A splinter of land at the country’s northern tip, approximately 100 km long. Its name comes from the local iwi (tribe). It is sometimes known as Te Hiku-o-te-ika-a-Māui, the tail of Māui’s fish. European explorers and traders arrived in the 19th century. They were followed by several thousand gum diggers. Since then, European settlement has not been extensive. The remoteness and magnificent marine life of the area make it a favourite tourist destination.
The peninsula was once covered in a massive kauri forest. Some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago it was gradually buried beneath peat swamps and encroaching sand dunes. The ancient wood is mined for making ornaments and furniture, and the land is now partly farmed and partly forested with exotics.
Aupōuri Peninsula’s most dramatic feature, along the western coast. At just 60 miles (96 km) long from Shipwreck Bay to Cape Maria van Diemen, it is misnamed. The beach is a vast arch of fine white sand, backed by immense dunes and broken by rocky outcrops and shallow streams.
Known also as Te Oneroa-o-Tōhē (the long beach of Tōhē – an ancestor of Te Aupōuri and other northern people), it is a spectacular way to approach Cape Rēinga. It is famous for fishing and shellfish, and an annual surf-casting contest. Toheroa used to be taken from the beach, but the shellfish is now a restricted delicacy. At low tide, vehicles can use the beach. The main access is at the south end near Ahipara.
New Zealand’s first-known land yacht was sailed along Ninety Mile Beach by missionary William Puckey in the 1830s, reaching speeds of 50 kilometres an hour. Land yacht races are still held on the beach.
Craggy headland 6 km north-east of Cape Maria van Diemen, at the northern tip of the Aupōuri Peninsula. It rises steeply to 290 m above sea level, and is often thought to be the northernmost point of the country. However, North Cape lies about 2 km further north, and beyond that the coast at the foot of the Surville Cliffs is the most northerly point.
The lighthouse at Cape Rēinga holds one of the country’s most powerful lights, visible for some 50 km. The headland itself is the meeting place of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It also has spiritual significance for Māori as the departing place of souls (Te Rerenga Wairua) on their journey to the homeland, Hawaiki.
The spirit trail (te ara wairua) to Cape Rēinga lies along Ninety Mile Beach on the west coast. Starting at Ahipara at the south end of the beach, the departing spirit waits for an outgoing tide before journeying back to Hawaiki. The final plunge into the sea is taken near an underground cave at the cape, where there is a much-photographed tree. The pathway was recorded by the first European known to have followed it, the missionary William Puckey, in 1834.
Group of small rocky islands, 53 km north-west of Cape Maria van Diemen. They were named the Three Kings Islands by Abel Tasman in 1643. The largest is Great Island, also known as Manawatawhi. The other main islands are North East Island, South West Island and West Island. The group was once occupied by Māori and is now classified a nature reserve. The islands are important seabird breeding sites, with New Zealand’s northernmost colony of Pacific albatrosses.
On 9 November 1902 the trans-Tasman steamer Elingamite was wrecked on West Island, with the loss of 45 lives. A large cargo of gold bullion went down with the ship, but much of it was later recovered.
Northernmost harbour on the east side of the peninsula. It is a main departure point for migratory godwits, which fly in early March to Siberia and Alaska. Silica sand from the southern head of the harbour is shipped to Whāngārei and Auckland for glass-making.
Narrow inlet south of Pārengarenga Harbour, on the east side of the peninsula. The Wagener, Subritzky and Yates families farmed and traded around both harbours in the 19th century. The Subritzky homestead, a relic of this period, is at Houhora Heads.
Northernmost town in New Zealand, with a 2013 population of 4,887. Kaitāia is the commercial and service centre for a rural area farming mostly sheep, cattle and dairy cattle. Local industry is mainly the processing of dairy produce and timber, sawmilling, and general engineering and building.
The Far North Regional Museum holds an enormous anchor lost off the coast in December 1769 by the French explorer, Jean François Marie de Surville.
The Ngāti Kahu and Ngāti Kurī tribes had dwelt with Te Rarawa in the district for some decades before the Te Rarawa leader Nōpera Pana-kareao invited missionaries into the area. The land made available for purchase once held six pā. At the mission station, established in 1833 by Joseph Matthews and William Puckey, 61 chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 28 April 1840. Two early churches were replaced in 1887 by St Saviour’s Church. In its cemetery are the graves of the two missionaries and Nōpera.
In the early years, Māori assisted with building, planting and road-making, and grew wheat and food crops. They took their produce to Auckland markets in their vessel, the Fairy. A few Europeans arrived in the 1850s, and settlement expanded rapidly between 1870 and 1900, when kauri-gum diggers, including many from Dalmatia, set up. The Yugoslavian Social Club is a legacy of the district’s gum-digging days, as are the many Dalmatian surnames, sometimes held by descendants of Māori–Dalmatian unions. Milling of native forest and flax made Kaitāia the Far North’s commercial centre by 1900.
In the 1920s promotion of settlement began in earnest. ‘Go north, young man’, was the cry of Allen Bell, who laid out the town and established a newspaper, the present Northland Age. But the town remained isolated. Kaitāia was long dependent on the small river port of Awanui, 7 km north, from where scows took kauri and gum down the Awanui River and out through Rangaunu Harbour. A proposed rail link stopped at Ōkaihau, 73 km south-east. The growth of farming and forestry, together with better highways and an air service from 1947, improved links with other settlements and regions.
Kaitāia’s economy has been supported by the planting and harvesting of exotic forest on the Aupōuri Peninsula. Recent ventures include vineyards and fruit growing, and arts and crafts businesses. But in 2013 the unemployment rate was more than twice that of the country as a whole. The median annual income was $19,500 (compared with $28,500 nationally). In the 2000s the population (of which over 50% identify as Māori) remained static at just over 5,000, before dropping below that in 2013.
Township at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach, 14 km south-west of Kaitāia. Situated on Ahipara Bay, Ahipara is 18 km north-west of Ahipara Hill, a former gum-digging area and now the site of a historic reserve. The Māori population of Ahipara in the 1950s was reported on (under the name Kōtare) by anthropologist Joan Metge, in A new Māori migration: rural and urban relations in northern New Zealand (1964).
