Kōrero: Northland places

Whārangi 4. Whangaroa and district

Ngā whakaahua me ngā rauemi katoa o tēnei kōrero

Whangaroa Harbour

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.

The burning boat

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.

Matauri Bay

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.

Cavalli Islands

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. Lieutenant 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.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Claudia Orange, 'Northland places - Whangaroa and district', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/northland-places/page-4 (accessed 19 June 2024)

He kōrero nā Claudia Orange, i tāngia i te 12 Dec 2005, updated 1 May 2015