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Heritage & History – Discover the fascinating past of Bay of Plenty and Waikato

Stay and Play

The Coastal Bay of Plenty has a rich history and heritage. It is home to the earliest cave drawings in New Zealand and the landing place of significant founding waka that first brought Māori to these shores almost 1,000 years ago.

In 1769, the region was named the Bay of Plenty by Captain James Cook as he circumnavigated Aotearoa. Less than 100 years later, war would break out and significant battles would be fought in Tauranga and surrounding areas. Dive deep into the Coastal Bay of Plenty and discover the places that have shaped this fascinating history.

Continue then onto the Mighty Waikato – steeped in cultural history, home to the Kingitanga movement and significant Maori Land war sites throughout the region.  This offers contrast and depth to the Waikato story of today.


Day One

Gate Pā battlefield – Visit the Gate Pā battlefield, a significant battleground from the New Zealand Land Wars, and the only battle site in the country to be set within a city’s boundaries.

The Elms | Te Papa TaurangaOne of New Zealand’s oldest heritage sites. As a place of early contact between Māori and Pākehā, this historic site remains at the centre of Tauranga’s history and identity today. Journey through the expansive grounds and enjoy a guided tour of the historic house and library.

The Historic Village is home to a collection of original and replica buildings from early Tauranga set in gorgeous gardens and natural bush surrounds. These wonderful character buildings now house over 50 businesses including shops and community organisations.
LOCALS TIP: We recommend a coffee at the onsite Whipped Baker (look out for the amazing doughnuts!)

E-Bike tour around TaurangaHire an e-bike from Day Trippers and take an e-bike tour around Tauranga Harbour. Bike over the Matapihi Rail Bridge (built in 1924 and still a functioning rail bridge for the busy Port of Tauranga). Continue on to historic places such as the Mission Cemetery and Monmouth Redoubt and be sure to take in the beautiful Matariki carvings on The Strand.

STAY:  Built in Edwardian Baroque style 1906, Clarence Hotel, an amazing building, was once Tauranga’s Post Office. It has now been refurbished into a boutique 10-room hotel, fine dining restaurant and funky bar and bistro.

Mount Maunganui

Day Two

Enjoy a stroll around Mauao (Mount Maunganui) – One of the most Instagrammed/photographed locations in New Zealand is in the heart of the Bay of Plenty – Mauao. Walk around the base track or hike to the top of the dormant volcano for a view that will take your breath away.  Standing 232m above sea level, Mauao is an iconic landmark treasured by locals. Mauao means ‘caught by the dawn’ and the mountain is steeped in Māori history and mythology. Several historical pā sites (villages) have been built on this extinct volcanic cone, the evidence of which can still be seen today as you explore the popular walking tracks.
Download the Aratakai Cultural Trails app for a guided tour as you walk around the base track.

Harbour cruise and e-bike tour with Te Ara Tourism – This three-hour haerenga (tour) with Te Ara Tourism includes a cruise of Te Awanui Harbour (Tauranga Harbour) and an e-bike tour on the Ōmokoroa to Tauranga cycle trail. Enjoy historical and cultural storytelling and a visit to Ongarahu Pa at Plummer’s Point – one of the most well-preserved defensive fortifications known in New Zealand.


• Maketū to Whakatāne

Day Three

30 minutes’ drive from Tauranga is Te Puke – the beating heart of New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry. Call in for a cuppa and a taste of the world’s best kiwifruit. Then it’s a hop, skip and jump to historic Maketū, landing place of one of the Bay of Plenty’s founding waka (canoes).

Call into Maketū – This small seaside village boasts a rich history. Almost 1,000 years ago, it was the landing place of the Arawa waka (canoe) and the start of one of the key Māori settlements in the Bay of Plenty. Take a leisurely stroll and look out for the signs that tell you the tales of the village’s past. Discover two of New Zealand’s oldest churches, each with their own unique story to tell. When you’ve worked up an appetite from all the incredible history, treat yourself to fresh fish and chips or a famous Maketū pie, easily found on the main street. More Information

Continue on State Highway 20 to Whakatāne, the sunniest destination in New Zealand, and discover the stories of the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Mataatua: The House That Came Home is an extraordinary story of a house that travelled the world, before coming home to the people of Ngāti Awa in 2011. Built in 1875, it travelled to Sydney, Melbourne, Victoria & Albert Museum and South Kensington Museum (London), Dunedin and Otago before being rebuilt back in its place of origin, Whakatāne, in 2011. Marvel at the intricacy of the carved representations of the great chiefs of Ngāti Awa, before two of the tribe’s most famous traditions are brought to life before your eyes in Hiko: Legends Carved in Light – the award winning Mataatua visitor experience.