Inlet 26 km south-west of Kaitāia. It is sometimes called the Herekino River as it is an estuary for many streams, rather than a harbour. The township of Herekino is at its head. The Herekino forest contains fern birds and one of the few stands of large kauri in the north.
Inlet 42 km south-west of Kaitāia via Herekino. In the 19th and early 20th centuries several trading and passenger vessels, including the Leonidas, the Lionel, the Geelong and the River Hunter, were wrecked at its treacherous entrance.
Historic, picturesque township 36 km north-east of Kaitāia, on Doubtless Bay. The settlement and Taipā coast had a combined population of 1,662 in 2013.
Mangōnui became a favoured haven for whalers from the early 1800s. The township then grew as a trading port where kauri logs were milled and prepared for export. Farming started slowly too. By the 1860s Mangōnui was the administrative centre for the far north with government offices, hotels, a hospital, and coastal shipping links with Auckland.
Gum digging and flax milling boosted growth in the 19th century, but after 1900 kauri and gum business shifted west to Kaitāia. The administrative centre followed in 1918 and the hospital in 1934. Disappearance of the old industries and better roading led to Mangōnui’s decline as a coastal shipping port in the 1950s.
A Northland woman was not happy with treatment in the early days at Mangōnui hospital, and when she received a bill, wrote: ‘I am sorry I cannot see my way at present to pay anything. Lucky I’m not dead, with the tinned milk, dried beans etc. I got when there. What with rates, taxes, soldier’s debts, bills etc. and a husband with not much work and plenty of swearing thrown in, I’m just about ready to keep company with His Satanic Majesty in the hot place, where I wish the Mangonui Hospital Board at present.’ 1
Mangōnui’s reputation as a fishing town attracts crowds to the small food outlets along the harbour front. The whaling days are recorded in a small museum, while early buildings convey the sense of a time long past.
The town serves a farming district and permanent residents along the coast at Coopers Beach, Taipā and other bays. It also nurtures a growing tourist industry, with summer numbers swelling to many thousands.
Bay west of Mangōnui, claimed as the site where the Polynesian explorer Kupe first landed. A monument at Taipā marks the spot of this landing, which led to Māori migration and settlement many years later. One tradition tells of an ancestral canoe being led in by a big shark (mangō nui), giving Mangōnui harbour and town its name.
The bay was visited by European explorers – Frenchman Jean François Marie de Surville and Englishman Captain James Cook – in the 18th century. In December 1769 their ships were both in the area, unbeknown to each other. The bay was named by Cook – ‘Doubtless a bay,’ he is reputed to have said on sighting it.
Distinctively shaped land mass on the east side of the Aupōuri Peninsula, separating Rangaunu Harbour from Doubtless Bay. The rocky outer part of Karikari was formerly an island. It is now joined to the mainland by accretion, which has formed Tokerau beach on the east side of the peninsula.
Karikari is a traditional homeland for the Ngāti Kahu tribe. One of their marae, Haiti-Tai-Marangai, is on the south coast of the peninsula at Whatuwhiwhi.
In December 1769 the bay was the site of violence between Māori and de Surville. His vessel, the St Jean Baptiste, lost three anchors off the peninsula. One is now at Kaitāia’s museum, and another at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. Grapes were planted on the northern coast of the peninsula in the late 1990s, and it is a popular tourist destination.
Sheltered harbour between Mangōnui and the Bay of Islands on the east coast. It is a drowned river system, which explains the peculiar surrounding rock structures. The township is dominated by a pinnacle known as St Paul, with a twin, St Peter, facing it across the water. At the head of the harbour are extensive mangrove swamps. A quiet, beautiful location surrounded by farms, with popular ocean beaches nearby, there is little indication of its turbulent and busy early years.
Whaling ships visited as early as 1805, but ceased for 10 years after the massacre of the crew of the sailing ship Boyd by Māori in 1809. The chief Hongi Hika died at Whangaroa in 1828. In 1840 settlers arrived and the Catholic mission at Whangaroa was set up. Whangaroa Harbour became a centre for timber, gum and ship-building in the last three decades of the 19th century. In the early 1900s it was a whaling base for a time.
In December 1809 the sailing ship Boyd anchored in Whangaroa Harbour to pick up a cargo of timber spars. It was boarded by a group of Māori, who massacred its crew and passengers in retaliation for the captain’s mistreatment of a young chief, Te Ara (also known as George). In the attack the ship caught fire and sank in the harbour, where it still lies.
The main route north, developed in the 1960s, bypassed the settlement. Today it serves locals, and those involved in yachting, big-game fishing and diving.
Township on the Kaeo River, which flows into the Whangaroa Harbour about 4 km to the north-west. It is named after the kaeo, a freshwater shellfish found in the river. Kaeo was the site of Wesley-Dale, New Zealand’s first Wesleyan Mission station, established by Samuel Leigh and William White in 1823. The station was abandoned after a raid by warriors of Ngāpuhi chief Hongi Hika. Kaeo is now the principal settlement in a farming and fruit-growing district.
Sheltered beach on the north-east coast, between Whangaroa and the Bay of Islands. The wreck of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior, bombed by French saboteurs in Auckland in 1985, was sunk in Matauri Bay as a diving attraction in 1987. A monument to the ship stands on the headland. The area is a centre for farming and commercial fishing, and a holiday destination.
Group of islands about 4 km north-east offshore from Matauri Bay. There are eight main islands, the largest of which is Motukawanui. There is deep-sea fishing in the vicinity. Captain James Cook named the islands when the Endeavour anchored nearby on 27 November 1769. The name refers to the fish (probably trevally) bought from Māori.
Expanse of water with several long inlets and over 150 islands, south of Whangaroa Harbour. It formed when the sea drowned a number of river valleys, creating an irregular and attractive coastline of more than 800 km. The area shows signs of volcanic activity, with many eruption outlets and lava flows. Its outer limits are marked by the headlands of Tokerau on the north and Rākaumangamanga on the south.
A number of hapū (sub-tribes), with Ngāpuhi and/or Ngāti Hine affiliations, have a lengthy association with the bay. It was first visited by the ancestral navigators Kupe and Ngake (or Ngahue), and later Toikairākau.
The first European visitor was Captain James Cook in 1769, who named the bay. In 1772 the French navigator Marion du Fresne arrived. After a series of misunderstandings he was killed with 24 of his crew. In revenge the French destroyed three Māori villages and massacred around 250 people.
