Anyone who spends time outside will know the value of landmarks or "tohu whenua".
They're the places that help us get our bearings, work out where we've been, where we're going. Without them, we'd be lost.
It's for this reason that the Tohu Whenua visitor programme was created, a collaboration of the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.
There are 25 "places that have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand" on its register, with more to be added and each has a story to help us better understand how we got here.
Although some carry a kohā, those on conservation land are public and free to visit. Some are easier to get to than others.
Currently found in Otago, Northland and the West Coast, there are plans to expand it to a fourth district, the Waikato, this year.
Here are just some of the free-to-visit Tohu Whenua on Department of Conservation land you should visit to get a better understanding of our country's past, present and future.
Rākaumangamanga, Cape Brett Beacon, Northland
The bulb at the end of the world, Cape Rēinga lighthouse turns 80 this year. One of the most recognisable lighthouses in New Zealand, the 1000-watt bulb has been in place since 1941. Long before the landmark, the headland held a special place in myth as the gateway to the afterlife.
However, it's Cape Brett whose beacon is recognised as one of the 25 Tohu Whenua. Rākaumangamanga is far older and more remote. There's no bus tour or road access to the 1905 lighthouse. It's eight hours by foot or a half-hour ferry from Paihia.
Te Rerenga Wairua or Cape Rēinga may be where spirits depart for the afterlife, but Cape Brett is the place where people first arrived from Hawaiki. It maintains a strong spiritual importance to Te Tai Tokerau Māori.
Today, the lighthouse keepers work at a switchboard at the other end of the motu, in Wellington.
The dodo of Kawarau Suspension Bridge
In the past 200 years, the Kawarau bridge has been a jumping off point for many adventures, from gold prospectors and pioneers to daredevils. In 1988, the bridge would become the Birthplace of Bungy, at least according to Mr Hackett.
Yet the bridge has an even more unusual link to flightless creatures, on a mission to meet their maker.
In 1822 Harry Higginson won international acclaim for building the suspension bridge. Being an ultimate overachiever, he went on to discover evidence of the freshly extinct dodo, on Mauritius. The bird became a symbol for conservation and popularised the idea of how a whole species might die out, overnight.
Today you'll find the Dodo on a plaque beside the bridge and in Wellington Cathedral.
A fittingly extinct mascot for the thrill-seekers who throw themselves off the bridge every day.
Rangihoua's missing mission
The Marsden Cross in Rangihoua is the only evidence of the Rangihoua Bay mission.
You may not realise it but the dreamy cove in the Bay of Islands marks many firsts in New Zealand history. Oihi (Hohi) was home to the first schoolhouse and where te reo Māori was first written down.
They can even claim the first Kiwi Christmas service in 1814, which was held at the beach. Naturally.
The Rangihoua mission became the first shared European and Māori settlement, following the travels of chief Te Pahi, who struck up a friendship with Samuel Marsden in Australia and invited the missionary to move to the idyllic Northland cove.
By 1832, the lack of suitable farming land left the missionaries to abandon their cottages. The old paths, the pā and history remain.
War and Peace at Ruapekapeka Pā
Five years and 40km separate the battle of Ruapekapeka from the treaty signings at Waitangi. In 1846 it was the site of the final battle in the Northern Wars.
Often treated as a footnote in the story of Te Tiriti, Tohu Whenua want to see the battlefield written large in early Māori and Pākehā history at one of New Zealand's newest landmarks.
You can still see the scars of mortar pits and redoubts dug by 400 defenders, outnumbered four-to-one. In spite of dire odds, the legendary rebel Hōne Heke was able to escape and sue for peace.
This year the 175th anniversary of the battle was marked with a memorial.
The landmark reads: He Rua Whakautu mo te Riri - In remembrance of the conflict.
Arrowtown Chinese Settlement
The flashy, postcard-friendly high street of Arrowtown hides another more modest side to the former prospecting town.
Low houses built into the banks of Bush Creek tell a different story of the 1800s gold rush to the one you might know. It is written in Cantonese.
The Chinese village belonged to "guest workers" invited for their expertise in the goldfields of Australia. Despite the large population well into the 1900s, very little detailed history remains anywhere outside Arrowtown.
An 1881 Otago census shows that of 5004 Chinese migrants, just nine were women. The common story was of a mostly male, non-English speaking workforce who kept to themselves. It's an attitude recognisable in many new-world boomtowns. "Forget it, Jack. It's Chinatown."
In the 1980s painstaking work was done to excavate the stories of the inhabitants.
This was central to unearthing details of how a 1896 Poll Tax emptied Otago of its Chinese population, and led to an historic apology in 2002 for the discriminatory laws that turned Bush Creek into a ghost town.
The good, the bad and the ugly sides of Bannockburn
The Bannockburn Sluicings are an odd inclusion on the list. The canyons evoke the landscape of a Spaghetti Western or America's Monument Valley, but the clay cliffs are entirely man-made.
Carving into the clay fields with high-powered hoses - the steep cliffs were formed by Otago pioneers looking for gold. There's no fossicking to be done today. Instead, you can take a dramatic day walk through the artificial gulleys to the remains of Stewart Town.
On the horizon, those grapevines are no mirage. The desert exists on the boundary of some of Otago's most celebrated vineyards.
End of the Tracks at the Denniston Mine
Climbing 518 vertical metres, the steep tracks of the Denniston incline reach a coal mine in the clouds.
The view from the top of Mount Rochfort Plateau is breathtaking, as is the journey up. Minecarts appear to float on the horizon and the Tasman Sea.
When it first opened in 1879, locals deemed it an "eighth wonder of the world". Although the term was liberally used by Kiwis at the time - think Tarawera and Milford Sound - this West Coast rail route deserves to be better known.
Today the rail runs and steep declines 25km east of Westport have become a mecca for mountain bikers.
Find out more about Tohu Whenua sites at tohuwhenua.nz and DoC's heritage icon sites at doc.govt.nz/our-work/heritage/icon-heritage-sites