Whether you’re local or are just browsing through, Heritage Park Whangarei is a great place to visit and spend some time to explore, discover or simply relax. Situated just off State Highway 14 towards Dargaville, the 25-hectare big area of volcanic farmland, native forest and bush houses Northland’s only Kiwi House, the local museum, a bird recovery centre as well as some unique Victorian style heritage buildings and the Observatory.
The park is also popular for running an old steam train and miniature trains in the school holidays and on designated weekends. Pack a blanket and some food for a picnic on the grass or grab an ice cream and snacks from the visitor centre. Heritage Park is a great destination for the whole family to spend a day out and about.
Spotting kiwi in the wild can be quite a mission as they are very shy and elusive, but at Kiwi North you can observe New Zealand’s iconic bird all year round. It’s Northland’s only nocturnal house and open to the public 7 days a week from 10am to 4pm. Watch them rummage through the forest for food at feeding time and listen as the keeper shares interesting facts about these flightless birds.
The Kiwi House also features a species as ancient as the dinosaurs with Flash, the tuatara, as well as a range of native gecko. Its big focus is on conservation and preserving native wildlife, with panels and displays emphasizing the biggest threats to our flora and fauna and what each individual can do to prevent their extinction.
The interactive museum lets you explore stories of the past, including those from early settlers who transformed Whangarei into the vibrant city it is today. Admire some beautiful Māori taonga and natural history displays or walk the length of a traditional waka (canoe) made from native kauri that sailed the seas more than 300 years ago.
There are more than 80,000 artefacts permanently on display and the museum is open to the public 7 days a week. Temporary exhibitions are also part of the program as are traveling exhibitions, so it pays to check out the museum website for further information.
Around Heritage Park are several colonial style buildings from the late 1850s to early 1900s. Explore one of the smallest octagon-shaped chapels in New Zealand made from just one single kauri log or relive what a typical school day would have been like for students in 1898. On site is also the original Whangarei Women’s Jail from 1900 as well as the former homestead of the Clarke family which housed 3 generations after the family arrived from England. It’s full of personal possessions depicting life of the early settlers.
A highlight for old and young is riding the trains at Heritage Park Whangarei. Every third Sunday of the month as well as during the school holidays an old steam train and several miniature trains take visitors for a special journey around the park. There is also a railway museum operated by the Whangarei Steam & Model Railway Club displaying a collection of steam and diesel engines.
Native Bird Recovery Centre
Run entirely by volunteers, the centre provides treatment and support for injured native birds and helps them be released back into the wild after their recovery. It’s a haven for small and big feathered friends that can be visited during daytime. Entry is by donation.
Take a look into the night sky and see how the universe looks like in the Southern Hemisphere. More than 5000 stars are usually visible each day and telescopes are available depending on the weather. The planetarium is New Zealand’s northernmost observatory and usually open Saturday evenings as well as for special occasions such as Matariki.
There are two main car parks for Heritage Park Whangarei, one near the Kiwi House, the other one close to Clarke Homestead. Parking is free. Toilets are available at Kiwi North and close the second car park.