The next encounter was more peaceful. In December 1814 Anglican missionary Samuel Marsden arrived from New South Wales and preached the first Christian sermon on Christmas Day. The next year he established a mission station at Rangihoua Bay. Others were set up at Kerikeri (1819) and Paihia (1823). The bay was chosen for these missions because it was one of the first reached from Sydney, and had safer anchorages than the west coast. But Marsden’s contact with travelling Māori before he came to New Zealand, notably Te Pahi and Ruatara of Ngāpuhi, probably also influenced his choice.
Through the later 1820s and 1830s whalers favoured the bay for provisioning, bringing trading opportunities for which Māori competed vigorously. Whaling was concentrated at Kororāreka (now Russell), across the water from Paihia.
A British Resident, James Busby, arrived in 1833. He lived at Waitangi, adjacent to Paihia. The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and Māori chiefs took place at the Bay of Islands in 1840, and it became the first seat of colonial government. It was also the first site of conflict between the Crown and Māori, in 1845, after some Māori were angered by the shift in government (and therefore commerce and influence) to Auckland in 1841.
For the next 80 or so years the bay slumbered. Trade in kauri and kauri gum was the principal economic activity for both Māori and Pākehā. In the 1920s American adventurer and author Zane Grey made his base at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island and popularised the bay’s deep-sea fishing.
In 1920 a launch service began collecting cream from dairy farms on the small islands in the Bay of Islands. For many years it also dropped off mail and supplies. Sightseers hitched a ride, and in time the experience was so sought-after that the run became a daily commercial tour. A fleet of boats now offer the trip.
First the railway, then the highway brought the bay within the reach of Auckland holidaymakers, who double the population of the district every year between Christmas and the end of January. Many cruising yachts make the township of Ōpua a first port of call on arrival from further north, and more than 50 cruise ships call in to the Bay each year. In 1978 the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park was established to promote the area’s recreational attractions and protect its special character.
Town on an inlet of the Bay of Islands. In 2013 the population was 6,504. Known as the ‘fruit bowl of the north’, it has sheltered orchards and market gardens. First planted in the 1920s, they produce citrus, kiwifruit, tamarillos, macadamia nuts and a variety of vegetables and flowers. Vineyards have developed, along with restaurants. Today the town is also notable for its diverse cultural activities – arts and crafts, drama and music – which are presented at an annual festival. Visitors are drawn to both the town and its historic enclave that straddles the tidal Kerikeri River.
The Kerikeri basin is dominated by a renowned Māori site, Kororipo pā. Around the 1770s Māori of the Ngāi Tawake tribe defended the site as their outlet to the sea. In the 1820s Ngāpuhi war chief Hongi Hika used the pā as the mustering place for his canoes and warriors before they launched devastating raids on other tribes. A shrewd strategist, Hongi made nearby land available for a Church Missionary Society (CMS) station. He intended to use the mission to secure European weapons and other skills to further his war aims. By 1827, however, Hongi and many of his followers had moved on, leaving Kerikeri to the missionaries.
In 1819 a group of missionaries from the first CMS mission station near Rangihoua pā began building and planting at Kerikeri. One of the relics of their occupation is the mission house of 1821–22 – New Zealand’s oldest wooden building. Another is the nearby Stone Store, built in 1832–36 as a storehouse, granary and trading post. Made of volcanic rock and Sydney sandstone, this is the oldest stone building in the country.
On 3 May 1820 missionary John Butler wrote: ‘The agricultural plough was for the first time put in to the land of New Zealand at Kideeekidee [Kerikeri], and I felt much pleasure in holding it after a team of six bullocks … I trust that this day will be remembered with gratitude, and its anniversary kept by ages yet unborn. Each heart rejoiced in this auspicious day, and said, “May God speed the plough’.” 1
Europeans acquired land in the district from the 1840s. By the late 1890s much of it was a sheep and cattle station, owned by T. C. Williams, a son of the missionary Henry Williams. The station passed through several owners until purchased in 1927 by George Alderton who established the North Auckland Land Development Corporation. Subdivided as orchard and forestry lots, the land was taken up by British colonial families from China and India as well as by New Zealanders, who laid the foundation for Kerikeri’s present horticultural industry.
Growth was boosted in the 1990s by new residents from overseas as well as New Zealand, attracted by the pleasant location and way of life. They have given the town a prosperous flavour but also make it less like the rest of Northland. In 2001, 91.3% of Kerikeri’s population was European, compared with 42–43% in neighbouring Kaikohe and Kawakawa. Similar contrasts were evident in the 2013 census.
Holiday town 23 km south-east of Kerikeri with a 2013 population of 1,719. Well sited on the inner reaches of the Bay of Islands, it has a rich history. Waitangi is immediately to the north while Russell is on the opposite shore, reached by passenger ferry, and by car ferry from nearby Ōpua.
The Church Missionary Society established a mission in 1823 (following one at Kerikeri in 1819), and later set up New Zealand’s first printing press. Paihia’s residents witnessed and recorded the events leading to the establishment of colonial government in 1840. The mission closed in 1850 and by 1890 there were a mere handful of houses and a church in the settlement. St Paul’s, the present stone church, was built in 1925 on the site of three earlier churches as a memorial to missionaries Henry and William Williams.
The holiday town dates from the 1930s. The restored Treaty House at nearby Waitangi was an attraction, and a road built from Ōpua made the town much easier to reach from the south. After the Second World War it became particularly popular with Aucklanders, and rivalled Russell (still reached mainly by ferry) in size. In the early 1960s a hotel opened, catering to well-off visitors, while the town had beach houses, motor camps and motels. It is a base for deep-sea fishing, boating and for visiting sites of historical interest throughout the Bay of Islands.
Location 3 km north-west of Paihia. At its centre is one of the country’s most spectacular and historic places. James Busby, British Resident, took up residence on the north side of the mouth of the Waitangi River in 1833. In 1834 Māori chiefs gathered at Waitangi to select a national flag, and in 1835 to sign a declaration of the country’s independence. On 6 February 1840 Waitangi was the site for the signing of a treaty between Māori and William Hobson, representing the British Crown.
