Cultural and Historic Sites of Interest

Nunuku’s Cave (Moriori Rock Carvings)

(Nunuku’s cave is located on private land so please ask your accommodation or tour provider to arrange for permission for you to visit.)

Located on the western side of Te Whanga lagoon, Nunuku’s Cave is infamous for its limestone Moriori rock carvings (petroglyphs) of seals and birds. The cave is named after the Moriori leader; Nunuku Whenua, who outlawed fighting amongst the warring clans of Moriori.

While visiting Nunuku’s Cave enjoy a half hour stroll along the shores of Te Whanga lagoon, with its stunning limestone cliffs and layers of shell deposits, some of which date back 40 million years.

 Rakau Momori (Moriori Tree Carvings)

Rakau momori (dendroglyphs, or tree carvings) were historically found on kopi trees around the North, East and West coasts of Chatham Island, and also on Pitt Island.  Most, however, were concentrated in kopi groves on the Northeast coast of the main island.  It is there that they can be viewed today, especially in the J. M. Barker (Hapupu) National Historic Rerserve, and Taia Bush Historic Reserve.

Most of the surviving rakau momori are stylised human figures, much like the kind often used in recent years as a Chatham Islands emblem.  Others represented albatross and flounder, and other were more abstract.  It is believed that the human figures represented known ancestors and were carved as acts of mourning and remembrance when family members died.


Maunganui Stone Cottage

The stone and timber cottage at Maunganui in the North-West of Chatham Island was built between 1866 and 1868 by Moravian Missionaries, Johann Bauke and Johannes Engst.

The Maunganui Stone Cottage is adjacent to the 178m high, volcanic peak of Maunganui. It has been inhabited periodically over the years and is well maintained.



The Tommy Solomon Memorial

This memorial is a life-sized statue of Tame Horomona Rehe, more commonly known as Tommy Solomon, this man is widely credited with being the last known, full-blooded Moriori.

Tommy became a sheep farmer in 1903, soon after the death of his mother and his marriage to Ada Fowler of the Kai Tahu Iwi.

By 1915 Tommy was running 7000 sheep and a herd of cattle.  After the death of his wife and his father in 1915, Tommy married Whakarawa in 1916, who was the niece of his first wife. They had five children.

During the 1920s, Tommy became known as one of the most successful farmers on the Chatham Islands. He had an active social and political life and was widely respected for his generosity and his conciliatory nature.  He leaves an enduring legacy as the “last full-blooded Moriori”.

Tame Horomona Rehe died in 1933 of pneumonia and heart failure. Whati Tuuta, the son of his friend George Tuuta, built the coffin for the 22 stone Tommy. The statue at Manakau, 10km from Waitangi, was erected in 1986 to acknowledge Tommy’s contribution to the Chatham Islands and to commemorate his life.

  • Rakau Momori
  • Tame Horomona Rehe
  • Rakau Momori

Chatham Islands Museum

The Chatham Island’s Council houses a small museum that has a wide range of interesting memorabilia.  It is well worth visiting to view the displays that include:

  • Moriori artefacts and tools
  • Maori tools
  • Relics from the whaling days
  • Casts of dinosaur bones found on the Chathams
  • Exhibits and photos relating to early life on the Islands

The museum contains numerous publications, among which you can read about;

  • Nunuku’s Law
  • Home of the Moriori
  • The only area of New Zealand ever to suffer a foreign naval bombardment
  • “Potato capital of the South Pacific” during the whaling days
  • The 244 American whaling ships that called at the Chathams between 1835 and 1888 (the Chatham whaling grounds were the busiest in the Pacific)
  • The Chatham Islanders that were taken prisoner by the Germans during the second World War when the SS Holmwood was torpedoed and sunk
  • The only area of New Zealand to lose a member of the community to a tsunami
  • The diverse early population
  • Rangikapua Reserve was fenced off privately in 1891 and is possibly the oldest private reserve in New Zealand
  • The second earliest registered racing club in New Zealand (after Auckland)
  • Betty Braid: the first woman jockey to win the 2-mile race (but because she was unregistered  that accolade went to Linda Jones of the NZ mainland instead)
  • Chatham Island’s inventions to adapt to the climate
  • New Zealand’s oldest telephone exchange
  • Home of (what were) the world’s most endangered species, the Black Robin and Taiko,
  • …………..and much more.

The museum is open during Council office hours – Monday – Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm.