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Translated literally Kerikeri means dig, dig. Kerikeri established itself from the earliest days as an agricultural town. The Maori grew crops of potatoes here and permitted the British to make the town their second Christian mission for economical reasons. While the Maori chief Hongi Hika rubbed noses with the British he was better known amongst other tribes as a terror. The standard of his English however impressed the British to the extent that he was invited to Britain where he even met King George. Unfortunately, Hongi Hika traded in the honours and gifts they bestowed upon for guns. He returned home with about 500 guns which would later have a devastating effect during the Musket Wars in the 1820's.Today Kerikeri's orchards produce kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, mandarins, tamarillos, tangelos and more. The kiwi fruit is harvested late April to May at which time orchard work is readily available.
One of Kerikeri's claim to fame is being home to the oldest buildings in New Zealand. Stone Store's construction was completed after years in 1836 to store supplies for the mission station. It is the oldest stone building in New Zealand. It is a delightful construction overlooking the wharf on Kerikeri River within the Historic Basin. The wooden Kemp House (Kerikeri Mission House) has defied both the odds and time. Constructed in 1821 for the Reverend John Butler who set up the mission station, Kemp house is the oldest wooden building in New Zealand Today the house still retains its original fittings and chattels while the garden is planted in the same style as the 1800's would have called for.
Kororipo Pa or the fortified city over which Chief Hongi Hika ruled lies 20 minutes away from Kemp House. To get there head up the hill behind the Stone Store until signs point out the Historical Walk. Visitors here should come armed with a healthy imagination as unfortunately none of the original structures have survived the test of time. This however was the very site where the tribes' warriors would gather before running amok on rival southern tribes. Each warrior would return with the heads of his defeated rivals. These were then impaled, shrunk and in an ornamental kinda way depicted the prowess of both the tribe and warrior. (As horrid as this all sounds today to 'civilised' people, some of the Europeans of the time weren't much better. Some of the Maori tribes had beautiful tattoo's covering their bodies and faces. This was quite a novelty to the Europeans who of course just had to have some to show their friends back home. The Maori became head-hunted in the most unfortunate kinda way and most likely ended up in Victorian showcases back in Europe).
Rewa's Village is a reproduction of a pre-European Maori kainga or village. Although built in 1969 it is probably the original site of Chief Rewa's village. It is a genuine replica complete with hangi pits (dug-out ovens), beautiful carved-houses, family enclosures and a weapons store. An audio-visual presentation details Hongi Hika's era.
Waimate North is a historic village just off SH1 (take the detour at Te ahuahu). This was first Anglican mission and the land's first inland settlement by European settlement. The 2-storey Te Waimate Mission House, built in 1832, was once home to Bishop Selwyn, New Zealand's first Anglican bishop. The house which was built of kauri by Maori converts to the Anglican mission and is the second oldest in the land.
Your best guide to walks in Kerikeri is the free Kerikeri Basin Walks which is available from the Bay of Islands Visitor Information Centre in Paihia. Rainbow Falls is one good option. Cross the bridge in front of Stone Store and enter the scenic reserve. Signs will point you in the direction of the Kerikeri River track (4km) which passes the Wharepoke Falls or Fairy Pools which are good for swimming and then leads to the Rainbow Falls.