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Art & Heritage

12 heritage places, unmissable must-go destinations in New Zealand

  • 4 minutes

Oamaru, Otago

(if you are short on time)

Discover Aotearoa New Zealand historical narrative with heritage sites ranging from a battlefield location to farming agriculture museum complexes and stunning pastoral homesteads. If you are short on time a whistle stop tour of these twelve attractions surely will get you changing your mind … stay a bit longer and absorb the wealth of unmissable historical places downunder.



Visit Ruapekapeka Pa, fortified military Maori site, ingenious military strategist, Te Ruki Kawiti designed the fortification

Ruapekapeka pa - ruins of a maori fortress in New Zealand
Ruapekapeka pa - ruins of a maori fortress in New Zealand

Ruapekapeka Pa is a nineteenth century battle site. Ruapekapeka is one of New Zealand’s best preserved land battlefields. The ditch and bank defences, a carronade used by Chief Kawiti and the earthen defences of the British forward position are still visible.  Situated on a promontory there are sweeping views of Northland. A perfect place to build your defensive position against invasion. The site is imbued with a sense of history. For history buffs an excellent and well maintained 19th century site of British colonial forces and northern Maori encounters during the land wars.  Explanation boards  provide context for the  battle plans and Maori pa fortifications.

You will enjoy the spectacular views of the countryside sweeping across the farmlands, pockets of native bush and sense of quiet that is present at the site today. Your imagination will counter up the noise, the sound and smell of a battle site standing there reflecting on the sacrifices made to defend your home.

This heritage site is part of Kawakawa trip guide, public toilets & other things to see: Best Bits.


Here’s a slice of kiwi history together witha sense of seclusion

Scandrett Regional Park is a wrapped heritage package with the 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 Regional Park historic cow milking shed, New Zealand
Scandrett Regional Park historic cow milking shed

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.

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.

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.

Scandrett historic homestead Scandrett Regional Park Auckland, New Zealand
Scandrett historic homestead

Discover the layers of domestic life for wealthy European settlers in the late 19th century in Auckland.

Alberton Farmhouse, Auckland, NZ side view of garden from front entrance, Auckland, New Zealand
Alberton Farmhouse

A must-go destination for heritage buffs and lovers of historic gardens. Albertons is a must-go Auckland attraction telling the story of New Zealand settlement in the 19th century.

The historic Mt Albert Alberton farmhouse gradually shed its utilitarian origins becoming a turreted mansion. Beautiful verandahs, ornate woodwork offers visitors a chance to delve into the lives of freshly minted New Zealanders in the 19th century.

Alberton heritage farmhouse now nestled in suburban Auckland.

Spending time in Auckland check out Eat & drink 10 heritage locations in Auckland to explore – Best Bits and enjoy exploring Auckland’s heritage trails.

Discover quaint pubs, rustic cottages or impressive heritage buildings in Auckland, NZ now housing an array of foodie establishments. Eat and drink in a rural setting tucked away down a gravel road or sample craft beer in one of New Zealand’s oldest micro breweries. Enjoy pastries in a 1860’s former hotel or surround yourself with extraordinary New Zealand origin art works at Pah Homestead

Alberton Farmhouse bedroom, Auckland, New Zealand
Alberton Farmhouse bedroom
  1. Auckland – Pakuranga, Howick Historical Village

Heritage fans are in for a treat. Discover a living village, complete with original dwellings and historic buildings recreating the mid-1800s settler village of Howick.

Costumed guides, schoolchildren enter 19thc homestead, Howick Historical Village, Auckland, New Zealand
Pakuranga, Howick Historical Village

Located in the centre of beautiful Lloyd Elsmore Park, Howick Historical Village is in the Auckland suburb of Pakuranga, the next town over from its namesake. Set aside a day with plenty of things to see and do for family, friends and couples looking for a day out and about.


  • Immerse yourself in a 19thc village atmosphere complete with vegetable plots, recreated domestic settings
  • Picnic in the 7 aces among shady trees, pond and extensive heritage gardens
  • Enjoy meeting and greeting costumed volunteers on live days and enjoy interactive attractions and activities … READ MORE Pakuranga, Auckland – living history heritage village – Best Bits

  • Hiruharama (Jerusalem)
  • Kawana Four Mill & Cottage
  • Pipiriki provides access to Jet boat tours and is a launching place for exploring the Bridge to Nowhere
  • Ngāti Pāmoana, Koriniti Marae
  • Original hand cut culvert to an exquisite mossy stream
  • Matahiwi cafe and riverboat
Whanganui National Park high country
Whanganui river road
Crucifix and door, mellow golden light on wood lined panelled walls, Pepara Church, Koriniti Marae, Whanganui River, New Zealand
Crucifix and door, mellow golden light on wood lined panelled walls, Pepara Church, Koriniti Marae, Whanganui River

A rich legacy of Maori architecture, 19th & mid 20th century farming activities and glorious church communities. Authentic road trips don’t come any better than Whanganui River Road as gravel road wends its way alongside the Whanganui River. The Whanganui River Road carves a narrow winding route from the lower reaches of the Whanganui River from Pīpīriki to Whanganui. The road offers an intimate embrace of lower North Island lush verdant bush and forest. The route is a scenic 64 km journey through quiet uncrowded places.

