When people think of Northland, they usually think of the Bay of Islands, Waitangi, and the Ninety-Mile Beach. Or maybe the kauri trees on the west side of Northland. Let me mention some of the perhaps lesser well-known things to do.
The first is to find a place to stay on the water (generally on the east side of Northland) and enjoy the beach. We found a great place in Coopers Beach and went kayaking, as well as just walking and sitting on a very peaceful beach.
Right next to motel where we were staying was the Rangikaiti Pa. It was a pre-gun powder pa; i.e., the style used by the Maoris before they started buying guns from Europeans, which they started doing in the early 1800s. According to the DOC, it “is an example of the ‘wedding cake’ style of pa formation.” Here is a picture from the top of the pa.
For dinner, we ate at the Mangonui Fish Shop one night.
Another night we ate at Indian Spice, a very nice Indian place in Mangonui. I bought a mince pie for lunch one day. You have to be careful about mince pies that you buy in the supermarket. Many of them are not that good. Actually, I had terrible luck, except for the mince pie from Keripies, which was quite good.
Further south in Northland, we went to the Ruapekapeka Pa, as well Hundertwasser’s toilets in Kawakawa. Ruapekapeka was the site of the last battle in the Northern War from 1845-46. (For more on the New Zealand Wars, of which the Northern War was a part, see my post on the New Zealand Wars. There is a model of the Ruapekepeke Pa in the War Memorial Museum in Auckland.)
The battle was basically a draw, as was the war. Still, the pa was quite interesting. You can clearly see the dugouts and fortifications the Maoris used. Very interesting and ingenious. The only problem was it had rained earlier in the day and there was still a mist in the air. Our shoes and pants legs got soaked. Still, it was worth it – at least in my opinion.
Hundertwasser’s toilets are quite unusual. Friedensreich Hundertwasser was born in Austria in 1928, but he became a New Zealand citizen in 1990. He was an artist and ecologist. The toilets in Kawakawa were his final creation. I will not try to explain them. I will just show you:
Our final stop in Northland (or, at least, north of Auckland) was at Te Hana Te Ao Marama. It is right on SH1. It is a recreated pre-European pa; i.e., it shows pas before Maoris had firearms. While maybe it sounds marginal, I found it fascinating. It really did look like drawings of pas I have seen. The guided tours are expensive, but the ticket for just a walk through is worth it. You could see how the fortifications were built – and worked – before the Maoris had guns or bows and arrows. It also helps you appreciate how quickly, and how well, Maoris adapted to the use of firearms shortly before and during the New Zealand Wars. (See my post on that subject.)