Waitangi is a profound reminder of Māori fortitude
No visit to the Bay of Islands would be complete without a visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, a premier New Zealand attraction about three minutes by car from the main centre of Paihia.
We stepped back in time at this gateway to modern New Zealand with the help of a local guide, who belongs to the local iwi, we discovered an ancient Aotearoa filled native flora and fauna, the first Māori and Pakeha (European) voyagers, the misconceptions between them and other significant events that eventually led to the signing of the Treaty at Waitangi on February 6, 1840.
Grounds for pride
The Grounds are a ‘must-visit’ for tourists and locals alike, not just because they are a vital part of New Zealand’s history, but because of the unique opportunity of going on a journey through time, walking the footsteps of a local guide’s own ancestors and their connections to the Treaty.
Besides the Flagstaff marking the spot where the Waitangi Treaty was signed, it is worth noticing other treasures around the Grounds, such as the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe (35 metres long and weighing six tons), launched every year on February 6 as part of Waitangi Day Celebrations; native plants such as Kōwhai and silver fern; and beautiful native birds including Kererū (wood pigeon), Tūī, Pūkeko and Pīwakawaka (fantail).
The carved Meeting House, Te Whare Rūnanga, is a great example of traditional Māori architecture. Once welcomed inside after a ritual ceremony (Pōwhiri), visitors are treated to an authentic Māori cultural performance before and after Pakeha colonisation, with elements that include waiata, poi and the world-famous Haka dance.
Exclusive to Waitangi
Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, a two-storey modern exhibition, is a definitive expression of the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in the past, present and future of New Zealand.
Opened to the public on February 7, 2016, the Museum elevates the stature of Waitangi Treaty Grounds by introducing the story of the area and its people via the use of comprehensive visual and multi-media displays, with Māori and Pakeha perspectives being equally expressed, leaving visitors to judge this unique experience for themselves.
The pounamu or New Zealand greenstone is one of the many sacred treasures housed in the museum that are sure to enhance the positive energy of Waitangi, its people and its visitors.
Whetting the appetite
Touring the Grounds for many hours is guaranteed to work up one’s appetite, and the Whare Waka Café located on-site, provides the convenience for visitors who wish to save time travelling far for their food outside the Waitangi Treaty premises.
Besides wondering what to choose from the wide variety of cabinet and à la carte meals, we had difficulty in deciding whether to enjoy our food sitting within the cosy indoors or stepping outside for New Zealand’s scenic beauty, with ferns and native trees overlooking the Waka Taua (ceremonial war canoe) and the Pacific Ocean. We were glad that we chose the latter option!
In addition to enjoying good food, this is also a great place to relax those tiring muscles after a day of walking and exploring the Grounds. In our case though, it was a weekend of exploring the Bay of Islands.
The café also has vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
- The Waitangi Treaty Grounds Main Entrance
- The World’s longest ceremonial war canoe
- The Spot where the Treaty was signed on February 6, 1840
- Inside the Whare Waka Café at the Treaty Grounds
- Gardens, pathways embellish the Treaty Grounds
Pictures by Ratna Venkat