Hokianga Nui a Kupe | the returning place of Kupe
Twelve thousand years ago Hokianga was a river valley flanked by steep bush-clad hills. As the last ice age regressed, the dramatic rise in sea level slowly flooded the valley turning it into a tidal, saltwater harbour with abundant sheltered deep water anchorages.
Kupe who is generally accepted to be the very first voyager and Maori to discover New Zealand over 1,000 years ago made the Hokianga his home and is still a heartland for Maori. Over centuries Maori created and maintained a complex network of walking tracks in the area, many of which have evolved into today’s roads. It was along these tracks that early missionaries travelled in the early 19th century and discovered the Hokianga and its accessible timber resources. News soon spread and ships subsequently arrived, risking crossing the dangerous bar and entered the harbour and so the deforestation of Hokianga began and this would be completed by the turn of the century.
The Hokianga bar is extremely dangerous and of the hundreds of ships that successfully negotiated it, the records show that 16 were lost. Most came to grief when leaving fully laden and became caught in deep water with a change in the wind causing the ship to lose steerage and be swept onto the rocky shore.
With the timber trade came European settlers initially to the ares of Horeke and Rawene which are the second and third oldest European settlements in New Zealand.
The axeman of the Hokianga scarecely missed a beat. At any one time as many as 20 ships could be loading Hokianga timber. Whole hillsides, suddenly bared of vegetation, began to slip into the harbour choking its tributaries with mud. This photo taken in 1894 shows the cleared hillside and a schooner in port. By 1900 the bulk of the forest had sailed over the bar and the little topsoil that remained was turned to dairy farming for butter and cheese production which remained the mainstay of the economy until the closure of the dairy factory in 1953. With the wonderful attraction such as the great kauri trees of the Waipoua Forest, the historic waterfront villages of Kohukohu and Rawene, fishing and other water activities, nature walks, horse trekking etc., the area is now a wonderful tourist destination attracting visitors from all around the world.
Things to do in the Hokianga
In the high season, take a harbour cruise with Crossings Hokianga and follow in the footsteps and relive the journey with stories of this country’s most influential visitor Kupe. With his followers, Kupe settled in the Hokianga Harbour with its protected waters and abundance of food. The Crossings Hokianga team are passionate about the Hokianga and the history of the region and pride themselves in offering a great quality service and an experience to remember.
Visit the historic town of Rawene and enjoy lunch at the popular Boat Shed Cafe followed by a visit to Clendon House home of Captain James Reddy who was in the thick of the earliest Maori and Pakeha (European) interaction and witness to the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
See the monument in memory of the world famous Opo the dolphin who became known in 1955-56 for playing with children in Hokianga at Opononi. Opo was a wild dolphin but who had no qualms about human company and playing with balls and beer bottles. Maori children in particular loved playing with Opo as they believed she was a messenger from Kupe. Sadly Opo was found dead in March 1956 thought to be killed accidentally by fishermen using gelignite. She is buried in a special plot next to the town hall.
Imagine sand-boarding down giant dunes into crystal clear water or riding in a beach buggy across the amazing white sands ! From Opononi wharf board the Hokianga Express which will cruise you across the harbour to the giant dunes where you can have an adventure of a lifetime with Andrew from Sandtrails Hokianga.
The Hokianga is never more beautiful than on a hot summer day with a clear blue sky and sparkling water so you might choose to just swim in the harbour or simply relax on the beach. But if further thrill and adventure is your ‘cup of tea’, how about a tug of war with some great open water fishing with Pete from Hokianga Express Charters! The options are plenty ….. the choice is yours !