On the banks of the Waipekakoura River half an hour’s drive from North Base, the Kerikeri Mission Station is one of New Zealand’s foremost historic sites. At this revered place local Māori interacted on peaceful terms with the earliest colonists: the former keen to learn the ways and means of the Europeans, the latter determined to spread the Christian message.
Today the Mission Station is essential viewing on a Northland holiday. The site of the Stone Store and Kemp House is set in beautiful heritage gardens that have been cultivated for over 200 years. Here is New Zealand’s first orchard, and the ’cottage garden’ flowerbeds lovingly tended today as they were when the site was first converted from Maori gardens that lay fallow when missionaries arrived in 1819.
Kemp House was constructed from 1821. The Kemps were the third family to occupy it and along the way take ownership, which they held until missionary James Kemp’s great grandson Ernest Kemp gifted it to the nation in 1974. Access to Kemp House is by guided tour only to help preserve New Zealand’s oldest building.
The Stone Store was built in 1832 as a Missionary Society warehouse. Over the years it has been a library, barracks, boys’ school and general store, which it still is today in its role as a gift shop. There are museum displays upstairs.
Kerikeri Mission Station tells the story of the first missionary families and the lives of the Ngāpuhi people. Within the grounds there are many artifacts dating to the earliest European settlement and interchanges with the Māori people, giving a fascinating insight into the period. In the words of Heritage New Zealand researchers, the Mission “marks the beginnings of the shared country that would evolve over 200 years with conflict, but also with courtesy and humanity that each learnt.”
A number of trails allow you to explore the area on both sides of the inlet that includes Kororipo Heritage Park. Take the Pa Road Walk to the site of Kororipo Pā, Hongi Hika’s stronghold that overlooked the land vested in the missionary settlers by the Ngāpuhi chief himself. At St James Church amble quietly around the old graveyard. A 20-30 minute walk takes you from the Stone Store to downtown Kerikeri along Hongi Hika Walk.