New Zealand Archaeological Sites
 for the Cultural Tourist

A page of the NEW ZEALAND ARCHAEOLOGY Site NZAA home page


Free independent travellers seek authenticity in their travel experiences.

Modern New Zealand values its history and cultural heritage. It has cities which are world class in their liveability, national parks of stunning beauty, a diverse productive and green countryside. It has many protected sites from its historic heritage.

Maori, the first New Zealanders, found their own unique way of living here and after first seeking to accommodate the pressure of colonialism, many then confronted it and lost the resulting wars. New Zealand has moved from mono-cultural domination to accepting and then celebrating diversity. Maori have moved from having little influence outside their own affairs to a fuller share in the nation's wealth and a role in its decision making.

Colonial exploitation of minerals, of the ability to transform the land to exotic pasture and forests, of abundant water and energy and of remoteness from other nations have all left legacies. Under-valuing of energy, water and rights of waste disposal have consequences of excessive use and waste and are matters modern New Zealand is treating seriously as it seeks a sustainable future. 

A remote and rugged country has challenges for transport of people and goods. There is a record of endeavour in shipping, railways and air transport.

Much of this experience of modern New Zealand that a traveller can experience finds expression in the physical historical remains of the past - its archaeology. The past can validate the authenticity of experience of the present. Historic heritage is an important part of "Brand New Zealand".

Just a tour of archaeological sites? - of course not - but include a few, chosen around your interests.


Why visit archaeological sites? - Its the closest we can come to time travel, travelling in both space and time. It exposes other ways of being human in a landscape which may have a modern use that is familiar and less remarkable. And it often takes one away from the common tourist destinations, to where happenchance delivers cultural experiences of today's world that become stand-out experiences for a traveller.

This listing is arranged around the regions on the map. The map regions are hot-point linked to the list.

Unless specifically noted the sites are normally open to the public, but there may be exceptions for particular events or site maintenance or restoration work. 

There are many more archaeological sites in New Zealand than listed here. 

We have not covered shipwreck sites. 

Where we mention travel times they are by car. 

At most places only a modest level of fitness is required to see the site. Where more vigour is required it is flagged. Virtually none have paved paths to wheelchair standard. 

Our 'other recommended activities' are a sample only. There will be an entry charge for most of these.

Our star system - based on visitor experience rather than purely archaeological significance.

Not to be missed - world class.
Worth the effort, classic New Zealand sites.
If you have more time these will give you some more variety. 

There are many more historical things to visit than have been listed here. Where there are primarily standing buildings or structures still serving their original purpose they have not been included on this website. This is not to say they are not historic or valuable,  or even that they cannot be investigated archaeologically, but just they are not commonly thought of as archaeological sites.


Visiting Sites: 

  • If you loose your way ask a local.  New Zealanders like to help visitors - we travel a lot too.  And ask them what they would recommend you see - they just might know a treasure we do not, or be able to tell you a story about our sites that complements what you can see.

  • A little preparation on New Zealand history and Maori culture will greatly enhance the experience of visiting these sites.  Try, and

  • Please protect our cultural heritage when visiting these sites. Don't pick up or remove artefacts or take shells or bones from middens, don't walk on stone walls - they are often fragile. Don't worsen soil erosion by following already eroding tracks.  Protect the sites from fires. Even grass fires can lead to damage to sites. There are farm animals on some sites. They are often used for grass control in place of mowing. Leave gates as you find them and don't disturb stock. Look for a gate rather than climb a fence. Take your rubbish away.

  • New Zealand may be lovely - but it is not crime free. Don't encourage car break-ins by leaving valuable items in view, even at the most isolated places.

  • Freedom camping - may be OK in some places but it can detract from the enjoyment of places by others - be considerate.

  • Support sustainable tourism:


To find the location of  places use our google maps and google earth links, or try LINZ on line maps - use the searchlight button in the toolbar to find places by name.

Hungry archaeologist? Some of our areas have dining suggestions linked by this logo. See page. 


