Kia ora: Kerikeri

Elisabeth Easther finds a town steeped in history

One of New Zealand's oldest buildings - the Stone Store in Kerikeri. Photo / Dean Purcell
One of New Zealand's oldest buildings - the Stone Store in Kerikeri. Photo / Dean Purcell

Name: Kerikeri

Population: Approximately 6000.

Where: About three hours' drive north of Auckland and 80km north of Whangarei.

Best reason to stop: The history, the river and the picturesque beauty.

Best place to take the kids: Parrot Place, a bird display and breeding centre, and the Makana Chocolate Factory.

Best pub: The Pioneer Restaurant and Bar, Waipapa.

Best food: Wharepuki and Akeake are always winning awards. And The Pear Tree (at the Stone Store) also offers consistent quality.

The town slogan: It's so nice, they named it twice.

The town's defining feature: The historic buildings - some of New Zealand's oldest - the subtropical gardens, the river and the pear tree that's almost 100 years old.

Profitable local businesses: Tourism, horticulture and agriculture. The single biggest employer is probably The Warehouse, and the Matauri Bay Clayworks deserve a mention for being amazing.

Best flat white: Jerusalem Cafe. Quirky Middle Eastern atmosphere.

Best bakery/cafe: The Kerikeri Bakery - all the classics done well.

Fruitiest shop: Scopes NZ, the kaleidoscope shop on Waipapa Rd. All 'scopes made on the premises.

Best local website: kerikeri.co.nz

Source of pride: The artisan produce, arts and crafts. See two Gardens of National Significance - Palmco and Wharepuke Gardens. The Turner Arts Centre is a drawcard for performers.

Best museum/art gallery: Pete's Pioneer and Transport Museum shouldn't be missed, ditto Rewa's Village, which takes visitors back to a time before European settlement. Or enjoy the locals' creativity by strolling along Kerikeri's Art & Craft Trail.

Best walk: The 90-minute round-trip bush walk up the river to the Rainbow Falls is good for all ages. And just before dawn at Maninganinga in the Puketi Forest, hundreds of native birds gather to welcome each day - a great reason to set the alarm on holiday. Proud stands of kauri are there too. Just twenty minutes out of Kerikeri with a lovely walkway through the trees.

Best view: Take a squiz from the Stone Store and gaze over the town basin. A bit further out of town, go to Matauri Bay and look out to The Cavalli Islands. Paradise.

Best park/playground: The Kerikeri Basin is pretty popular. The bridge has been taken away and now there's a curved walkway to the park where there are ducks and geese. Also, next to the Kerikeri Library, the Lions' playground is popular with families.

Here for a short time: Visit the Stone Store - it's a genuine icon.

Best swim: Charlie's Rock on the Waipapa River is a hoot, just five minutes from town. Fairy Pools.

When a local has visitors staying, they go to: The ethereal Fairy Pools, not far from the town centre, are sure to please.

Thank you to a kindly local for sharing his knowledge - he preferred to remain nameless so as not to offend the cafes and businesses there wasn't space to mention.

MOST FAMOUS LOCALS

Hongi Hika, Nga Puhi chief, famed for many things, including putting the Maori language into writing. Prominent early missionary Samuel Marsden was a local, while sculptor Chris Booth lives there today.

- NZ Herald

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