As the largest town in Northland, Kerikeri is considered to be the heart of the Bay of Islands region, along with nearby Paihia on the coast. Base yourself here to enjoy the fresh produce, subtropical gardens and artistic shops and galleries and explore Māori and early colonial history in the Basin.
To get a feel for the town, browse the boutique shops along Main Street and enjoy a coffee or meal in one of the many cafés. See Te Whiringa o Manoko, a sculpture of stacked stones in the Kerikeri Domain and visit the Kaan Zamaan Gallery for artistic inspiration.
Follow the snaking Kerikeri River to the Kerikeri Inlet to the east and explore the picture-perfect Kerikeri Basin. It is centered on the Kerikeri Mission Station, where you can visit two of New Zealand’s oldest colonial buildings. First see the old Kemp House, built around 1820, then buy hand-crafted gifts in the Stone Store. The store’s period decor and costumed staff take you right back to the early trading days when kauri gum was sold here.
From the bridge, spot the whirlpools where fearless Māori warriors used to swirl their hand-carved wakas around in before paddling out to war. Their canoes could be seen from Kororipo Pā, a former Māori stronghold.
Across the river is Rewa’s Village. Discover the Māori way of life in this replica fishing village with Discoverers' Garden. Follow the nearby sculpture trail within the Wharepuke Subtropical Gardens or take the kids to the lush realms and fun birds of the Parrot Place.
Back at the bridge, follow the Kerikeri River Track through the rainforest until you reach a fresh-water pool below low waterfalls. Dip in on a hot day to cool off before hiking to the 88-feet (27-meter) Rainbow Falls.
Kerikeri is the citrus capital of New Zealand, so be sure to sample the fresh produce. Follow the Vineyard Trail west of town for wine tastings and sample hand-made chocolates at Makana Confections. Drop in at Pete’s Pioneers Transport Museum to browse his collection of vintage vehicles.
Kerikeri is only about a 3.5-hour drive north of Auckland, but with its subtropical setting and historic charm, you feel as if you are a world away from New Zealand’s biggest city.