Missionary William Colenso describes the gathering of chiefs to consider the Treaty of Waitangi:
‘In front of the platform …were the principal Native chiefs of several tribes, some clothed with dogskin mats made of alternate longitudinal stripes of black and white hair; … here and there a … taiaha, a chief’s staff of rank, was seen erected, adorned with the long flowing white hair of the tails of the New Zealand dog and crimson cloth and red feathers.’ 1
The Waitangi Treaty House and grounds, together with an additional 1,000-acre land block, were gifted to the nation in 1932 by the governor-general, Lord Bledisloe, and his wife. His intention was to create a national historic site to mark the country’s foundation document. A trust board was set up, the dilapidated house restored, and the grounds gradually developed. The Treaty House underwent extensive renovations in 1989–90. Development of the grounds is ongoing. Te Kōngahu, the Museum of Waitangi, opened in February 2016 as a major visitor attraction.
Celebrations were held in 1934 to acknowledge the gift, and in 1940 to mark the treaty’s 100th anniversary. In the Treaty House grounds a whare rūnanga (meeting house) representing all tribes was built for the 1940 celebration. The commemorations led to a recognition of the historic significance of Te Tii marae at the Waitangi River mouth. Māori had erected a treaty monument there in 1880. Both commemorations brought thousands of visitors to the quiet Northland area, and established an annual tradition to mark the birth of the nation. The date of 6 February was first observed as a national holiday in 1974.
Since the 1970s Waitangi Day commemorations have been an occasion for protest by Māori and some Pākehā. In addition to concerns over land loss, protesters have wanted acceptance of Māoritanga (Māori values), acknowledgement of Māori as tangata whenua (people of the land) and, latterly, Māori sovereignty and speedy settlement of land grievances. In the early 2000s it was clear that for many New Zealanders, the treaty had meaning far beyond its historical significance as the nation’s founding document.
Township behind Tāpeka Point on the inner reaches of the Bay of Islands. In 2013 it had a population of 720. The main business, aside from serving the needs of its population, is providing for thousands of tourists. They arrive by sea as well as by road because Russell provides a sheltered anchorage, where dozens of yachts and cruising launches cluster. A variety of cruises and tours leave from Russell, which is the base for many of the big-game fishing charter boats. The town is also the headquarters of the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park.
Russell is a historic spot, dating from the early 19th century and known until the early 1840s as Kororāreka. In the 1830s it was a lawless trading centre where whalers, seafarers and merchants mixed with adventurers, deserters and escaped convicts from Australia. From 1833 there were attempts to impose British law, culminating in the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Few early buildings have survived fire, but along its tree-shaded beachfront road there is a hotel that holds the country’s oldest licence, a quaint old police station, and several restaurants that claim historic origins.
The signal flagstaff on Maiki Hill had been donated by Ngāpuhi leader Hōne Heke Pōkai. After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, he became increasingly unhappy at the way British authority was undermining that of Māori chiefs. He saw the British flag as a symbol of this process, and so cut down the flagstaff.
Towering above the township is Maiki Hill, topped by a flagstaff. In 1844–45 its signal flagstaff was cut down by Māori four times as a protest against the government. In 1845, war broke out when Kororāreka was attacked and many buildings were destroyed. The flagpole was eventually re-erected by Maihi Parāone Kawiti in 1858.
One of the oldest church sites in the country is Christ Church. First built in 1836, it survived the sacking of Kororāreka in 1845. It was transformed to its current design in 1871. The churchyard has been used since 1836 and some well-known people are buried there. They include the Hokianga chief and government supporter, Tāmati Wāka Nene, and naval personnel killed during the 1845 war.
Another early building is the Marist mission printery, known as Pompallier. In 1839 Bishop Jean Baptiste François Pompallier established the headquarters of what was known as the Catholic mission to Western Oceania at Kororāreka. His Marist priests built a two-storeyed printery, which also operated as a tannery and storehouse, in the mission compound. But in 1850 Pompallier’s priests were assigned to work elsewhere and in 1856 the building passed to James Callaghan, a tanner. It was used as a grand private home from the late 1870s. Thought incorrectly to be a bishop’s palace, the house was bought by the government in 1943. In the 1990s it was restored as a printery. It is under Heritage New Zealand care.
Locality behind Okiato Point, 7 km south of Russell. After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson purchased land there to establish the colony’s first capital. It was named Russell after the leader of the British House of Commons. However, the capital was moved south to Auckland in 1841, and the settlement burned to the ground. Nearby Kororāreka was renamed Russell. Today, Okiato is a holiday resort.
Valley south-west of the Bay of Islands, crossed by the Waiōmio Stream. It is known as the cradle of the Ngāti Hine people. The area was discovered by Hineamaru, a descendant of Rāhiri, the ancestor of the Ngāpuhi tribe.
Caves at the village of Waiōmio, 4 km south of Kawakawa, are on land owned by descendants of the Ngāti Hine ancestor Te Ruki Kawiti. The caves have delicate stalactite and stalagmite formations and contain glow worms. Another notable site is the remains of the massive Ruapekapeka pā, 14 km south-east of Kawakawa. A battle took place there in 1846. This was the last engagement in the conflict in the Bay of Islands between British troops and Ngāpuhi forces led by Hōne Heke and Kawiti.
The inaccessible inland site of Ruapekapeka pā explains its name, which means ‘the bat’s nest’. This extraordinary fortification, designed by the Ngāti Hine chief Te Ruki Kawiti, incorporated palisades, trenches, and underground shelters. In early 1846 it withstood heavy bombardment by British forces before its defences were breached. When the British finally entered they found only a handful of Māori still inside – the rest had strategically withdrawn.
Town 17 km south of Paihia at the confluence of the Waiōmio and Waiharakeke streams. These flow out into the Kawakawa River estuary and out to the Bay of Islands.
In 2013 it had a population of 1,218, including many young Māori. The site of an early flax-milling enterprise, Kawakawa developed as a service town when coal was found in 1861. The coal was railed to Ōpua for shipment. Coal mining has now ceased.
Kawakawa was once the headquarters of the former Bay of Islands county. Farming is now the principal economic activity.
In the 1970s the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser moved to the vicinity. The town’s unique public toilets were made to his design. They feature inset glass and tiles, sculptures, a living tree, and a grass roof.
