If these gardens are too formal for you, then hike the bush walk up the river to the beautiful Rainbow Falls or drive along State Highway 10 to visit the kauri forest.

Things to do in Kerikeri: Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls: Eragon / CC-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

So good they named it twice…

These days, there’s a wealth of boutiques, art galleries, cafes and crafts to tempt tourists to stay. There’s a farmers’ market every weekend and a vineyard trail to follow. Pete’s Pioneer & Transport Museum is an interesting diversion back to yesteryear and it won’t only be art lovers that will appreciate Chris Booth‘s sculpture near the library. The town’s slogan, thought to originate from a comment written by a visiting backpacker, claims that the town’s so good they named it twice. To find out whether you agree, you’ll just have to visit for yourself.

About JuliaHammond

Website: http://www.juliahammond.co.uk

Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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