Top 10 Heritage + Café Destinations
Feed your curiosity and your puku! Looking for a destination where you can learn history where it happened, with the added bonus of some delicious kai?
You’re in luck. Aotearoa New Zealand is jam packed with incredible Tohu Whenua heritage sites and many of them have cafes attached or nearby - all great places to feed your curiosity, wairua and passion - and your puku!
What is Tohu Whenua?
Tohu Whenua is your one-stop shop for exploring the country via top notch visitor experiences that are great for families. Our website and social media offers a free online guide to destinations that will have you cycling alongside historic railway lines, holding tools of the past or exploring ancient pā sites.
A recent survey of more than 1400 Tohu Whenua heritage site visitors revealed that 88% of surveyed visitors to Tohu Whenua sites reported a high level of satisfaction with their visitor experience. So if you’re searching for new experiences for you and your whānau, let Tohu Whenua be your guide to places we know you’ll love. The growing network of Tohu Whenua is currently in Te Tai Tokerau Northland, Te Tai Poutini WestCoast and Otago. Keep an eye out for more sites, and regions, coming soon.
To start planning your next heritage adventure, check out our top 10 destinations for foodies:
Kororipo Heritage Park is a dynamic Tohu Whenua site that includes Kororipo Pā, (once the seasonal home of famed and feared Chief Hongi Hika), Te Ahurea (a chance to experience pre-European life), Aotearoa’s oldest building Kemp House and the iconic Stone Store (the oldest stone building in the country).
It’s also the home of the Honey House Café; the perfect spot to sit and sip while overlooking the Kerikeri River while you soak up the layers of Kororipo Heritage Park history. Visitors can take their pick from a selection of freshly baked goods, lunch options such as, quiche, sandwiches and salads, as well as pies and sausage rolls.
Visit Pompallier Mission and Printery in Kororāreka/Russell and experience a captivating journey into the legacy of Bishop Pompallier and his French missionaries. New Zealand’s sole surviving pioneer printery and tannery, this unique site serves as a time capsule, commemorating the missionaries’ influence in introducing Catholicism through the production of written works in Te Reo Māori. Immerse yourself in the award-winning heritage garden, grab a souvenir at the on-site gift shop, and savor a delightful pastry in the French coffee shop; a homage to Bishop Pompallier and the French missionary presence in Aotearoa New Zealand.
A favourite coffee stop for Otago Rail Trail explorers, Historic Hayes offers a chance to explore Ernest Hayes’ engineering workshop and the family homestead and taste some award winning pies! Plan your visit to coincide with a summer-time Operating Day to witness all of the historic workshop machinery come to life.
Often called the ‘Birthplace of our Nation’, Waitangi weaves together the strands and stories of many people, events and places to reveal the rich cultural history of Aotearoa New Zealand.
On site, you’ll find the Whare Waka Café that offers a range of tasty dishes, celebrating typical New Zealand cuisine. With great quality Supreme coffee, Whare Waka Café is the perfect spot to take time out and enjoy comfortable and relaxed indoor or outdoor dining overlooking the beautiful Bay of Islands.
When you’re on the West Coast a stop in Hokitika, home of pounamu, is a must. Meet master carvers in their working studios and return home with your own taonga – you may even discover a pounamu pebble on the beach.
The Regent Theatre is a heritage building in the heart of Hokitika where you’ll find a café with highly regarded pies and great service. Another gem of Hokitika is Thatcher & Small; a gorgeous café making waves in Hokitika. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pop in for All Press coffee, craft beer and superb food.
Nicknamed Quartzopolis and the Town of Light, Reefton was the booming commercial centre of quartz reef gold mining and the first place in the southern hemisphere to supply electric street lighting.
Reefton is the home of great coffee, food and service at the Broadway Tearooms and Bakery - established 1874 and iconic ever since. We also recommend you check out Reefton Distilling Co. The Distilling team repurposed existing historic buildings to house a stillroom, warehouse, bottling hall and office building, which is an important part of their commitment to sustainability. Their Cellar Door and retail store is open 7 days to welcome visitors.
A visit to Larnach Castle, one of New Zealand’s premier visitor attractions, is a must for all visitors to Dunedin. Explore the castle and extensive gardens on a guided or self-guided tour, and treat yourself to a high tea experience.
High Tea is available between 1.30pm and 3pm daily and includes a selection of home made sandwiches, slices, scones and cream cake and a pot of tea.
Arrowtown is a chance to explore original gold-rush buildings, walk or cycle through tree lined streets and taste all that the small town’s award-winning restaurants and cafes have to offer.
We recommend checking out Provisions of Arrowtown on Buckingham St. Restored to a cafe in 2010, the building was previously a miners cottage and dates as far back as the 1870s adding the perfect heritage ambience to its local and seasonal menu.
Ōamaru’s remarkably intact and distinctive Victorian streetscapes reveal a once majestic colonial outpost that played a key part in Otago’s industrial and agricultural heritage.
Harbour Street Bakery is a must do (see cronuts above!) and Badger & Mackerel is a top notch brunch destination.
It was from this once grand estate just south of Ōamaru that the first shipment of frozen mutton was sent to England in 1882. This marked the start of an export industry that has underpinned New Zealand’s economic prosperity and put our meat on English dinner tables.
Join in with farm activities, feed the sheep, and play old-fashioned games and enjoy freshly baked scones.
5 best half-day heritage walks for autumn
Bright blue skies, trees ablaze with colourful autumn foliage, and tranquil tracks - smart walkers know that autumn is one of the most glorious seasons to be in the great outdoors. It’s also a great time of year to discover more of New Zealand’s unique history with Tohu Whenua.
Your guide to Kiwi heritage this Waitangi Day
A recent survey commissioned by Kiwi visitor guide, Tohu Whenua, and their partners revealed that 78% of Kiwis surveyed want to learn more about NZ history and many indicated a specific interest in Māori heritage. As Waitangi Day approaches, Tohu Whenua is proud to share several sites where New Zealanders can learn more about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and other aspects of Māori heritage.