Town 5 km south-west of Kawakawa. In 2013 it had a population of 1,431, with similar ethnic and age characteristics as at Kawakawa. Moerewa developed in the 1940s around a meat-freezing works (now much smaller) and a dairy factory (now closed). Cutbacks in local industries and services in the 1980s resulted in hardship for many. In response, the He Iwi Kōtahi Tatou Trust was formed to provide youth training, social services and community development initiatives such as helping to set up Māori-owned businesses.
Town approximately halfway between Hokianga and the Bay of Islands. Kaikohe is the administrative centre for the Far North district, serving the surrounding farming area.
In 2013 its population was 3,915. 77.9% identified themselves as Māori.
Māori historical associations are significant. The northern war leader Hōne Heke died in Kaikohe in 1850. A memorial on Kaikohe’s 300-m hill celebrates his grandnephew, Hōne Heke Ngāpua, a member of parliament and active supporter of the Māori parliamentary movement known as Kotahitanga.
Kaikohe was a small Ngāpuhi settlement until a rail link south was made in 1914 and dairy farming developed. After the First World War returned servicemen settled there, and then in the Second World War it was a base for an American army hospital and air force bomber unit. Today some of this history is presented at Kaikohe’s pioneer village and museum.
In the early 21st century the community was divided over locating a prison at Ngawha. Some local concerns about the effects of this on existing gang problems were realised, but since opening in 2005, the Northland Regional Corrections Facility has also become a leader in arts programmes for inmates, winning an Arts Access Corrections Leadership Award in 2016.
Rolling farmland surrounding Kaikohe, with dramatic volcanic cones. Other volcanic features include Ōmāpere, a shallow lake created by an ancient lava flow, and Ngāwhā thermal springs.
Many of the cones are marked with pā fortifications that indicate the density of the early Māori population. The volcanic loams were well suited to growing kūmara (sweet potato), intensively cultivated by Māori. A mission-trained Māori, Rāwiri Taiwhanga, had the country’s first dairy farm in about 1840, and is remembered in a Kaikohe park. Today the landscape is studded with the small white churches distinctive to the north.
The northern war (1845–46) brought fighting to the area: a short distance north-east of Kaikohe, the Ōhaeawai battle is marked by St Michael’s Church and graveyard, built on the battle site. Another historic spot is Pakaraka, the site of missionary Henry Williams’s church and retirement home.
Volcanic cone (282 m) and historic pā about 15 km east of Kaikohe, not far from the junction of highways 1 and 12.
People first settled on the Taiamai plain in undefended kāinga (villages), but between 550 and 350 years ago some pā (fortified villages) were built. Pouērua is one, and has been investigated by archaeologists in collaboration with local hapū (sub-tribes). The fortifications stretched 600 m, with massive earthworks and palisades encircling the high points of the volcano. It would not have been occupied permanently (water supply would have been too difficult), but was a refuge in times of conflict.
The arrival of Europeans diverted Māori interest to coastal settlements such as Kerikeri and Kororāreka, where they could engage in dealings with the newcomers, and the pā was abandoned.
The place name Kaikohe is a shortened version of the original, Kai kohekohe – meaning ‘to eat berries’. When the inhabitants were besieged, they would be forced to hide in kohekohe trees, where they survived by eating the fruit.
Farming district 15 km north-east of Kaikohe. Today Te Waimate mission house and the ruins of a cottage and blacksmith’s shop are the only remnants of a model Church Missionary Society farm established in 1831. It aimed to teach agricultural and trade skills to Māori, but by 1840 this venture was in decline.
St John’s College, a combined theological college, high school and technical institute, catered for Māori and Pākehā from 1842 to 1844 before shifting to Auckland. Damaged by occupying British forces in 1845, most of the buildings at Waimate North were removed, or disintegrated. Today the remaining buildings are in the care of Heritage New Zealand, and an archaeological walk covers the central part of the once thriving village.
Extensive harbour on Northland’s wild west coast, reaching far inland. The green, craggy south head near the coastal village of Ōmāpere was once a signal station for shipping. The north head has towering, bleached sand dunes, some up to 170 m high.
The harbour’s full name, Hokianga-nui-a-Kupe – the final departure place of Kupe (for Hawaiki) – recognises its association with the famous Polynesian explorer. Hokianga has a long Māori history, and a strong Ngāpuhi presence today.
The harbour was one of the first points of Māori–European contact. The occasional ship called from around 1800. Although a dangerous bar made the harbour entrance risky, a waterway navigable for some 24 km from the entrance drew European visitors in the 1820s. In ventures that combined Māori and European, the kauri forest was exploited in a thriving timber trade. There was shipbuilding at Hōreke in the late 1820s.
Missionaries followed traders. A Wesleyan mission was established in 1828 by John Hobbs at Mangungu – where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by some 60 chiefs on 12 February 1840. In 1838 Jean Baptiste François Pompallier, New Zealand’s first Catholic missionary bishop, said the first Catholic mass not far from Motutī. In 2002 his bones were brought from France and buried at Motutī. Another Catholic settlement, Panguru, was the home of one of Northland’s most famous 20th-century elders, Whina Cooper.
Hokianga soon became a busy centre for the kauri and gum trades, and for flax milling. It was also a thriving port, as shipping was the only means of exporting the products. When the exploitative trade diminished around 1900, farming developed very slowly. Much of the land remained in Māori ownership. In the 1930s government-funded development of multiply-owned Māori land and improved roading and forestry work brought economic advances.
Arriving at Hokianga with a group of colonists in 1837, eccentric Frenchman Charles Philippe Hippolyte de Thierry proclaimed himself ‘Sovereign Chief of New Zealand’. He was ridiculed and deserted by his followers, but both Māori and the English were worried about French colonising ambitions. Ngāpuhi chiefs provided land for him at Hokianga, on condition that he abandon his audacious scheme.
Township on a narrow peninsula in the middle of Hokianga Harbour, linked by car ferry to Kohukohu on the harbour’s northern shore. It had a 2013 population of 471.
At first it was a timber centre, and in the early 1800s a mill and shipyards were established. In 1826 there was an unsuccessful settlement organised by the first New Zealand Company.
Historic buildings include the last house of James Reddy Clendon, who was US consul at the Bay of Islands in the 1830s. He was a witness to the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, a member of the first Legislative Council from 1841–44, and a magistrate from 1850.
George McCall Smith, an archetypal backblocks doctor, developed Hokianga’s unique health service, centred on Rāwene Hospital, which he headed from 1914 to 1948. Hokianga was designated a special health area in 1941, and special provision for health services continues.
Village on the harbour’s south shore near Ōmāpere. Opononi became world-famous in the summer of 1955–56 when a playful dolphin swam with children and gave them rides on her back. Named Opo, she was to have been given protection by law, but died in mysterious circumstances before this came into force. She was memorialised by writers and artists, and there is a sculpture at her grave.
District at the junction of Ōpurehu and Mangamuka rivers, both of which feed the upper reaches of the Hokianga Harbour, 36 km south-east of Kaitāia. The Mangamuka Gorge is at the base of the Maungataniwha Range. The mountainous forested area contains giant kauri trees. The settlement of Mangamuka Bridge is at the point where State Highway 1 crosses the Mangamuka River.
Locality on the Waipoua River within the Waipoua State Forest, 55 km north of Dargaville on State Highway 12.
Proclaimed a 9,105-ha forest sanctuary in 1952, it is now managed by the Department of Conservation. It is one of the few remnants of kauri forest to have survived extensive clearing and milling during the 19th century, when kauri timber was needed for ships’ spars and building. The Waipoua Forest contains one of the largest remaining kauri trees, Tāne Mahuta (lord of the forest). It is about 51 m high, with a girth of 14 m. The sanctuary also has populations of kiwi, kōkako, and kauri snails.
Forest park of 577 ha, 36 km north-west of Dargaville. It was developed from a 30-ha site covered in kauri trees, gifted to the nation by James Trounson in 1919. It is now managed as a ‘mainland island’ by the Department of Conservation, with intensive pest control to allow the recovery of native plants, birds, bats, and kauri snails.
Broad zone within the bounds of state highways 1 (between Brynderwyn and Pakaraka) and 12 (which follows a west coast route between those two junctions).
Early Māori seldom traversed this zone, which lay between hapū (sub-tribe) settlements. However, many of its summits are often referred to in oral traditions – for instance Tangihua, Tūtāmoe and Te Tarahi o Rāhiri (near Kaihu). This last peak is named for the ancestor Rāhiri, of Ngāpuhi.
Methodists had a mission station at Tangiterōria from 1836 to 1853. In the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th much of the kauri was felled. But the soils are not very fertile and the land has only been farmed over extensive areas. Small settlements – Twin Bridges, Pakotai, Tītoki, Ararua, Ōkahu, Maungakaramea, Waiōtira and others – survive along winding gravel roads. These link the farms to the state highways, to local service centres such as Maungatapere, and to the bigger towns of Kaikohe, Dargaville and Whāngārei.
Town on the Northern Wairoa River, 58 km south-west of Whāngārei and 186 km north-west of Auckland. In 2013 it had a population of 4,251.
The Wairoa (named ‘Northern’ to distinguish it from Wairoa in Hawke’s Bay) is the principal river feeding Kaipara Harbour from the north. Broad and straight for the 30 km of its course below Dargaville, it provided an easily navigable route into the kauri-forested interior. Dargaville is named for the Australian merchant Joseph Dargaville, who in 1872 bought the 80-ha Tunatahi block from the Ngāpuhi chief Parore Te Āwhā and others.
Like other Northern Wairoa settlements – Aoroa, Aratapu, Te Kopuru, Tokatoka and Ruāwai – Dargaville thrived as the kauri trees fell and the mills hummed. Dalmatians (Croatians), as well as locals and new arrivals from Britain, were drawn to the district.
Logs and timber were carried down the Wairoa River by ships of up to 3,000 tons which braved the Kaipara Harbour bar before making the journey to Onehunga, ports further south, and across the Tasman Sea to Australia – the biggest market.
The timber and gum industries waned after 1920 but were replaced by farming, particularly dairying. South of Dargaville this occurs on the fertile Ruāwai flats. They are below sea level, but protected by drainage systems and stopbanks, and overlooked by a 180-m volcanic plug, Tokatoka.
Dargaville became a borough (incorporated town) in 1908, and survived as the main centre of the district. It grew steadily until the 1960s, when the population stabilised. Named the ‘kūmara capital’ it is the country’s principal centre of kūmara (sweet potato) production. It lies on the approach to the ‘Kauri Coast’ tourist route, which leads to Waipoua and Hokianga.
100-km beach stretching from the 500-m Maunganui Bluff in the north to low-lying North Head at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour in the south. When most of inland Northland was covered in dense kauri forest, the west coast provided the best way to travel north and south.
Maunganui Bluff was an important landmark, visible many kilometres away in clear weather, especially from the south. It is often mentioned in oriori (chants) and waiata (songs) of the north. Landings of the ancestral canoes Māmari (at Ōmāmari) and Māhuhu-ki-te-rangi are also remembered.
Ripirō is today a gazetted highway, longer than the better-known Ninety Mile Beach on the Aupōuri Peninsula. The ‘road’ can be reached via the beach settlements along the coast – Aranga Beach, Ōmāmari, Baylys Beach and Glinks Gully.
Largest enclosed harbour and estuarine system in New Zealand, with over 800 km of coastline. The harbour is separated from the Tasman Sea by two large sandbank peninsulas. The upper Kaipara lies in Northland region and includes the large estuaries formed by the Wairoa, Arapāoa, Ōtamatea and Ōruawharo rivers.
The waterways provided Māori with resources, and a ready means of moving between settlements. Most of the marae around the harbour are affiliated with Ngāti Whātua sub-tribes, who have associations going back hundreds of years.
Towards the end of the 20th century, commercial fishing had depleted fish and seafood in the Kaipara Harbour. Concerned locals have been frustrated in their attempts to enlist government support to save this rich local resource. In a 2005 documentary, The Kaipara affair, veteran film-maker Barry Barclay examined their plight.
European settlers began arriving in the area about 1839, mostly to work in the kauri timber industry. Boat-building for local needs also thrived. The sawmilling settlements established at the water’s edge at Tinopai, Arapaoa, Matakohe, Paparoa, Pahi, Whakapirau, Tanoa, Batley, Oneriri and Ōruawharo have survived as tranquil backwaters.
