1 TREATY GROUNDS AND MUSEUM
It's a given - every visit to Waitangi is automatically enriched by a visit to the Treaty Grounds. In fact, it should probably be mandatory for all New Zealanders. A recent experiment by NZ Herald Focus found many Kiwis on the streets of Auckland didn't know the details of the Treaty of Waitangi - including what year the historic document was signed.
A visit to Te Kongahu Museum of Waitangi is an easy way to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. After a tour of the grounds, look out over the bay towards Russell, you'll be transported back to when it was known as the "hellhole of the South Pacific" because of its population of drunken sailors.
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If you have energy to burn, the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park opened last October and is ready for action. It's in the Waitangi Endowment Forest and there are 10 trails of varying difficulty, so you can take the kids; 20km has been completed, with 50km more still being developed. Still itching for more? Take on the newly opened Twin Coast Cycle Trail.
3 KAYAK THE RIVER
If you're looking to impress a potential lover ahead of Valentines Day, try recreating The Bachelor's infamous group kayaking date on the Waitangi River. Bay of Islands Kayak Cruises can take you from the Waitangi Bridge up to the spectacular Haruru Falls. Be sure to try kayaking under the rushing white water - but expect to get wet. For a historical experience, Taiamai Tours also offer a guided tour up the river in a waka.
Down the road in Paihia, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat. Every local will recommend Charlotte's Kitchen - right on the Paihia Wharf - and in particular, their incredible pork-knuckle dish. If you're after somewhere fun to take the kids, Sauce is a fantastic custom pizza and craft beer joint on the main drag. And for a nightcap, Alongside Bar on the wharf has great atmosphere and views, as well as a street food market every Friday.
5 GET OUT AMONG THE ISLANDS
Whether it's a yacht, jet boat, or water taxi, getting out among the islands is the best way to imagine ships arriving, cultures clashing and everything that happened after those fateful first meetings. Local guides will be able to point out the important places. Nature buffs should definitely add Moturua Island to the itinerary. There are no ferries to this native bird sanctuary, so you'll need to get there by water taxi, or on your own vessel. The island also hosts the Bay of Islands Walking Weekend.