A website developed for a Northland heritage park has made it to the finals of the world's top web design awards alongside major international institutions such as the Tate Modern in London and the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

The website takes visitors on a virtual tour of Rangihoua Heritage Park, on the Purerua Peninsula in the northern Bay of Islands, and was built by Wellington-based Locales for the Marsden Cross Trust Board, one of three groups involved in managing the park.

It was nominated in the cultural institutions category of the Webby Awards - dubbed "the internet's highest honour" - and made the final five alongside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, the Garden of the Phoenix in Chicago, The Tate Modern in London and the Australian Ballet.

The category winner and people's choice award went to the Smithsonian.

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The Rangihoua Heritage Park Digital Tour allows people to explore the site from home and discover its history through video interviews, narrated guides and archaeological finds. It is also available as a mobile phone tour.

John King, chairman of the Marsden Cross Trust Board, said the Smithsonian was always going to be hard to beat.

"However it was a great success for our website to be one of the five finalists from around the world," he said.

Rangihoua Heritage Park was opened in 2014 and protects the site of New Zealand's first European settlement, set up under the protection of chiefs Ruatara and Te Pahi, Ruatara's pa, and the site of the first recorded Christian service in New Zealand, on Christmas Day in 1814.

Rangihoua Heritage Park brings together land owned or managed by the Department of Conservation, Ngati Torehina's Rangihoua Native Reserve Board and the Marsden Cross Trust Board. The trust board is made up of descendants of the first European settlers plus Anglican Church representatives.

In 2015 a rammed earth and carbon-fibre building called Rore Kahu, which marks the start of a pilgrim's trail through the park, was a finalist in the World Building of the Year awards.

The Webby Awards were founded in 1996. Judging is by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which has more than 2000 members. The 2017 winners were announced on April 25.

■ Got to www.rangihouaheritage.co.nz/full-tour#1 to take the digital tour.