Kemp House and Stone Store – Kerikeri

Kemp House and the Stone Store, located in the Kerikeri River Basin, are two of New Zealand’s oldest buildings.


The two buildings were built as part of the Church Missionary Society’s second Anglican mission to New Zealand.

Kemp House is the oldest surviving European building in New Zealand and was built by Reverend John Gare Butler in 1821-22 as a mission house. The house was occupied by missionary George Clarke from 1824 to 1831. In 1832 blacksmith and missionary James Kemp and his family took residence.

After the mission closed in 1848 the Kemp family stayed on eventually buying the house from the Church Missionary Society. Descendants of the Kemp family lived at the property until 1974 when Ernest Kemp gifted the house to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.



The Stone Store, which is the country’s oldest surviving stone building, was built between 1832 and 1836 as a storehouse for the mission. After the mission’s closure it became a general store. The Historic Places Trust purchased it from the Kemp Estate in 1976.

Today the ground floor is a gift shop. There are museum displays on the top floor.

Entry to Kemp House is via guided tour only.






Ernest Kemp Cruises

Ernest Kemp Cruises offer two hour daily cruises on Lake Taupo to the Māori Rock Carvings.

Ernest Kemp

Ernest Kemp

The Ernest Kemp was built in 1980 and is a replica of a traditional steamboat. It 48 feet in length and can travel at speed of 9 knots. The vessel is named after the great grandson of early settlers and missionaries James and Charlotte Kemp.

The vessel is located at berth 2 at the Taupo Boat Harbour. Tickets can be purchased the Fish Cruise Taupo booking office or the Taupo I-SITE Visitor Information Centre.

The cruise departs 10:30am, 2pm and 5pm. The 5pm cruise is only offered October to April.

I am not sure the number of passengers Ernest Kemp can take but they definitely fill it to the brim during the summer months. It felt like sardines, which dampened the enjoyment of the experience a bit.

The skipper will provide live commentary pointing out interesting landmarks and make recommendations on activities to do in the area.

Out on the lake

Out on the lake

We passed the Barbary, a 1926 recently refurbished yacht that once belonged to actor Errol Flynn. Legend has it that Flynn won the yacht in a card game.

The highlight of the cruise is of course the Māori rock carvings at Okuta Bay (also known as Mine Bay), which can only be viewed from the water. Ernest Kemp Cruises claim to be the boat that gets you closest to the carvings. Although a kayak would probably be the best option for one wanting the closest experience to the carvings.


Maori Rock Carvings

Māori Rock Carvings

Some visitors may be disappointed to learn that the carvings are not hundreds of years old. Work on the carvings began in 1978 by carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell as a gift to the people of Taupo.

The main cliff carving at 10 metres in height is of Ngatoroirangi, a Māori navigator who guided the tribes of Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa to Taupo over a thousand years ago.

Children are offered an opportunity to skipper the vessel and receive a certificate. They also offer complimentary tea, coffee or hot chocolate with a cookie. Complimentary beer, wine or soft drink is offered on the 5pm cruise.