New Zealand is a truly majestic place. In a normal year, it’s no wonder more than 3 million people visit it every year and once the country opens back ut to the world following the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect a huge influx of visitors once more. The country is famous for its breathtaking nature, Maori culture and incredible wildlife. However, the island is also packed with heritage sights and historic places that will wow everyone from history buffs to curious travellers.

There are so many sites on both islands that it can be quite hard to come up with a sightseeing itinerary. In this article, we’re giving you our top 7 must-visit historic places and landmarks in New Zealand:

1.   Tamaki Maori Village


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tamaki Maori Village (@tamakimaorivillage) on

This cultural heritage site is the most awarded cultural attraction in New Zealand and 2018’s #7 best experience in the world. If you’re fascinated by Maori culture, or you simply want to experience a truly cultural experience, the Tamaki Village is the best place to go to.

The Maori culture is a crucial building block of New Zealand’s culture. In the 2006 census, over 565,000 persons said they were Maori, which comprises over 10% of the country’s population.

Therefore, if you want to understand New Zealand’s history in its entirety, you have to be educated on the culture of the indigenous people. There’s no better way to do that than a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village.

2.   Waitangi Treaty Grounds


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Waitangi Treaty Grounds (@waitangitreatygrounds) on

This is the location where New Zealand’s founding documents were signed in 1840 between the British Crown and the indigenous people, making it the most important national historic site. It’s a combination of both Maori and European history and a must-visit for anyone who wants to understand New Zealand’s history thoroughly.

It’s located on the North Island and features many other attractions for visitors, including a stunning view of the Bay of Islands. Next to the actual spot of the signing and the flagstaff, you can also visit the carved Maori meeting house and the largest waka (canoe) in the world.

This historic site is open every day and hosts tours and cultural performances. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is, without doubt, one of the most significant places in New Zealand and a must-visit in terms of historical sites.

3.   Queen Victoria statues, Auckland & Wellington


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Michael Gask (@michaelgask) on

What’s so special about one statue? Well, if you visit Auckland with a great guide and hear the historical background behind this statue and Queen Victoria’s involvement in New Zealand’s history, you’ll definitely be amazed.

Also, Queen Victoria is one of Wellington’s most significant statues, but it also sparked some controversy. The building of the monument was first planned in 1901, after the Queen’s death and it was first placed in the Post Office Square to serve as kind of a welcoming statue for visitors. However, traffic issues ensued and it was moved to its present site on Kent Terrace.

What sparked the highest number of complaints is the statue’s granite pedestal, which depicts the signing of the Waitangi Treaty. Locals claimed it ‘glosses over’ the events of 1840.

The statues of Queen Victoria are famous landmarks in both Auckland and Wellington so make sure you add them to your to-do list when you next visit either of these two cities.

4.   Kemp House


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kiwis on Adventure (@kiwisonadventure) on

It’s always fun and educational to see the oldest surviving house or building in any given country. Not only is it a spot full of history and heritage, but it also tells us a lot about the lifestyle, architecture, work and society at the time of the inception of the country. For New Zealand, that house is the Stone Store (Kemp House).

Built in 1821, “Kemp House, which is officially called The Stone Store and Mission House, is New Zealand’s oldest surviving building. It was occupied by the Kemp family (hence the name) and served as a mission house”, says Melanie Barton, a travel writer at PickWriters.

If you are looking to find the oldest building in NZ, you will need to head to Kerikeri in Northland where you will find The Stone Store.

5.   Edwin Fox Museum


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Expatosaurus Family (@andrea_expatosaurus) on

If you’re a fan of nautical history, there’s no better place to visit in New Zealand than the Edwin Fox Museum. Edwin Fox is a ship constructed in 1853 in India, making it the 9th oldest surviving wooden ship in the world.

This is no ordinary ship, though, as it was part of critical points in NZ and world history: it was a convict ship that took convicts to Australia, but also a New Zealand immigrant ship. It’s also the oldest surviving merchant ship in the world.

It started its sea journeys with Sir George Hodgkinson at the helm, who sold it to Duncan Dunbar less than a year later. When Dunbar died in 1863, the ship was sold to Gallatly, Hankey & Company of London and mostly sailed on the London-India route.

The Edwin Fox Museum is located at Dunbar Whark in Picton at the northern tip of the South Island. It’s a great place to visit and is the start point (or end point) for those catching the inter-island ferry to or from Wellington.

6.   Old St Paul’s


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Erica Sito (@erica_sito) on

Located in Mulgrave Street, Wellington, Old St Paul’s is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in New Zealand. It was built in 1866 and played an important part in the city’s history ever since.

Tourists often like to complain that all churches look similar and “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all”. However, you can prepare for something totally different when you visit Wellington’s Old St Paul’s.

Unlike massive stone cathedrals, this church is entirely made of New Zealand native timbers, with beautifully painted windows, which is a combination that you will rarely find anywhere in the world. It was built in a Gothic style.

The church no longer serves as a parish but remains a very popular wedding and event venue.  It’s also one of the must-sees for tourists visiting Wellington.

7.   Larnach Castle


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Experience Oz | Australia (@experienceoz) on

The popular slogan behind this beautiful destination is “Visit New Zealand’s only castle”. And while this may be true – Larnach is indeed NZ’s only castle – it’s definitely worth visiting as it’s not only aesthetically breathtaking but also played a role in the country’s history.

Larnach Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens which are open for visitors and can be explored and enjoyed all year round. However, the interior is equally stunning, providing a practically unlimited area for exploring and discovering the details of the old castle.

You can also find accommodation in one of the little houses in the castle’s vicinity.

Larnach Castle is located just outside of Dunedin and is a wonderful place to visit and a starting point for exploring the Otago region.


New Zealand has a lot more gems to discover, so if you’re a history fan, you’ll never run out of things to do on our magnificent islands.

From majestic castles to villages of indigenous culture, there is something for everyone on both islands. Make sure you learn about the island’s indigenous Maori culture, as well as the deep connection to the British culture.

About the author

Elisa Abbott is a writer and editor at Best Writers Online. Elisa closely collaborated with many small business owners which brought her many insights into various industries.

Updated: 19 May 2021