Guess what? I just spent four days in Kerikeri. (House sitting with my boyfriend, so free accommodation – score!) Kerikeri is in the far north of New Zealand. It gets really hot up there. Everywhere you look it’s orchards and vineyards.
My family passed through it years ago, when we took a campervan up to Cape Reinga, but this was my first time properly exploring it.
I’ll start with the town itself, which is a lot bigger than I’d expected. (It has TWO supermarkets!) The main street is really picturesque. There are a few interesting shops, especially of the art and craft variety. It’s simply pleasant. Even the New World supermarket has an old-fashioned stone frontage.
On the Sunday morning, we went to the Kerikeri Farmers Market. It had wine, cheese, nuts, bread, crepes, blueberry ice-cream, avocados – did I mention cheese? It was incredible cheese. The Art and Craft Market was right next to it. One stall had handcrafted wooden toys; another had necklaces made of fossils and crystals.
We took our incredible cheese and walnut-and-honey bread to Rainbow Falls for a picnic. I was expecting a small waterfall, but this was awesome – so pretty! No wonder it’s the top tourist attraction in Kerikeri. Well, apart from Kemp House and the Stone Store.
Kemp House is the oldest European house in New Zealand. It was built in 1822. (That’s old for New Zealand.) The Stone Store is New Zealand’s oldest stone house, built a decade later. Kemp House has a beautiful (and very English) garden. It’s next to a river that has a lovely bridge, on the other side of which is Rewa’s Village.
Rewa’s Village is a replica Maori fishing village. If you want an idea of what the pioneering Europeans would have seen when they arrived in New Zealand, take a tour.
Other places to go in Kerikeri include Charlies Rock. It’s an interesting feature that you can jump off into a swimming hole. The waterfall there isn’t as big as Rainbow Falls, but it’s pretty too. There’s also Aroha Island, where you can see kiwi, and the Parrot Place, which kids will love.
A somewhat less advertised attraction is the Edmonds Ruins. They’re not that impressive – you’ll only spend a few minutes there and it’s a little out of the way – but it’s nice to see the stone walls of a Victorian farmhouse in New Zealand.
Also a little out of the way is the Puketi Forest. It’s well worth going, though. The forest is full of enormous kauri trees.
I mean wow!
There are hardly any places to see giant kauri, as most of them were logged ages ago. The Puketi Forest has a short boardwalk that’s raised up above the undergrowth, making it the only wheelchair accessible bush walk in Northland. It’s raised up to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease, but there’s another advantage. Being up above the undergrowth gives you a whole different perspective as you walk through the forest.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a beautiful bush walk.
Kerikeri and the surrounding area is a great place to go if you’re interested in New Zealand’s history. An easy drive north, you’ve got Matauri Bay, where the Rainbow Warrior was wrecked. An easy drive south-east, you’ve got Waitangi, where the famous (or infamous) Treaty was signed. A little further south, you’ve got the town of Kawakawa, which has glowworm caves and a vintage railway.
If you’re a booklover like me, I recommend you visit Village Books in Waipapa. It’s a rather good second-hand bookshop. I went crazy in there. I had a whole pile of classics before I realised I shouldn’t spend that much money and, painfully, I reduced the pile to just three.
A place we didn’t get to see was the Wairere Boulders. I would have liked to – it looks cool – but it would have been a long drive getting there. That’s why we didn’t go to Cape Reinga either.
A car or campervan is absolutely essential if you’re visiting Kerikeri. If you’re passing through on a New Zealand campervan hire holiday, try to do so on a weekend. That way you can visit the Farmers Market on Sunday morning.
One last thing: drop in at the Blue River Orchard for a fresh blueberry ice-cream or frozen yoghurt. So yum!
Article by Abigail Simpson, author of POMS AWAY! A British Immigrant’s View of New Zealand