Waitangi treaty grounds in Paihia, Northland, New Zealand © vale_t

Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the Museum of Waitangi

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If you’re a grown-up Kiwi and you haven’t been here yet: shame, bro!

If you’re a visitor, this is the place that will give you the greatest insight into our place. Because this is where two cultures met, clashed, talked, argued and signed — as marked by a damn fine flagpole — the Treaty of Waitangi, in 1840. This is one of those historical sites that even people who don’t much care for history are wowed by.

The bulk of the Treaty Grounds cover a hill overlooking the beautiful Bay of Islands. It’s a wonderful spot for a stroll outdoors, the winterless north invariably providing sunlight for your steps. There’s a lot of indoor activity here, though, with the Museum, Treaty House and Visitors’ Centre all adding depth to what is already a rich experience.

It’s a perfect mix of experiences — you can drown yourself in the historical aspects, and you can wow yourself with the amazing view. You can retrace the historical steps that led to the signing of the nation’s founding document, or you can marvel at the massive war canoe that reminds you that all was not smooth sailing (sorry). These things never are, history tells us.

But the huge stands of grand pohutukawa are very peaceful, the slate tiles, weatherboards and red roses of the Treaty House a colourful splash in an already colourful landscape, and the ‘taonga’ or treasures of the newly minted museum truly worth the trip.

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