Bone up on our country's past at one of these intriguing highway stop-offs.

1. Pompallier House

The Strand, Russell, Northland Ph (09) 403 9015. Kororareka Russell Open daily 10am-4pm (November-April until 5pm)

A unique slice of New Zealand's founding heritage. French provincial-style Pompallier Mission is a rare experience, the sole surviving building of the French Catholic mission headquarters in the Western Pacific. Visitors can have a unique hands-on experiences in the working mission printery and tannery, hear the stories of the people who worked and lived through fascinating times of Treaty-making and subsequent war. The later colonial gardens and heritage landscape are a beautiful setting in which to explore or relax.

2. Kerikeri Mission Station
246 Kerikeri Rd, Kerikeri Basin. Daily 10am-4pm (November-April closes 5pm). Kemp House heritage dinner, Saturday, August 31, 6pm. $75 a person


Sample a delicious heritage dinner (at the Honey House cafe next door) inspired by missionary wife Marianne Williams' first dinner on the shores of New Zealand, in August 1823. Then, as now, the four-course candlelight dinner features local seasonal produce (and today's wines) and will include a tour of the dining room in Kemp House. Booking essential through the Stone Store. Ph (09) 407 9236 email
3. Alberton
100 Mt Albert Rd, Auckland. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10.30am-4.30pm. 150-year anniversary formal balls, Saturdays, August 31 and September 14, 7pm, $30.

Dress up in Victorian finery, replicate the height of the county hunts and balls of the 1870s for which Alberton was famed (along with wonderful garden parties and music). Trip the light fantastic in set dances and enjoy a supper. This romantic mansion began as a farmhouse in 1863 and still has much of its original wallpapers and furniture. Bookings are essential for each ball. Email or ph (09) 846 7367.

4. Highwic
40 Gillies Ave, Auckland. Wed-Sun, 10.30am-4.30pm. Tickets $10.

One of our finest timber Gothic houses, Highwic, a treasure of antiques and beautiful gardens near the hustle of central Newmarket. From September 15-29, see modern takes on traditional quilts from the Pt Chevalier Monday Modern Quilt Group.

5. Melanesian Mission House
44 Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay

Right beside the crowds of the popular beach is the 1859 Melanesian Mission Building. Built from Rangitoto stone, it housed St Andrew's College, which educated boys from the Melanesian Islands. The former museum is now a restaurant, an unusual stop on a day's beach outing.