Kerikeri New Zealand Information

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Stone Store at left, St James at rear,
and Kemp House on the right

Updated: 1st Feb 05

Kerikeri is a popular tourist destination in the Bay of Islands on the North Island of New Zealand, about three hours drive north of Auckland, and 60 kilometres north of Whangarei. It is often described as the Cradle Of The Nation. It is the site of the first permanent mission station in the country, and has some of the most historic buildings in the country.

A rapidly expanding centre of sub-tropical and allied horticulture, Kerikeri lies at the western extremity of the Kerikeri Inlet, a northwestern arm of the Bay of Islands, where fresh water of the Kerikeri River enters the salty Pacific Ocean. Kerikeri (airport) is located at 35º26' South, 173º91' East.

It is a far cry from the village established by New Zealand's pioneering missionaries. They called it Gloucestertown, or Gloucester Town, but neither name endured. The Maori word Kerikeri is correctly pronounced almost as Keddi Keddi, or even Kiddee Kiddee, but the town's name is generally pronounced Kerry Kerry.

Origins and Naming

Where the name Kerikeri originated is not exactly known, and there have been many conflicting definitions given over the years. It is likely Kerikeri derives its name from the river and in fact, after visiting the area in [[1815], John Nicholson wrote "the river that discharged itself into the cove was called by the natives Tecaddiecaddie....". But where did the river get its name?

The definition of the word Kerikeri most widely known by pakeha -- New Zealanders of European descent -- is 'dig dig', or 'to keep digging'. It is known that Maori had extensive gardens in the area when Europeans arrived.

Another definition derives from Kerikeri te ana wai - "the churning or boiling over of the waters". That would have aptly described the freshwater river tumbling into the salt water over the falls which were then higher (being blasted in the 1930s to accommodate a bridge). However, some Maori say it derives from hukerikeri which means "bubbling up", and there is a sad reasoning behind this. Hongi Hika, a famous or infamous chief depending on whether one fought with or against him, is reputed to have fathered the child of a captured slave at Kororipo Pa. As this was unacceptable to the tribe, the baby was placed in the water to drown but persistently rose to the surface, hence the "bubbling up".

What are now called Wharepuke Falls, upriver from the Stone Store Basin, were called the Kerikeri Falls until the 1930s when given the name Wharepoke which referred to the large adjacent area of native bush. A French doctor, Messier Lesson, visited Kerikeri in 1824 and wrote that among stomach ailments suffered by Maori was "gravelle" (gravel) which they called Kiddee Kiddee. He said it was also the word for a cascade of water.

To cloud the issue there have been some persistent claims that the falls referred to by the missionaries as "The Kiddikiddi" were what we now call the Rainbow Falls. That is impossible because although Nicholson visited and referred to Tecaddiecaddie in 1815 it was not until 1822 that the Rainbow Falls were "discovered" by the missionaries Francis Hall and James Kemp.

Tourist Slogan

The local Kerikeri slogan is "It's So Nice They Named It Twice". In the early 1980s, an anonymous backpacker wrote those words in the Visitors' Book at the Kerikeri Youth Hostel. It was brought to the attention of the then editor of the local newspaper, the Kerikeri Chronicle, who gave it publicity, and it quickly became adopted as a quasi-official slogan.

A similar phrase is said of New York City, which as part of New York state is officially called New York, New York.

Historic Sites

Mission House

Originally called the Mission House, and then for more than 100 years Kemp House, this is the oldest wooden structure still standing in New Zealand. A much visited and photographed building, it is administered along with the Stone Store (see below) by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

It was built by the Church Missionary Society for the Rev John Butler (New Zealand's first clergyman) who became the first occupant in 1822, but only for a short while. There was a succession of occupants until 1832 when the mission blacksmith James Kemp and his wife Charlotte moved in with their family.

The Kemps acquired ownership of the house and surrounding land in 1859 by trading land they owned at nearby Kororipo Point. From then on the Mission House became Kemp House and it remained in the Kemp family until 1976 when it was gifted to the Nation by Ernest Kemp, a great grandson of the missionary James Kemp and Charlotte Kemp.

St. James Church

St James', the wooden church on the hill above the Stone Store, is the third built in the area, and second on this picturesque site overlooking the basin. The missionaries' first little combined chapel and school was built near the water and dedicated on April 19, 1824. It was replaced in 1829 when a 38ft by 18ft (11.5 x 5.5 metre) lath and plaster structure was erected on the present site of St James'. It came complete with a town clock which was later incorporated in the Stone Store.

The new and slightly larger St James', built of weatherboard and battens, was dedicated in 1878. It was another 85 years before the church was extended to its present day size to cater for a growing congregation (1963). In 1968 a damaging tornado hit Kerikeri with enough force to skew St James' off line. Services had to be held elsewhere until a major repair and restoration was completed. The church bell came from the Black Prince, a light cruiser which served the Royal New Zealand Navy with distinction until it was decommissioned in 1960.

Stone Store

The Stone Store, a former storehouse, is the oldest stone building in New Zealand, construction having begun on 19 April 1832. The keystone above the door bearing the date 1833 is thought to have been carved by the stonemason William Parrott who cut the Sydney sandstone in situ, but construction of the building was not actually completed until mid-1836.

Stone was used because the missionaries needed a vermin-free, fireproof area for their supplies and provisions, and for improved security from inquisitive Maori. There was a plan to build a mill where the bridge exists now, and to protect the flour produced from locally grown wheat in the store. But the mill never eventuated, and the millstones brought out from England went inland to Waimate North instead.

Curiously enough, when work started on the building, Maori were already moving out of the district, and when it was finally completed there were very few Maori remaining at Kerikeri. Furthermore, there were rumblings within the missionary community and Kerikeri was becoming the backwater of missionary activity, eliminating the need to store goods and provisions there. It was considered a folly at the time, but one that blesses Kerikeri today.

