In a picture-perfect setting in the Bay of Islands one of New Zealand’s premier historic sites preserves the stories of tumultuous times when Māori met missionaries and life was changed forever. Established in 1819, the Kerikeri Mission Station is one of the first places in New Zealand where Māori invited visitors to live among them. Built under the protection of local chiefs who were keen to harness the trade and technology of Europe, Kerikeri Mission Station grew amidst a backdrop of tribal warfare and ever-increasing visits from foreign ships.
Today, the Mission Station, situated along a pretty riverside just five minutes from central Kerikeri, is a captivating place to visit. Experienced tour guides are on hand to share stories of fierce warriors, drunken sailors, and the earnest missionaries who endeavoured to spread the Christian message amongst Māori, a proud people with their own ancient traditions. The hidden lives of many extraordinary women – both Māori and European – are also brought to light. Younger visitors will love the hands-on Children’s Chores Tour, held at 11am daily in summer.
At the heart of the Mission Station are two of the country’s oldest buildings; the Stone Store and Kemp House are both cornerstones of a broader historical landscape and essential sights for heritage-lovers.
Built in 1832, the Georgian-style Stone Store was originally a Missionary Society warehouse but assumed various roles including a trading post, library, barracks and boys’ school. It also served as a general store, a tradition that continues today in the atmospheric ground-floor gift shop. A browser’s delight, the shop stocks an amazing range of authentic goods reminiscent of those traded in the early 19th century, alongside unique New Zealand merchandise. Museum displays can be viewed upstairs.
Set behind the Stone Store is New Zealand’s oldest building, Kemp House. Completed in 1821–22 by missionary carpenters and Māori sawyers, Kemp House is a family home of simple, Georgian design.
It has changed little over time, despite bearing witness to many historically significant events, as shared by our guides on fascinating tours of the building.