The leafy town of Kerikeri sits on an inlet at the northwestern end of the Bay of Islands and is renowned for its warm temperate climate, fertile soil and creative residents. Known as the ‘fruit bowl of the north’, here you’ll find abundant fresh local foods, cafes, vineyards, galleries, gardens, arts and crafts.
While the exact origin of Kerikeri’s name has never been established, it has given rise to the town’s unofficial slogan – ‘So nice they named it twice!’
On 23 December 1814, Reverend Samuel Marsden arrived in the Bay of Islands and anchored just outside the Kerikeri Inlet at Oihi Bay in Rangihoua. Here on Christmas Day he held New Zealand’s first church service – Marsden Cross on the shore commemorates the event. Marsden set up a mission station and returned to Australia, returning in 1819 to found a second one in the Kerikeri Basin.
At the time Kerikeri was home to a formidable Ngapuhi chieftain, Hongi Hika. He and his warriors terrorised tribes around the North Island, but he welcomed the early missionaries, allowing them to settle on land overlooked by Kororipo Pa, his tribe’s village - probably in the hope that this relationship would help him obtain muskets and other weapons.
The Stone Store and the Mission House (Kemp House) built by Marsden’s early missionaries are New Zealand’s oldest standing European buildings and for a time the mission flourished. Eventually Hongi Hika and his tribe moved on, abandoning the Pa. Today it is a historic reserve managed by the Department of Conservation.
As a result the mission was eventually closed, and over the years the Stone Store was used for all manner of purposes – as a trading post, library, barracks, school and general store. You can explore the restored Mission House and the Mission’s Stone Store on the Kerikeri afternoon tour.
The Kerikeri afternoon tour takes in the highlights of the region, including the Mission Station, a vineyard tour and tasting, and a boutique chocolate factory. If you have more time, exploring the region’s many vineyards and sampling local produce is a great way to spend a day, while fine dining options in Kerikeri include Wharepuke and The Pear Tree.
Kerikeri’s main village is a bustling area with designer clothing, original crafts and gift shops, home decor and gourmet food stores, as well as a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings.
To gain an insight into early Māori life in Northland, walk to the historic site of Kororipo Pa and explore the archaeological features still visible, including terraces, pits and a defensive ditch and bank. Then pay a visit to Rewa’s Village, a recreation of a traditional Māori village constructed by the community.
There are several other walks and hikes on offer around Kerikeri. Rainbow Falls is a 27 metre-high waterfall on the Kerikeri River, surrounded by beautiful scenery and the habitat of wild kiwi. It can be reached via a 10-minute walk from the Falls carpark, or as part of the Kerikeri River Track, which will also take you past Wharepuke Falls and the Fairy Pools (a popular swimming spot) on a 1hr 30 min walk. Find out more about Bay of Islands walks