Over the years, the Stone Store has suffered cumulative effects of adjacent traffic movements and the ravages of fair wear and tear. Costly remedial work was required and now we have entered the 21st century there are firm plans to divert traffic to protect the building for posterity. The building has been restored to its original state, but does not include the tower on the roof -- containing the clock removed from the chapel further up the hill -- which was removed as a safety measure a long time ago.

Rewa's Village

Rewa's Village was constructed opposite the Stone Store in 1969 as a community effort to faithfully recreate a replica kainga (fishing village) which existed when Europeans arrived in New Zealand. Kainga were sited close to fresh water and local fishing waters or gardens, and sometimes near fortified pa such as Kororipo which was just over the water.

Rewa's Village has all the features of a true kainga, including a marae area, chief's whare (house), kauta (cooking shelter), whata (bench where food was placed), tall whata, weapons store, pataka (raised food store), enclosure for the tohunga (a wise person who advised the community on just about everything), rahui (a post marking tapu or out of bounds limits), whare made of bark, waka tiwai (fishing canoe), bird snare, hangi pit (ground oven), genuine historic canoes, family enclosure, rua (storage area ) for kumara (sweet potato) and a paepae haumati (the basic toilet system which was flushed twice daily by the tide) .


Art and Craft Trail

There are dozens of arts and crafts enterprises in the Kerikeri area and the Art and Craft Trail has become well known to tourists. This involves a visit to about 20 arts and crafts outlets in the area, and the reputation of the quality of the art available has spread far and wide.


Countless backpackers visit Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands every year. Kerikeri has a surprisingly large static population of backpackers, as the facilities for them are first class without a corresponding tariff. The major camper/backpacker destinations in Kerikeri are Aranga Holiday Park and the Youth Hostel (right in town), Hone Heke Lodge (near the schools), Pagoda Lodge and Hideaway Lodge.


Although the water at the Stone Store basin is a part of the Bay of Islands where overseas yachties tie up regularly, especially in the hurricane season, Kerikeri township does not have a beach. But not too far away there are wonderful swimming beaches, at Matauri Bay which boasts excellent views of the Cavalli Islands, Te Ngaere and Tapuaetahi .


The Kerikeri Club in Cobham Road comprises the Club itself (a cosmopolitan type entity), the Kerikeri RSA, The Kerikeri Bridge Club, the Kerikeri Tennis Club (with all-weather courts), and has particularly active fishing and golf sections. The club has modern bar facilities and dining room for the more than 600 members. and welcomes visitors to the town. The Club premises are often used for weddings and socials.

Dawn Chorus

It is a mystery why so many Kerikeri people have never heard the musical birdcalls at dawn in their own backyard. Something to do with the time perhaps! Just before dawn, at Manginangina in the Puketi Forest, hundreds of native birds join voices, and there are very friendly birds which come regularly for breakfast. Truly an unforgettable performance.

Fairy pools

These delightful pools were gifted to the nation by Caroline Little who was captivated by them in 1928 on her first visit from China. She chose the name of the pools, no doubt because this most magical area suggests that if you stay still enough and quiet enough you may see fairies emerge from the surrounding bush to swim in the beautiful pools. See for yourself.


The Bay Of Islands has been renowned for its game fishing since American author Zane Grey put it on the map in the 1930s. But there are smaller fish in the bay as well, and charter operators are busy all year round.


Kerikeri Airport on the western perimeter of the town is a busy commuter link with Auckland, and has a very active Bay Of Islands Aero Club, a flying schools. Joyrides and charter flights are available, and if you feel like doing something extraordinary, there's always tandem parachute jumping.

Kororipo Pa

Kororipo Pa stands at the head of the Kerikeri Inlet which was known as Te Waha o te Riri -- the inlet of war -- not long after the missionaries arrived.

Rainbow Falls

The Maori name for these falls on the Kerikeri River is Waianiwaniwa which means Waters of the Rainbow. They are one of the most visited attractions in the district. You can drive almost to the falls, but the best way is to walk from the Stone Store basin.


The Kerikeri Cruising Club at Doves Bay is very active due to the unsurpassed boating waters on Kerikeri's doorstep, up with the very best in the world. The club has modern facilities including a large marina which doubled in size in 2003. Great emphasis has been placed on nurturing junior sailors in the club and this has paid handsome dividends. The Kerikeri High School sailing team has been New Zealand schools' champion several times, and when representing New Zealand has defeated the Australians in cross-Tasman series (their last victory being in October 2003). Many Kerikeri sailors have gone on to Olympic Games or world championship and international match racing circuits, and had a hand in NZ winning the America's Cup in 1996.

Steam Driven Sawmill

Not quite perpetual motion, but this mill provides its own fuel and is a great favourite with tourists and steam engine buffs alike.The whole mill is powered by a large steam plant which is fired by waste wood from the trees being milled.


As well as the marvelous beaches at Matauri Bay, Te Ngaere etc, and various places to swim in the Kerikeri River such as the Fairy Pools, Kerikeri has a modern swimming pool with diving facilities. Although sited at the Kerikeri High School it is a community pool.


There are lovely walks at Kerikeri and several others in the district. The 4km walk from the Stone Store Basin around the Kerikeri River to Rainbow Falls can be undertaken by most people. It meanders through very photogenic scenery and regenerating native bush. A short track leads from the Stone Store to Kororipo Pa which was once a fortressed pa and fishing village. Another fine walk is from opposite St James Church to the Fairy Pools past Wharepoke Falls on the south bank of the Kerikeri River. The Fairy Pools can also be reached via a track from the Youth Hostel.

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