Image: Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri
Kerikeri is a picturesque town in the far north of New Zealand. Surrounded by orchards, vineyards and Victorian history, it’s the perfect base for a relaxed holiday. Here are the ten best things you can do there:
Visit the Kerikeri Farmers Market
Every Sunday morning, Kerikeri has a wonderful farmers market that showcases some amazing local produce. There’s wine, cheese, nuts, bread, crepes, freshly made blueberry ice-cream and frozen yoghurt, and, of course, lots of fruit and vege. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s worth going just to sample the tastes and smells. Also, there’s an interesting art and craft market across the road, a chance to buy some New Zealand souvenirs that were actually made in New Zealand.
I recommend you go to the farmers market, purchase the ingredients of a stellar picnic and then…
Take a picnic to Rainbow Falls
This big, exciting waterfall is the top tourist attraction in Kerikeri. I was expecting an okay view when my boyfriend and I took our farmers market picnic there, but the Rainbow Falls genuinely blew me away. There are several benches around the top of the waterfall, but if you prefer a view from the bottom you can walk down there too. There’s a track along the river that leads to the peaceful Kerikeri Basin, where you can…
Tour Kemp House
Kemp House is New Zealand’s oldest European building, built by missionaries in 1820. It contains much of the original furniture and household items, giving you an idea of what life was like for early settlers. If you like history, you should visit it, along with the neighbouring Stone Store, New Zealand’s oldest stone building, and take a stroll through its lovely English garden. Then, if you cross the river, you can…
Tour Rewa’s Village
Rewa’s Village is a replica Maori fishing village, as it would have been at the time of the early European settlers. It’s one of the best places in New Zealand to get a real sense of Maori history, and of what life would have been like in an ancient village. But if you want to get away from history and immerse yourself in nature at its finest, you should…
Walk in the Puketi Kauri Forest
The Puketi Kauri Forest is honestly the most beautiful forest I have ever walked through. Kauri are very special trees, giants to rival America’s redwoods, but they’re endangered due to nineteenth and early twentieth century logging, and something called kauri dieback disease. The Puketi Forest is protected, and when the sunshine is trickling down through the foliage it’s breathtaking.
There’s a short boardwalk in one part of the forest – Northland’s only wheelchair-accessible bush walk, apparently – that’s fantastic because, being raised up above the undergrowth, it gives you a magical perspective that you wouldn’t usually get of a forest. Also, great news if you’re on a New Zealand campervan hire holiday: nestled in the Puketi Forest is a free overnight campground called Forest Pools. It is as scenic as it sounds, right next to the Waipapa River, which you can swim in. Even better, you don’t have to book it. Don’t tell anyone else!
Jump off Charlies Rock
Kerikeri has another nice waterfall to go to. It’s not as big as Rainbow Falls, but you can jump off it. Charlies Rock is kind of hidden away, which is why you’ll find more locals there than tourists. My boyfriend and I almost missed it, and it was an unexpectedly long walk to get there, with some tricky climbs in places, but worth it. We didn’t swim, but it was great just sitting on the rocks looking at the water.
Visit Aroha Island
Aroha Island translates to Love Island, but it’s actually a wildlife sanctuary, among other things. It’s one of the few places in New Zealand where you have a real chance of seeing kiwi in the wild, if you take an evening tour. The tour is quite expensive and there’s no guarantee you’ll see a kiwi, but there are other native birds to see there, and you can kayak from the island to the Kerikeri Basin. There’s a Childrens Corner that teaches kids about conservation, but if you have children with you, you might want to visit Parrot Place as well.
Surf at Matauri Bay
Matauri Bay is a beautiful beach, off which the famous Rainbow Warrior was wrecked. It’s an easy drive north of Kerikeri, with white sand and crystal-clear water. It’s popular for surfing and fishing, and you can dive down to see the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior.
Browse at Village Books
Village Books in Waipapa, just outside Kerikeri, is a particularly impressive second-hand bookshop. If you’re a booklover like me, you’ll go absolutely mad in there.
Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Anyone in the Bay of Islands should make an effort to visit Waitangi. It is, after all, the most historically significant spot in the whole of New Zealand. Waitangi is really close to Kerikeri. It’s where New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in 1840 – and it’s still controversial to this day. Waitangi is a great place to learn about Maori culture, as well as early European settler life. It’s expensive for international visitors to do the tours and ‘experiences’, but only $25 to visit the Treaty Grounds, where you can explore various sites including James Busby’s Victorian house and the exquisitely carved Maori Meeting House.
New Zealand residents can enter the Treaty Grounds by donation and children can enter free.
List compiled by Abigail Simpson