Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke

By: Liz Light

Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke
Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke
Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke
Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke
Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke
Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke
Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke Hokianga: Omapere to Horeke

Liz Light on the road from Omapere to Horeke.

Guests arriving from the south are welcomed in a spectacularly scenic manner. The road crests a tall hill and reveals a vast panorama of the blue-green Hokianga Harbour spreading into the distance then blending, eventually, with dusky purple hills.

We, like many others, pull off the road to the left to savour the view and walk to the site of an old cliff-edge signal station above the harbour entrance.

History of the Hokianga

According to Maori tradition, Kupe – the legendary Polynesian navigator and explorer from Hawaiki – made his first landfall in Aotearoa here, in this harbour, in 925AD. He declared that he would return so he left spirits guarding both sides of the harbour entrance. Kupe never made it back but he gave his children such good directions that they migrated here.

In 1822, Providence was the first European ship to cross the harbour bar. It filled up with kauri timber then sailed away. Thus began European settlement with millers and missionaries followed by boat builders and farmers.

Omapere and Opononi are towns that straggle along the harbour edge and only locals know where one ends and the other begins. They are sweet places – basking in the sun, sheltered, the harbour rising and falling and those spectacular sand hills changing moods across the water.

Opononi & the Wairere Boulders

Sam noses our Apollo motorhome into the hillside at Opononi Holiday Park and we are delighted with the choice. Dear little tethered goats keep the grass down and are happy to be stroked. The view from the lounge/bedroom is worthy of contemplation and a glass of wine.

We chit-chat our way through the wine and a fine sunset then decide we can’t be bothered cooking. Opononi Hotel is just down the road and the food is reputedly excellent. And it is – a sizzling steak for Sam and delicious vegetarian lasagne for me. This is, as the man in the next table says to the waitress, "Ka pai kai."

In the morning, while driving along the harbour towards Wairere Boulders, down one of Northland’s many poor gravel roads.


We pass boulder after extraordinary boulder on a walk made more beautiful by native bush and elegant groves of nikau palms. These world-unique boulders, hundreds of them, many bigger than buildings, have all tumbled together in Wairere Valley.

These boulders are unique because, being basalt, they should not have these extraordinary exterior characteristics. The fluting and corrugations were made millions of years ago by chemical leaching from acids created by the rotting leaves of kauri trees that once dominated the forest.

Mangungu & Horeke

Mangungu, not much further along the gravel road, is a forgotten-about place that is quintessential to New Zealand’s history. Here on 12 February, 1940, the biggest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place, when 2500 Maori arrived by walking and waka, from all over the Hokianga.

In the front room of the Mangungu Wesleyan Mission House (1827), a copy of the treaty sits on the table on which it was signed, though on the day, the table was outside so the gathered crowds could watch.

Later, we visited Horeke where the harbour laps the edge of the lawn of the Horeke Hotel, just as it did in 1832 when this pub started selling liquor. It’s the oldest hotel in New Zealand and, in 183 years, it has seen a lot of liquor, laughter, fights, and fun.

Where in Lion Red territory now, but back then tougher men drank harder stuff. Jack Marmon, known as Cannibal Jack, supplied the pub with a gasping fermented brew made from potatoes and kumara. Jack arrived in Hokianga in 1819 when the ship he was on was wrecked on the bar. He survived, became a Pakeha Maori and married a chief’s daughter.


Opononi Beach Holiday Park, a short walk from Opononi town centre, across the road from the beach, beautiful views and clean well-equipped facilities. Powered sites $19 per person. Call (09) 405 8791.

Rawene Holiday Park, 1 Marmon Street, Rawene, powered sites, two persons $32 per night, wonderful harbour views, good facilities including swimming pool for summer. Call (09) 405 7720.

Read the full article in issue #131 of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations magazine (on sale now!). Subscribe here.

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