There are icons beside the names of many of the sites - they give a quick indication of the nature of the site:

Maori sites - other than defensive ones. The icon is a decorated gourd (hue). Star Sites:
Te Wairoa Village
Maori defensive sites - Pa. These are found commonly throughout the North Island and in the north of the South Island but become rare further south. The icon is a stone club (patu). Star Sites:
Coastal defence sites - on the major harbours. The icon is a 19th century coastal defence gun.   Star Sites:
Taiaroa Head

New Zealand Wars sites - by both Maori and the colonial forces. These are mostly in the northern North Island. The icon is an Armstrong breech loading gun used in the wars by the British troops. 

Landscapes of Conflict,  A Field Guide to the New Zealand Wars. Nigel Prickett, (Random House. 2002)

NZ Redoubts, Stockades & Blockhouses 1840-1848. A Walton (pdf on-line)

Star Sites:
Gold / bullion mining sites - Coromandel, West Coast and Central Otago are the main centres for these. The Coromandel mines produced more silver than gold.
Other mining sites Tin, sulphur, copper, tungsten, mercury, asbestos, iron, kauri gum and coal are among the minerals mined in the past.

Industrial sites

Nigel Smith  Heritage of Industry. (Reed, 2001)

Mathew Wright  New Zealand's Engineering heitage1870-2000. (Reed 1999)

  Star Sites:
Brunner Mine Industrial Site

Railway heritage 

David Leitch and Brian Scott's Exploring New Zealand's Ghost Railways  (Grantham House,  1998) is recommended for the NZR lines.

Euan McQueen Rails in the hinterland, New Zealand's vanishing railway heritage  (Grantham House 2005) is good too.

Department of Conservation rail heritage sites. (pdf)

  Star Sites:
Rimutaka Incline

General Sources

DOC Visitor centres

On the Web


The Penguin Field Guide to New Zealand Archaeology, Kevin L. Jones (2007 Penguin Books). 

AA Book of New Zealand Historic Places. (1984, Lansdowne Press).

Mathew Wright Big Ideas: 100 Wonders of New Zealand Engineering (Random House 2009).

DOC Historic Heritage pages

DOC Tracks and Walks

NZ Tourism Awards   check out the Heritage Attractions and Cultural Tourism categories.

Historic Places Trust   check out the Places You Can Visit category.

New Zealand Museums on Line has many heritage resources listed - use the heritage search facility.

link to See purenz arts and culture listings.

AA 101 Must-do's for Kiwis - look at the Heritage / History set. 

IPENZ Engineering Heritage

The List

North Island South Island





Bay of Plenty


Hawkes Bay


Wanganui, Manawatu


Nelson, Marlborough

West Coast


Otago / Central Otago


Chatham Islands



(More coming - come back soon)

Dun Mountain Railway


Aniseed Valley Smelter

Kawatiri Railway Walkway

What:  Railway tunnel, bridge, platforms. Near the southern end of the ill-fated Nelson railway - part of the Midland Railway which proved beyond the means of its investors. Abandoned 1931. Interpreted.

Where: On the Buller River south of Nelson

Web Info:

How to get there: SH 4. 97 km from Nelson. Carpark at station beside road.

How long to allow: 20 minutes for local features. There is lots more to be seen of the railway between here and Nelson.

What else to do there: Rest of the walkway - the Buller area is magnificent forested country.


Stepping Back, Exploring South Island History. Mark Pickering, 1998, Shoal Bay Press.


Karaka Point Pa, Picton

What:  Defended Maori site, with raised rim storage pits

Where: Eastern side of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Web Info:

How to get there: 8 km from Picton on the Port Underwood Rd. Watch far a small carpark on the left.

How long to allow: half hour -400 metres easy walk to site

What else to do there: Nice view over the sound. Mussels on the rocks if the tide is low.




(Coming - come back soon)

Denniston Incline

Waimangaroa. 15 km from Westport on the north road Conns Creek Road. 

Brunner SH 7 east of Greymouth

Foundations Seddon's House


Stepping Back, Exploring South Island History. Mark Pickering, 1998, Shoal Bay Press.

Tour Operators

Tours which are only to cultural sites are not common in New Zealand but almost all general tours will include some cultural sites.

We are happy to list providers here in exchange for a reciprocal link:  email us

Paste:  <a href=""> Archaeological Sites for the Cultural Tourist</a>


Backpack New Zealand

Bargain Wheels car hire
New Zealand Cultural Heritage and Eco Tours, in the King Country

Haka Tours

  NZAA  Last Update: 04/06/2010