Ngā Tapuwae o Toi (The Footsteps of Toi) – This incredible walk will have you following in the footsteps of a mighty chief. It includes pā sites of major historic significance, superb native forest and spectacular coastal views. It is a treat for bird watchers with both seabird colonies and forest bird song to delight you.  Ngā Tapuwae o Toi encompasses the great chieftain Toi’s dominion. His stronghold, Kapu-te-Rangi (Pā of Gentle Breezes), is one of the oldest known pā sites in the country.

Stay: A few doors down from Mataatua is White Island Rendezvous –  a 4.5 star motel accommodation nestled between the Whakatāne River and a pōhutukawa tree lined escarpment. Enjoy your stay in one of the micro-village cabins and enjoy breakfast at the onsite café – a favorite amongst locals.


Day Four

Kohutapu Lodge – oldest cave drawings in NZ – People have been drawn to the Bay of Plenty for a millennia – we’ve even got the oldest cave drawings in New Zealand. Carbon-dated to 1050AD, you can see these in Murupara with the amazing guides from Kohutapu Lodge, who will entertain you with stories and legends and help you discover our ancient past.

Stay: Kohutapu Lodge is nestled on the shores of Lake Aniwhenua and offers affordable camp-style accommodation. Relax and enjoy the natural surroundings and let the hosts show you the hospitality they are world-famous for.

Mighty Waikato

Day Five

History buffs will revel in the opportunity to discover places of local and national importance and hear unique stories told by local experts with Te Ara Wai Journeys.  Using your mobile, you can take a tour of the unique Waipa landscape  past and present.
Includes:  Rangiaowhia-O-Rākau – sites of pivotal New Zealand land wars events, the treasured mountain – Kakepuku, explore the Waikato River, Karāpiro Dam and Maungatautari Mountain, learn about the turbulent history of  the waterways and mountain of Pirongia, Ngā Roto – the site of the country’s largest intertribal battle, and the charming tree town of Cambridge.

In central Hamilton, Waikato Museum makes learning fun. Inquisitive children of all ages will happily spend hours in total absorption in the Exscite interactive science gallery. The changing exhibitions bring the region’s stories to life, with a focus on the regions rich culture and engaging hands-on experiences.  For the older ‘kids’ guided behind the scenes tours allows you to have a peek out the back at some of the treasures not currently on display.

Hamilton City

Day Six

A more relaxed day today – take a visit to Hamilton Gardens  – an absolute must-do! This free attraction tells the story of gardens through themed garden collections which explore different civilisations and historically important times. It includes an onsite café offering tempting treats and plenty of space to explore.  With the changing seasons and new theme gardens being opened every year, you will want to visit time and time again – there is always something new!

Embark on a tea-infused culinary journey or explore the fascinating world of tea at Zealong Tea Estate. Relax over a high tea at the Zealong Tea House, sample tea or take something home with you from the retail boutique.


Waikato War Driving Tour

Day Seven

Learn about Northern Waikato’s significant history and visit the sites of the influential land wars by following the Waikato War Driving Tour app, exploring the towns between Tūākau to Ngāruawāhia, all with cultural and historical significance. The 1863-64 Waikato War was a pivotal moment in New Zealand’s history. Maori united to protect their land and formed a resistance movement known as Te Kingitanga.
Download the app developed by Heritage New Zealand and listen to how this war unfolded, learn how the landscape changed and relive the events at these sites.

Hamilton Stay: Novotel Tainui Hamilton – Novotel Tainui Hamilton is perfectly located in the heart of Hamilton’s dynamic CBD. Only a short distance to Hamilton’s attractions, entertainment & major convention facilities and with easy access to the airport, the best of the city is at your doorstep.

Hamilton Eat: Offering an eclectic array of dining options within Hamilton City, you will never be short of choice. Award-winning restaurants sit alongside popular cafes and eateries providing everything from tastes of Asia to traditional Kiwi fare.