The beautifully preserved marae (gathering places) which are usually visible from the road. Please respect all marae and urupā (cemetery) and read the welcoming information plaques before entering private property.

… READ MORE Whanganui River Road heritage locations, places to visit



  • The collection is augmented by a significant early cinema collection,
  • A memorable and well constructed exhibition of the impact of war on the locals and an acknowledgment of pre-European Maori activities in the area
  • Attractive potager garden, shady trees and plenty of space for picnics
  • On the boundary fence is the Te Aroa shared trail, a wide footpath encouraging visitors to walk the 2 km from the town centre to the Firth Tower
  • Over 13 heritage buildings
  • Extensive school holiday programmes engaging all interests

Discover a Matamata jewel and New Zealand treasure for heritage buffs. One of New Zealand’s largest open air collections of farming equipment is located on a quiet rural road. The Firth Tower and its 13 buildings is a must-go destination for heritage fans and families with plenty to do and see.


Firth Tower, winter day, Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand
Firth Tower

A great place to visit with a ferry ride across the harbour setting the scene. Nature is in charge and life is governed by the weather, the sea and the seasons. The area has a chequered history as a quarantine station, a prisoner of war camp both in World War I and World War II and a military defence position.

Matiu Somes Island, New Zealand @NZHistory
Matiu Somes Island @NZHistory

Earliest human occupation is evident with midden sites, discarded tools and artefacts which are either displayed in the Visitor Centre or on loan to Te Papa. The island was named Matiu by Kupe, after the Europeans settled here, the island was renamed Somes Island after Joseph Somes. In 1997, the island became officially known as Matiu-Somes Island.

… read more Matiu/Somes island, day trip from Wellington — what to do – Best Bits and the capital city, Wellington is a rich treasure trove for heritage buffs with Te Papa National Museum a favourite place to start the day exploring. Wellington City Museum is another favourite with its quirky attic collection.


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.

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


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

Denniston historic remains (coal mine), Westport, South Island
Denniston historic remains

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.

Tourist attraction vintage locomotive on display at Steampunk Museum in Oamaru, New Zealand
Steampunk Museum in Oamaru

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, such as book binding, and cooperative craft guild, 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.


Heritage home of merchants “Opened as a historic house museum in 1967, Olveston is a time capsule as little has changed inside the house since it was occupied as a family home between 1906 to 1966.”

I felt I was stepping into someone’s sitting room rather than a static museum.  It is a time capsule reflecting the early part of the twentieth century.

  • Open : 9am – 5pm, 7 days(closed Christmas Day).
  • The gardens and gift shop at Olveston are open to the public free of charge.
  • Entrance to Olveston by guided tour only, fees apply

… read more Olveston House.

Olveston house @Olveston Historic Home
Olveston house @Olveston Historic Home

New Zealand does have a castle, complete with stories of ghosts, love-struck owners and tragic death.


A magical homage to a wife and family Larnach castle and the family was best known for tragedy from the deaths of two wives at 38 years, the death of a daughter and the suicide of the owner, William Larnach while attending Parliament in Wellington. Love affairs between a very young wife and a son, family squabbles and accusations of betrayal led to the property falling into disrepair. Today the grand estate is surrounded by an extensive garden, beautifully restored interior and accommodation for guests.

… read more Otago Peninsula – One Day Trip From Dunedin – Best Bits.


Discover a 19th century Chinese gold mining community, and stroll along Buckingham Street, the main street, admire 19th century churches and Victorian facades.

Wander alongside streets with the scent of heritage roses spilling over fenced cottages and take a break in one of the many cafes. Heritage Arrowtown walking trail is 2 – 3 km (including short walk along Arrow River)

  • Arrowtown heritage Chinese gold mining settlement. Take an easy walk to the Chinese Settlement. 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… READ MORE Best 10 heritage walks in New Zealand
Chinese gold mining settlement, Arrowtown, New Zealand
Arrowtown Chinese gold mining settlement


Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.


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