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Tohu Whenua heritage places your kids will love

Want to give your kids a uniquely Kiwi experience? TOHU WHENUA makes it easy to find heritage adventures that are fun for the whole whānau. By Claudia Babirat

Tohu Whenua are Aotearoa New Zealand’s most treasured heritage landmarks. They’re easy-to-access places where your kids can get hands-on, be history detectives, learn from local guides and explore at their own pace as your whole whānau discovers our nation’s most important stories. This government programme makes it easy for all New Zealanders to connect with their tūrangawaewae. It encourages kids to develop their identity and self-esteem by learning about history at the places where it happened. 

Each Tohu Whenua site is unique. Visit charming old towns where you can pan for gold or look for pounamu at the beach, explore a pā site, make damper at a historic farm, or climb the turret of a real castle! Note that at several locations where fees apply, children under 18 go free when accompanied by a parent or caregiver. 

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There are currently 26 Tohu Whenua heritage landmarks in three regions for your whānau to discover. Here are four of our favourites.


Explore the rustic miners’ huts at the Chinese Settlement, cycle along the river that once started a gold rush, try on the manacles at the 1876 stone gaol in Cardigan Street (key available at Lakes District Museum) and treat the whole whānau at the old-fashioned sweets store along the authentic Wild West style main street.

Totara Estate, Ōamaru

Discover one of Otago’s earliest farms, the birthplace of our billion-dollar meat export industry. Kids can easily imagine what farm life was like during Victorian times as they explore the interactive exhibits in the stone-built stables, granary, cookhouse and more. Feed the sheep, explore the heritage vege garden, enjoy freshly baked scones and play old-fashioned games. Open September to May.


Visit the West Coast’s best mining ghost town, located near historic Reefton. Peep into the barbershop, explore the Blackwater mine buildings, play on the old rugby field, find the empty Olympic-size swimming pool, or do one of several walks. There’s plenty of green space for kids to play. Ideal for picnics, or plan an overnight stay by booking a bunk at Waiuta Lodge through the Department of Conservation.

Pompallier Mission and Printery, Russell

If you’re headed to Northland, don’t miss Aotearoa’s oldest surviving pioneer printery and tannery. Their fantastic guides encourage kids to get hands-on as they walk you through each step of the 19th-century printing and book-binding process, from setting print to tanning leather hides. The beach is right across the road.

Tohu Whenua is a partnership between Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage, Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. To find out more, visit tohuwhenua.nz, follow us on social media @tohuwhenua and pick up our regional Tohu Whenua brochures.


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