History and culture
At Ruapekapeka both sides learned significant lessons that influenced our subsequent land war history. Māori realised they could effectively take on the British army; the British realised they would need to deploy a much larger army to be effective. The innovative design of the Māori pā was very effective as a defence against British muskets and heavy artillery.
The northern war is notable as the first armed uprising and a portent for future events. Larger wars continued to be fought elsewhere until the 1870s. The process of resolving Treaty issues continues more peaceably into the present day.
Today Ruapekapeka is New Zealand’s best preserved land war battlefield. The ditch and bank defences, a carronade used by Chief Kawiti and the earthen defences of the British forward position are still visible.
From Whangarei, follow SH1 north for 35 km. Just past the Towai service station, turn right into Ruapekapeka Road and follow this for 4 km.
You will see signs for Ruapekapeka and the carpark 300 m beyond the intersection where Ruapekapeka Road meets Kawakawa Road. The road is unsealed and narrow in places so take care.
The car park is signposted, and it can easily accommodate campervans.
Know before you go
No eating or drinking is permitted on the pā site.
Watch a video This video from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage provides a perspective on the Ruapekapeka battle.
- The Colonial New Zealand Wars by Tom Ryan and Bill Parham
- Heke's War in the North (on National Library of NZ website) by Tawai Kawiti. Published in Te Ao Hou, No. 16 (October 1956).
- Landscapes of Conflict by Nigel Prickett
- The New Zealand Wars by James Belich