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Short walks

Best 10 heritage walks in New Zealand

  • 6 minutes

Discover Aotearoa New Zealand’s heritage. The best heritage walks delve into the story of the earliest documented human objects discovered in the Wairau Bar. Delve into the story of a somber reminder of the loss of life at a New Zealand Land Wars site; Ruapekapeka Pa. A top place to go is the extraordinary story of coal mining at Denniston Plateau. You will walk among the relics of an abandoned mine littering the ground. Find out about the daily life of a 19th century Chinese gold miner in the depths of an Otago winter.

These walks are part of a series of Short Walks in New Zealand – Top Picks. Unmissable, unforgettable walks and that’s just the start…

 

1. ARROWTOWN HERITAGE WALK- OTAGO

Discover a 19th century Chinese gold mining community, and stroll along Buckingham Street, the main street, admire 19th century churches and Victorian facades. Wander along side streets with the scent of heritage roses spilling over fenced cottages and take a break in one of the many cafes

  • Length: 2 – 3 km (including short walk along Arrow River)
  • Grade: flat, well signposted buildings and road directions
Chinese gold mining settlement
Arrowtown heritage Chinese gold mining settlement
  • Arrowtown heritage Chinese gold mining settlement. Take an easy walk to the Chinese Settlement. Chinese gold miners flocked to Arrowtown from 1869 and were allocated an area to set up their own village with modest stores, market gardens and huts, separate from the European miners’ town. The restored huts and Ah Lum’s store remain, encapsulating some of the hardship and living conditions of the ‘other half’ in the gold mining days.
  • An orderly row of European miners cottages nestled in an avenue of English deciduous trees planted in 1867
  • Chinese Miners’ Village is just 2 minutes’ walk from the main street. It takes 15 to 30 minutes to explore the huts and learn about how the early Chinese miners lived beside the river.
  • Discover heritage St Patrick’s church ground and nearby Australasia’s only Saint, Mary McKillop’s cottage and the petite  St Paul’s Anglican church on Church Street.
  • Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery
  • Buckingham Street, main precinct with its charming heritage feel with the 1887 Masonic Hall emblematic of the district’s heritage buildings.
  • Arrowtown Police Camp located near the Arrow River. This cottage was a police camp building built in 1863. It is one of the first of many great photo moments of your Arrowtown holiday. In autumn it is a favourite stop as the deciduous trees autumn foliage is in full splendour.
Arrowtown Buckingham Street, New Zealand
Arrowtown Buckingham Street
Wellington Botanic Garden Duck Pond, New Zealand
Wellington Botanic Garden

2. WELLINGTON HERITAGE TRAIL

Imagine a government city has a few tales to tell. Discover Wellington’s secrets on a heritage trail walk. Wellington is a city built for walking the city centre on foot with a writer’s walk, a vibrant waterfront bustling with people intent on enjoying the eateries and pubs, Te Aro street art corners, Hannah’s Lane and historic cemeteries tucked away under a motorway. The magnificent Botanic Gardens is nestled within easy reach of the city centre. Wellington’s geography of hills and valleys offers walkers and outdoor enthusiasts spectacular views of the harbour, Cooks Strait, native bush and beyond from Mt Kaukau to Mt Victoria peak. Read more Wellington travel guide.

3. NELSON CITY HERITAGE TRAIL

Heritage buffs are in for a surprise with a stash of historic buildings (pre-1860) lived in and functioning today in the city of Nelson. Places to go include Bishop Suter Art Gallery; Nelson School of Music; Bishop’s School, Fairfield House, Melrose House, and Warwick House.

Read more … The Nelson City Guide has a detailed description of the walk’s highlights.

Allow up to 3 hours ambling through Nelson’s history

TIP

Excellent cafes for a restorative stop

TOP PLACES OF HISTORIC INTEREST

  • Botanics Reserve and the Centre of New Zealand, interesting facts about measurements in the 19th century, climb the hill, admire the fabulous views and find out more …
  • Wakefield Quay and Rocks Road Chain, quirky piece of Victoriana is in fact a valuable heritage streetscape object
  • Isel House and Park, nothing like a grand colonial homestead to get the heart racing to view the interior
  • Broadgreen Historic House and Samuels Rose Garden, the heady scent of a heritage rose garden and a graceful homestead is the stuff of every heritage trail
Historic Nelson viewed from Cathedral steps
Historic Nelson viewed from Cathedral steps
View of buildings on a historic south street, Nelson, New Zealand
View of buildings on a historic South street
  • Queens Gardens (heritage Victorian planting style), today the ordered control and stiff flower arrangements can seem overwhelming yet it is a legacy New Zealand treasures in its provincial centres
  • Albion Square, formerly the seat of government with governmental buildings reminding visitors of the past
  • Anzac Park, the country has a treasure trove of solider’s memorials and Nelson has a shining example
  • South Street heritage precinct where cottages open their doors onto the street, early 20th twentieth century cottages are now a protected area

