While in Northland, our first tour was of Waitangi, where the New Zealand Declaration of Independence was signed in 1835, but which is probably better known as the location of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which revoked the Declaration of Independence and made New Zealand a British Colony. The Treaty of Waitangi also brought protection of New Zealand by Britain. This was necessary, as the French were, at the time, seeking to annex (take control of) New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi is considered New Zealand’s Founding Document.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds itself has been set aside as a historical site with free entry to New Zealand residents, while those from other nations pay $25.00 ($20 US) to enter. In the Information Center, there are exhibits and a very good movie explaining the history of the area and especially of the Treaty. Guided tours are also available, but we chose to wander the grounds on our own.
After viewing the film, we wandered the estate, from Busby’s House to the Te Whare Runanga (Māori Meeting House), to the great canoes carved by Maori from the huge kauri trees in 1940 (for the 100 year anniversary of the signing), using traditional tools and methods. The lawns are expansive, with views over Bay of Islands, including Russell (where we ate lunch).
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are well worth a visit, both for the history and for the views of Bay of Islands. Another place from which to view the area is from the top of a hill, a short drive and an even shorter walk away.