Between 1862 and 1865 the Albertland company brought 3,000 settlers to Port Albert, on the south bank of the Ōruawharo River. Some settled further north around Maungaturoto. They came to farm, and now dairy farming is the main economic activity in the district. The townships of Maungaturoto and Kaiwaka both benefit from a highway location. Maungaturoto is the home base of one of Northland’s bus companies.
In Seven lives on Salt River (1987), Dick Scott explored the histories of seven families who lived on the shores of the Pahi and Arapāoa rivers during the early days of European settlement. They included Gordon Coates, prime minister from 1925 to 1928, who grew up near Matakohe and returned to the district throughout his life.
More recently, Pahi in particular has become a launch point for houseboating and fishing in the Kaipara. A museum at Matakohe commemorates both the kauri industry and the early Pākehā settlers.
Kaipara Harbour is a key site for migratory wading birds. In summer more than 30,000 Arctic waders, including godwits, plovers, curlews and sandpipers visit. Many New Zealand waders, including wrybills and South Island pied oystercatchers, visit from their southern breeding grounds in winter. It is also a breeding site for several rare and common species, including the fairy tern and New Zealand dotterel.
Peninsula separating the northern reaches of the Kaipara Harbour from the Tasman Sea. Its distinctive landscape has many lakes surrounded by sand dunes, quicksand in places, big exotic forest plantations and a sculpted ocean coast.
North Head, the entrance to Kaipara Harbour at the southern end of the peninsula, is low-lying, a feature which caused many shipwrecks. There are records of 113 shipwrecks on the coast: the first in 1839 was the Aurora, a full-rigged ship of 550 tons. The last recorded was the yacht Aosky in June 1994. Much of the terrain of the Poutō peninsula is a conservation area for sand dunes and dune life, or (further inland) planted in exotic forest.
Major centre for Northland, and its only city. In 2013 its population was 49,161.
Nestled in a broad valley between hills to its west and east, the city lies on a long inlet of Whāngārei Harbour on Northland’s east coast. Initially a service centre for the surrounding district, it has developed through its proximity to some of the country’s deepest harbour waters, and through the north’s expanding tourism.
The Parawhau tribe originally occupied the land and continued to live in several villages around the settlement through the 19th century. Whāngārei began as a timber-milling site in 1839, but the first Europeans fled to Auckland for a time during the 1840s when war broke out in the Bay of Islands between Māori factions and British troops. For a while the area stagnated, and then the kauri-gum trade and shipbuilding brought new settlers.
Tom the Rat, Jack the Bug, Fenian Mick, Harry the Humbug, Spouting Sammy, and Blathering Bill – these were the nicknames for sawyers, shingle-splitters, timber-workers and runaway sailors who built rough shelters or shanties on Whāngārei’s outskirts, where ‘rowdy towns’ or camps sprang up in the 1860s.
The Whāngārei district was the most urbanised area in Northland in the latter part of the 19th century, but growth in the first half of the 20th century was slow. Coastal shipping was the main link with other centres. It was 1925 when the railway was put through to Auckland, and an all-weather road was not completed until 1934.
Industries started to expand, including the Portland cement works (which started on Limestone Island in 1885 and in 1916 moved to Portland). In the late 1950s glass works, fertiliser works and the Marsden Point oil refinery were all under construction, the last completed in 1964.
Achieving city status in 1965, Whāngārei now dominates the surrounding area commercially. It has industries such as timber processing and fertiliser works.
The city’s Forum North complex is the cultural and performing arts centre for Northland. There are live performances at the Whangarei Theatre Company’s Riverbank Theatre and the Repertory Society’s Octagon Theatre. Local and visiting artists are on show at the Whāngārei Art Museum, and regular exhibitions are featured at the Northland Polytechnic, the region’s tertiary institution. Whāngārei Libraries hold collections of publications and photographs on the region and there is also a city museum. The Northern Advocate is Northland’s main newspaper, founded in 1875.
Port located at the head of Whāngārei Harbour. It has a town basin that takes vessels of up to 1,000 tons, and a deep-water wharf that serves overseas ships. Dredging and reclaiming of tidal mudflats in the 1920s provided land for the port facilities and industrial sites.
By 1958 an international port was in operation. Since the 19th century one of Whāngārei’s major industries has been shipbuilding, expanding into luxury yacht-building in the 1990s. A new quayside commercial, office and recreational complex was opened in September 1995. It provides a haven for the many overseas yachts that berth alongside, and visitors frequent its cafés, art galleries and restaurants. Another attraction is Claphams Clocks, a museum collection of some 1,500 timepieces.
Township 7 km north of Whāngārei. Coal was mined from 1876 and prompted the building of a rail line from Whāngārei in 1880. Some 2 million tons of coal were mined to 1955 (when flooding closed the last mine). Kamō was also the site of a brick works which expanded after the Second World War. The town was incorporated into Whāngārei City in 1965.
Township 16 km north of Whāngārei. Like Kamō, it had rich coal seams, which were mined from the 1890s. The railway was extended from Whāngārei to Waro (just north of Hikurangi) in 1894. The town also became the centre for a dairy farming district. It became part of Whāngārei district in 1989, and a museum records its early history.
Large inlet extending north-west from northern Bream Bay, 23 km long, and from 3 to 6.5 km wide. It is dominated by unusually shaped volcanic hills, the best known of which is Manaia, above the northern entrance. Manaia was an important ancestor of the Whāngārei tribes, and a tradition says he was transformed into one of the jagged peaks at the summit. Settlements and beaches are dotted around the harbour’s picturesque bays both east and south of Whāngārei City.
The loss of native bush around Whāngārei Harbour and the prevalence of predators such as stoats and rats has spurred conservation groups to action. One project aims to increase the population of New Zealand’s famous flightless bird, the kiwi. Tactics include trapping predators, raising the awareness of dog owners, enlisting help from farmers, and tagging and monitoring kiwi that are breeding.
Deep-water berth at the south head of the Whāngārei Harbour entrance, 38 km by road south-east of Whāngārei. Logs and timber are exported, and tankers unload crude oil for New Zealand’s only oil refinery there. An oil-fired power station, built in 1965–67, is close by.