4. RUAPEKAPEKA PA – NEW ZEALAND LAND WARS BATTLE SITE – NORTHLAND

New Zealand Land Wars – military heritage at Ruapekapeka Pa

Walk in the footsteps of colonial soldiers, Maori warriors admitist a Land Wars battlefield.

Ruapekapeka Pa is where dissatisfaction over the Treaty turned to war: Ruapekapeka is a statement on the Treaty of Waitangi and it’s acceptance by Maori.

It was only five years from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 for disagreement on its interpretation to ignite into an armed uprising. The site has numerous information plaques elaborating the pa’s military fortifications and a description of the ensuing battle between colonial conscripts and local Maori. The innovative defensive underground bunkers are still visible and the commanding site ideal for a defensive position.

Ruapekapeka pa - ruins of a maori fortress in New Zealand
Ruapekapeka Pa
Waharoa carved gateway. The central figure represents Te Ruki Kawiti, the leader of the warriors who defended Ruapekapeka. Northland, New Zealand
Ruapekapeka Pa

Puriri Reserve

Towards the back of the site is a reserve accessed by a stile. It is worth a visit as there is a mature stand of Puriri trees. It is as magnificent as the more well known kauri stands of Northland. The reserve is overgrown with the track being on the verge of collapsing into the slopes. When wet it will be slippery. The Puriri tree can grow 20 m tall with a truck between 1. 5 – 2 metres in diameter. Puriri suffered from extensive logging leaving the gnarled, twisted puriri seen in paddocks and solitary reminders. The Ruapekapeka Pa reserve shows the trees in their splendid glory as clear straight trees up to 9 metres in height.

INTERESTING FACT

The despatch boxes of the British House of Commons are made of puriri wood. They were a gift from New Zealand to replace the previous boxes after the Chamber was bombed in 1941, during World War Two. for more information about what to do in the area, check out Kawakawa trip guide, public toilets & other things to see: Best Bits.

5. SCANDRETT REGIONAL PARK

Order a combo, a regional park, a beach and a heritage story. Scandrett Regional Park delivers all the ingredients for a perfect day trip from Auckland. The park was a former working farm and a quintessential slice of Kiwi history. Scandrett Regional Park is the heritage bow tie being a stunning landscape. Visitors are entranced by the beautiful bay, the pioneering family story and the red timbered farm buildings nestled into the lush landscape. Do not forget to check out the rustic milking shed and listen to the audio commentary of the Scandrett family complete with the accompanying sound of cows.

Scandrett Regional Park Auckland heritage farm buildings with perfect beach views, New Zealand
Scandrett Regional Park
Scandrett historic homestead Scandrett Regional Park Auckland, New Zealand
Scandrett historic homestead Scandrett Regional Park

Best time to visit

Year round, simply layer up and wonder about farming life in the nineteenth century in the remote area.

Where is the park

Scandrett Regional Park is located on Mahurangi East Peninsula, a mere 3km beyond Algies Bay and 20 minutes from the popular Snells Beach

Part of the 5 Heritage Regional Parks near Auckland, day trip: guide by Best Bits.

6. KARANGAHAKE GORGE & WAIKINO GOLD MINING AREA

Find out what happens when 19th century gold miners give up. Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park is an area where there has been extensive nineteenth century gold mining in remote, inaccessible areas. The sheer determination to find gold drove extraordinary feats to haul by horse and human power massive pieces of machinery into the bush. It also led to the wholesale destruction of the massive mature kauri forests. It is an area of exquisite beauty with rare or endangered native flora and fauna. And it is on the doorstep of Auckland creating a day trip with fascinating short walks the reward for leaving the city.

Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park, New Zealand @Hikepack
Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park @Hikepack
Karangahake Gorge Bridge and Rocky Outcrop, New Zealand
Karangahake Gorge Bridge and Rocky Outcrop

Windows Walk

This is perhaps the most popular walk due to the scenery, visible mining remnants and a disused gold mining tunnel. An outdoor adventure for kids. The walk starts in the Karangahake Reserve car park… read about a walk featuring historic railway remains in a stunning natural gorge setting, including two steel truss bridges and a 1 km rail tunnel. The track passes industrial remnants of  gold mining.

This information is part of Visit Karanganhake Gorge & Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park: Best Bits.

7. DENNISTON PLATEAU – WEST COAST

Imagine living in a place where the ground is so hard you cannot dig a grave. That’s Denniston Plateau, a wind swept harsh landscape where a profitable coal mine flourished. The plateau, on a day without the consistent mist offers sweeping views of the coastal plains of the Karamea Bight and mouth of the mouth of the Waimangaroa River. The austere landscape is 518 metres above sea level and originally only had one access, the 1,670 m incline railway.

Denniston self-guided tour walking highlights

  • Historic coal mine site.
  • Famous Denniston Incline.
  • Denniston outdoor Museum.
  • Panoramic coastal views.

Read more about Denniston Plateau, Westport what to see and do and plan your trip to Westport.

TIP

Visit the Coal Museum, on Westport’s main street for an insight into the coal mining industry and Denniston.

Denniston incline, Westport, New Zealand
Denniston incline

8. ROSS – HISTORIC GOLD MINING TOWN, WEST COAST

 

Ross Visitor Centre, former bank, West Coast, New Zealand
Ross Visitor Centre, former bank

WHAT TO DO, HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visitor Centre located in former bank building, try your luck at gold panning or purchase a locally crafted gift
  • Explore nearby West Coast Wilderness trail
  • Walk Ross’s heritage precinct including Old Ross Jail and St Patrick’s Catholic Church
  • Spend time imaging life in the restored miner’s cottage

Ross Historic Goldfields walks include a short steep climb to the cemetery and waterway walk with rewarding views to the Tasman Sea. You will pass a miner’s hut, dams, tunnels and abandoned relics. Starting from the top end of St James Street; this short walk, which is also part of the Ross Water Race Walkway, zig-zags steeply uphill for a few minutes before entering the historic cemetery. Here you will find many interesting headstones which portray the harshness of life in the early mining days.

Ross, poppet adjacent to heritage cottage, West Coast, New Zealand
Ross, poppet adjacent to heritage cottage
Tourist attraction vintage locomotive on display at Steampunk Museum in Oamaru, New Zealand
Steampunk Museum in Oamaru

9. OAMARU HISTORIC PRECINCT

A town walk with a difference, Who needs a theme park when New Zealand visitors have Oamaru?  Genuine dyed in the wool heritage  bottled and reimagined for visitors.   Oamaru has curated the history of Oamaru New Zealand into quirky, fun encounters.  You are not going to forget your visit in a hurry.  Kids are welcome to clamber, jump and climb at Steampunk.

Victorian Precinct with its quirky shops, galleries, traditional artisan crafts, Traditional Crafts such as book binding, and cooperative craft guilds Crafted Waitaki. A stroll into history with nooks and crannies supporting small artisan pop up ventures and eccentric interiors inviting you to check out exactly what it was you thought you saw.

10. DUNEDIN CITY HERITAGE WALK

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Heritage buildings – convenient and easily accessible
  • The Octagon
  • Legacy buildings church of Otago & university clocktower
  • Contemporary on point museums
Iona Church, Port Chalmers, Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Iona Church, Port Chalmers

One of the world’s best preserved Victorian / Edwardian cities.  Dunedin’s heritage trail is an easy city walk past gothic architecture with First Church in The Octagon setting the scene for the end of the walk in the justice precinct of Dunedin. Admire the ornate glory of the Dunedin courthouse, former police station and former jail. Nearby is the city’s crown jewel building, the Dunedin Railway Station. Bronze plaques on buildings and markers on the pavement to assist visitors. The walk is approximately 2km. There are two heritage walks and they intersect on the north side of Dunedin’s central Octagon. The trail map shows the route of the Heritage Walk 1, with a numbered key showing the location of each building with a heritage plaque. The walk is coded yellow for easy identification. For details check Dunedin Heritage Walk 1.  You are walking through the history of Dunedin’s heyday as the wealthiest city in New Zealand.

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