On our third day in the beautiful Bay of Islands we decided to drive to the historic Keri Keri Basin, about a ¾ hour drive up the coast from Paihia. Keri Keri is quite a large township with many interesting shops along the road coming into the area – a handmade chocolate store, antique shops, gift shops, fruit stores selling locally grown produce (this fruit has plenty of flavour compared to stuff bought at the supermarkets) and the like. We stopped at a number of them along the way.
First stop is the Keri Keri Basin, the Stone Store and Kemp House –
The Keri Keri Basin is where, in about 1820, Reverend Samuel Marsden was granted land and invited, by the local Maori chief, Hongi Hika of the Nga Puhi tribe, to establish a Church Mission and settlement. Hence Keri Keri is New Zealand's most historic site of national importance. The remaining buildings of that settlement are Kemp House - New Zealand's oldest house, built in about 1822 - and the Stone Store - New Zealand’s oldest stone building, built in about 1836.
Both of the buildings are open as museums - you can buy entry tickets from the Stone Store - $10. The price of entry includes a short historic talk by a guide, an interesting, detailed, guided tour of the Kemp House and gardens and admittance to the top two levels of the Stone Store.
The ground level Stone Store has been set up to be exactly like a trading post/store, as it once was, and still operates as a store selling all sorts of odds and ends – lollies, toys, souvenirs, clothing, etc, – with the proceeds going to maintaining the buildings. The two levels above have also been restored to near original condition and are where the museum is housed.
Kemp House has been restored and maintained in its near original state, with the old furnishings and décor – as per the requirements of the New Zealand Historical Trust requirements. Even the beautiful gardens have been lovingly restored back to their original state.
The museum within the Store is about - the local area, the Maori, the Settlers, the land wars and the land - and it is also a museum which shows the workings at the store – the small library section is very interesting with an interactive screen with different slides outlining different, interesting aspects of the subjects the museum is all about.
From the basin it is a short walk to St James Church –
St James Church stands high on the hill, just up the road from the Stone Store and Kemp House, white against the surrounding green trees and changing sky. Whilst I have never actually been inside the church the old grave sites are interesting to wander around and the view isn’t too bad. Unfortunately I don’t really know a lot else about the church, I think this existing building – the existing building is not the original but still has a bit of age in it - has been located on the site of the original church stood.
Cross the river from the Stone Store is Rewa’s Maori village –
We followed the river banks, around past Kemp House, to a walk bridge crossing the river where we crossed to the other side and walked through the park and car park to Rewa’s Village.
Rewa’s Maori village is a reconstruction of a Maori village. This site would have been known as a kainga which is a traditional unfortified village – not a pa which was a fortified village (there are the remnants of a pa located on the terraced hills opposite this site). Kaingas would have usually built close to sources of food. In times of peace most of the tribe would live in the kainga and in times of danger they would relocate to the greater safety of the pa.
The entry price is $5, which is not a bad price for what is here to see. When you first enter there is a short film clip about the Keri Keri area and Rewa’s people you can watch before you head of to wander around the site. The site is set out in a small block of bush land that goes down to the water and has a number of traditional Maori houses and buildings including food stores, a canoe shed, etc, scattered among the trees, along narrow tracks. It would be an interesting place to visit if you had no idea of how the Maori lived and wanted to find out, but for us it was all old news, but we did have fun strolling through the grounds. Adjoining the grounds is an area called the Peoples Garden which I understand is very pleasant to wander around if you have the time – unfortunately we were running out of that for the day and decided to put it on the back burner for another trip.