The refinery, completed in 1964, was dramatically expanded in the early 1980s and in the 2000s. It produces petrol, diesel, jet fuel, kerosene, fuel oil, bitumen, sulfur for agricultural fertiliser, and carbon dioxide for carbonated drinks. Almost half the fuel output is carried by pipeline to Auckland, the balance being shipped around the country by coastal tanker or taken by road.
Indented, pōhutukawa-fringed, scenic coast stretching from Bream Head, at the entrance to Whāngārei Harbour, to Cape Brett at the entrance to the Bay of Islands. Shore-fishing excursions are run from Whāngārei (December to April). There is big-game fishing and all-year diving from Tutukākā, where an artificial reef has been created by the sunken frigates Waikato and Tui.
Bream Head Reserve has coastal broadleaf forest with a number of rare native plants, as well as kiwi and green and Pacific geckos.
The coast is cut off from the interior by hills, whose catchments drain north and south to Waikare in the Bay of Islands and Whāngārei Harbour. Therefore the coast was seldom visited other than by sea until roads were improved from the 1950s on. Since then a number of beach settlements – Whangaruru, Matapōuri, Ngunguru, Tutukākā and Whananaki – have developed along the coast. Whangamumu Harbour, south of Cape Brett, was the site of an early shore whaling station. It began in the 1840s, and from the 1890s until the 1930s it was a base for trapping humpback whales.
Group of rocky islands (total area 195 ha) 25 km offshore from Sandy Bay. The two main islands are Tawhiti Rahi and Aorangi, with Aorangaia and Archway islands at the southern end of the group. They are volcanic, and notable for their steep headlands and cliffs, tunnels, caves and natural bridges. They are also home to the rare Poor Knights lily (Xeronema callistemon), have populations of tuatara (lizard-like reptiles) and are the only known nesting place of the sea bird, Buller’s shearwater (Puffinus bulleri).
The waters surrounding the islands were made a marine reserve in 1981 because of the diverse sea life there, and are one of world’s top diving spots. The islands are a nature reserve, and landing without a permit from the Department of Conservation is prohibited. They were named by Captain James Cook on 25 November 1769, allegedly after a popular English dish of fried dumplings, called ‘poor knights’. The name is thought to refer to the lumpy appearance of the islands.
Expanse of water on the Northland coast south of Whāngārei and within the tribal area of Ngātiwai. The 495-m bluff of Bream Head at its northern end marks the entrance to Whāngārei Harbour. It is the final prominence of a 10-km range that forms one of the country’s most striking coastal skylines. Bream Tail marks the southern end of the bay. North from Bream Tail the sweep of shore accommodates a succession of beaches – Langs Beach, Waipū Cove, and Ruakaka. The bay was named by Captain James Cook in 1769, although it is likely the fish he referred to were actually snapper.
Inlet 2 km south of Bream Tail. It is the estuary of the Mangawhai River. The beach settlement of Mangawhai Heads is adjacent, and the farming locality of Mangawhai is 10 km up the estuary and 14 km by road from a junction with State Highway 1 at Kaiwaka.
Group of islands 22 km offshore from Bream Bay. The largest and southernmost is known as Hen Island or Taranga Island. 385 m at its highest, it rises from the sea like a tall blue mountain. The surrounding waters are popular for scuba diving. The Chickens Islands (or Marotere Islands) extend in a 2-km band from west to east: West Chicken (or Māuitaha), Lady Alice (or Big Chicken), Whatapuke (or Middle Chicken), and Coppermine Island. Sail Rock (or Tuturu) lies 3 km south of Hen Island.
Named by Captain James Cook in 1769, the Hen and Chickens Islands were originally owned by the Ngātiwai people, but were purchased by the government in 1883. They were declared scenic reserves in 1925 because of their valuable plant and animal life. The islands are now the Hen and Chickens Nature Reserve, notable for their tuatara (lizard-like reptiles), seabirds and tīeke (saddlebacks). To protect endangered fauna and flora, landing on the islands is allowed only by permit from the Department of Conservation. The Canadian–Australian mail liner Niagara sank nearby in June 1940 after hitting a German mine.
As a teenager, New Zealand writer Fiona Kidman lived for two years among the descendants of Norman McLeod’s followers at Waipū. Haunted by their stories, she later researched and wrote a novel which explores the lives of women in a moralistic community. The book of secrets (1987) won the fiction category of the New Zealand Book Awards in 1988.
Township 2 km inland from Bream Bay, 41 km south of Whāngārei. It was founded in the mid-19th century by Scottish settlers from Nova Scotia, led by the charismatic preacher Norman McLeod. Facing economic hardship in Canada, the group went first to Australia and then to New Zealand. In 1854 they secured land at Waipū, and were joined by more Scots from Nova Scotia and Scotland. Waipū commemorates its heritage through a museum, the Waipū House of Memories, and events such as the annual Waipū Highland Games which have been held since 1871. Waipū is now a farming centre.
Boese, Kay. Tides of history. Whāngārei: Bay of Islands County Council, 1977.
Harrison, Eric. Hokianga: a visitor’s guide. 3rd ed. Opononi: Hokianga Historical Society, 2000.
Keene, Florence. Between two mountains: a history of Whangarei. Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1966.
Keene, Florence. Kaitaia and its people. Whāngārei: F. Keene, 1989.
McKenna, Neva Clarke. Mangonui: gateway to the Far North. Kerikeri: Northland Historical Publications Society, 1990.
Richardson, Jeanette. Time and tide: local government in the 19th and 20th centuries in Mangonui, Kaitaia and adjacent areas. Waikanae: Heritage, 1990.
Ritchie, Rayma. Turn of the tide. Kaikohe: Bay of Islands County Council, 1990.
This site gives information about activities in and near Ahipara, including a section on gumfields history.
The site of Doubtless Bay Promotion includes a history and maps of the area.
Kaitāia is New Zealand’s most northern town. This site, hosted by the Kaitaia Business Association, features business groups, events and attractions, and other information.
Maintained by the Kerikeri Business Association, this site contains both historical and current information.
This site gives the history and conservation information about an island in Whangarei Harbour, five minutes by boat from the city.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, were gifted to the nation in 1932. The site contains images and historical information.
The Whāngārei Art Museum, established in June 1996, is the public gallery of the district and the only public gallery in Northland. It houses the city art collection of heritage and contemporary art work.
This site has events, attractions and other tourist information about Whāngārei.