Royal visits to Tohu Whenua

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II has visited Aotearoa New Zealand on ten occasions, between 1953 and 2002? Here are some of the Tohu Whenua she included in her itineraries.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds has received the Queen a number of times. 

Her very first visit was on Monday 28 December during her inaugural Commonwealth tour, in the ‘royal summer’ of 1953-54. During that first tour, about three out of every four New Zealanders saw the Queen and her husband as they visited 46 centres and attended 110 functions. One royalist claimed to have seen the Queen 30 times! The country went to extraordinary lengths to present our best face, including dying sheep in the patriotic colours of red, white and blue.

Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Waitangi Treaty Grounds, 1953.

The Queen was back at Waitangi nine years later. On 6 February 1963 (which was the anniversary of her accession to the throne and also the 123rd anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi) Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip arrived in the Bay of Islands on the Royal Yacht Britannia and attended Waitangi celebrations.

The Queen again attended Waitangi celebrations in 1974 and 1990, the latter date marking 150 years since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Hokitika Port, Commercial and Government Centre

As part of her inaugural tour of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Queen began her visit to Te Tai Poutini the West Coast by flying into Hokitika on 18 January 1954 . After a warm welcome, she and the Duke of Edinburgh travelled to Greymouth by road. Hokitika locals still fondly recall that the left (sea) side of the road had been re-sealed especially to make the Queen’s journey more comfortable, and that for some years later it was referred to as "Lizzie's side of the road"!

The Queen's Greymouth speech in 1954, after being driven on the newly re-sealed road from Hokitika.


In 1990, on a gorgeous summer day, the Queen visited Arrowtown. She and Prince Philip were dropped at the end of Buckingham Street near the pharmacy and did a walk up the street. Various activities had been organised at Buckingham Green, including spinning and weaving, choirs and children singing. Many locals dressed in period costume (as was the norm in those days for events and special occasions). The street was absolutely packed. She visited the Lakes District Museum where she was shown photos of her mother's visit there in 1966. 

The Queen's visit to Arrowtown in 1990. Source: Lakes District Museum, EP2146

Other Tohu Whenua locations

We also know that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travelled by train from ŇĆamaru to Dunedin during her inaugural 1950s tour, stepping out at one of our three Dunedin Tohu Whenua - Dunedin Railway Station. She was back in Dunedin several years later. 


Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning British monarch and this year is the first to celebrate a Platinum (70th) Jubilee.

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