Occupying a headland draped in lawns and bush, this is NZ's most significant historic site. Here, on 6 February 1840, the first 43 Māori chiefs, after much discussion, signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown; eventually, over 500 chiefs would sign it. Admission incorporates entry to the Treaty Grounds, a guided tour and cultural performance, and also entry to the new Museum of Waitangi. Admission for NZ residents is $20 upon presentation of a passport or driver's licence.
The importance of the treaty is well understood by a NZ audience, but visitors might find it surprising that there's not more information displayed here about the role it has played in the nation's history: the long litany of breaches by the Crown, the wars and land confiscations that followed, and the protest movement that led to the current process of redress for historic injustices.
The Treaty House was built in 1832 as the four-room home of British resident James Busby. It's now preserved as a memorial and museum containing displays, including a copy of the treaty. Just across the lawn, the magnificently detailed whare runanga (meeting house) was completed in 1940 to mark the centenary of the treaty. The fine carvings represent the major Māori tribes. Near the cove is the 35m waka taua (war canoe), also built for the centenary. A photographic exhibit details how it was fashioned from gigantic kauri logs.