Important Historical Landmarks of New Zealand
Author: Grant Eckert
New Zealand is considered to be one of the youngest countries in the world, as it was the last major land mass to be discovered by Europeans. For a young country, New Zealand boasts many fascinating and important historical sites, a legacy of its original inhabitants, the Maori and also its years as a British colony.
The most important historical site in the country is at Waitangi on North Island, where a treaty was signed in 1840 between the Maori and the British, the site is considered to be the birthplace of New Zealand as a nation. The grounds cover 1000 acres and were a gift to the people of New Zealand by the governor at the time, Lord Bledisloe.
There are several highlights of any visit to Waitangi. Not to be missed are the Treaty House, the country's oldest home, and built for New Zealand's first resident. Te Whare Runanga is an elaborately carved Maori meeting house; and you can also marvel at one of the world's largest ceremonial war canoes. Many visitors simply enjoy strolling around the beautiful grounds. If that inspires you, you can even get married at Waitangi.
Two of the oldest towns in New Zealand are situated in the area of the country known as the Bay of Islands, Russell and Kerikeri. Russell boasts an excellent small museum offering an overview of contact between the Maori and Europeans; as well as Christ Church, the oldest wooden church in New Zealand. Russell is also the site of one of the most infamous incidents in the country's history, the chopping down of the ceremonial British flagpole by the Maori chief Hone Heke.
Kerikeri has the distinction of being the oldest European settlement in New Zealand. A stroll through the quaint streets of the town will show you both the oldest wooden building and the oldest stone building in the country. A couple of nearby historical sites give an insight into New Zealand's history. Kororipo Pa is a well-preserved Maori fort; Rewa Village is a full scale reconstruction of a Maori fishing village.
Throughout New Zealand, there are many other reminders of the Maori, such as burial grounds, sacred sites and tribal meeting places. The area around Taranaki on the North Island is a particularly good place to visit if you want to learn about the Maori culture, the small settlement at Parihaka was the largest Maori village in the region during the 19th century. There is also a monument to the Maori leader Maui Pomare, as well as the remains of several Maori forts, known as pa.
Wellington has been New Zealand's capital since 1865 and boasts several historic buildings and sites, many dating from its days as an early European settlement. You can take one of several walking tours of Wellington which take in such historic sites as the birthplace of Katherine Mansfield, the country's most famous author; and the Dominion Observatory, which once kept the time for the entire country.
Much of the country's more recent history has been shaped at the Parliament buildings complex. Not to be missed if you are in Wellington are the Old Government building, the second largest wooden building in the world, and the National Library of New Zealand, with its books, maps and other documents. Also, not too far away, you can see one of the country's most important and famous documents, the actual Treaty of Waitangi, on display at the National Archives building.
Nearly all visitors traveling to New Zealand by air arrive in Auckland, the country's largest city. Although Auckland is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, it is worth taking the time to seek out some of the area's historic sites. One of Auckland's most beautiful buildings is Alberton, an ornate Victorian mansion dating from 1863, which offers a glimpse into how the wealthy lived 150 years ago.
Another historic home in the Auckland area is Highwic; a wooden house built in the Gothic style and filled with antiques. In order to gain some insight into the important role the sea has played in the lives of New Zealanders, visit the National Maritime Museum. Not only can you look at exhibits spanning 1,000 years, you can sail on them. The historic ship Ted Ashby offers rides several times a week.
Admittedly, many people visit New Zealand for the spectacular and dramatic scenery, and the chance to experience the great outdoors at its very best. However, if you are lucky enough to visit New Zealand, do not overlook the country's proud and fascinating history.
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