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Historic Arrowtown Otago NZ

New Zealand is a young, immigrant country, with a short but rich history.

Unitl 800 years ago there was nobody here - this was a land without people. The first settlers probably arrived from Polynesia between 1200 and 1300 AD by sailing canoe. These first people to arrive were ancestors of the Māori.

The first European to turn up was Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. No more Europeans came for another 127 years until Captain James Cook, in 1769. European whalers and sealers then started visiting, followed by traders.

In the 1830s, the British were keen to beat out the French to gain New Zealand as a colony, and in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and 500 Māori chiefs. This is considered the founding document of New Zealand as a country and is the subject of disputes to this day.

Here is a brief rundown of the following 180 years up to today.

For the full rundown of NZ history, see:

Visitors will find museums and historic places throughout the country, both in big cities and small towns.


NZ's first French settlement

Auckland Museum & Domain

Huge park & iconic museum

Buckingham Street

Well-preserved main street

Canterbury Museum

Time for some history

Cromwell Heritage Precinct

Old town Cromwell saved from the lake

Arrowtown Chinese Settlement

Imagine life in 1860s gold rush times


"So nice they named it twice"

Lakes District Museum & Gallery

Local history & art of the region

Larnach Castle

Lord it in this hilltop mansion

New Zealand Parliament

Watch decisions being made!

NZ Rugby Museum

A "can't miss" for rugby tragics!

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

A must for aviation buffs!

Quake City

Learn about the big shakes

Rotorua Museum & Gardens

NZ's most photographed building


Historic hell-hole of the Pacific

Te Papa

NZ's national museum

Toitū Otago Settlers Museum

Excellent interactive museum

TSS Earnslaw

Cruise on the 'Lady of the Lake'

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

NZ's most significant historic place

Nelson Classic Car Museum

Slick & shiny historic cars

Wellington Cable Car

Impressive views & botanic gardens

Text © Craig McLachlan

Image by Bernard Spragg. NZ