horeke harbour.jpg

The History and Geography of Northland/far north

Northland is a year long destination. With its northern location, low elevation and close proximity to the sea is characterised by a mild and sometimes humid climate. Summers are warm and tend to be humid, while winters are mild, with many parts of the region having only a few light frosts each year.  Most parts of Northland receive about 2000 hours of sunshine per year. 


History

According to Māori legend, the North Island of New Zealand was an enormous fish, caught by the adventurer Māui. For this reason, Northland sometimes goes by the nickname of "The tail of the fish", Te Hiku o Te Ika.

Northland iwi claim that Kupe made landfall at the Hokianga (although others claim this was at Taipa) in the northwest of Northland, and thus the region claims that it was the birthplace of New Zealand. Some of the oldest traces of Māori kainga (fishing villages) can be found here.

If the Māori regard the region as the legendary birthplace of the country, there can be no doubt that it was the European starting-point for the modern nation of New Zealand. Traders, whalers and sealers were among the first arrivals, and the gum and timber of the mighty kauri trees brought more colonisers.

In the Bay of Islands, Russell, formerly known as Kororareka, was the first permanent European settlement and Kerikeri contains many historic buildings, including the Stone Store, New Zealand's oldest extant building. The nearby settlement of Waitangi was of even more significance, as the signing place of New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi between the Māori tribes and the British Crown, on 6 February 1840.

Then you have Horeke, at the top of the Hokianga Harbour, a place of firsts. It was once called the heart of the Hokianga, being New Zealand’s first commercial ship building yard, dating back to 1826. Cannibal Jack was the first settler, in 1825. The first government-funded hui was held here after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. First postal service. First murder trial in New Zealand. First pub – the Horeke Tavern. It is the second oldest town in New Zealand.

The Clansman | 1877 | Mangonui Wharf

The Clansman | 1877 | Mangonui Wharf

Kerikeri | Stone Store

Kerikeri | Stone Store

Geography

Russell Wharf | Kororareka | Bay of Islands

Russell Wharf | Kororareka | Bay of Islands

Waitangi Treaty Grounds | Bay of Islands

Waitangi Treaty Grounds | Bay of Islands

Hokianga Harbour | Omapere | Opononi | Sand Dunes

Hokianga Harbour | Omapere | Opononi | Sand Dunes

The Northland Region occupies the northern 80% (265 kilometers) of the 330 kilometer-long Northland Peninsula, the southernmost part of which is in the Auckland Region. Stretching from a line where the peninsula narrows to a width of just 15 kilometers a little north of the town of Wellsford, Northland Region extends north to the tip of the Northland Peninsula, covering an area of 13,940 km2, a little over five per cent of the country's total area. It is bounded to the west by the Tasman Sea, and to the east by the Pacific Ocean. The land is predominantly rolling hill country. Farming and forestry occupy over half of the land, and are two of the region's main industries.

Although many of the region's kauri forests were felled during the 19th century, some areas still exist where this rare giant grows tall. New Zealand's largest tree, Tāne Mahuta, stands in the Waipoua Forest south of the Hokianga Harbour.

The western coast is dominated by several long straight beaches, the most famous of which is the inaccurately named 88 kilometer-long stretch of Ninety Mile Beach in the region's far north. The slightly longer Ripiro Beach lies further south. Two large inlets are also located on this coast, the massive Kaipara Harbour in the south, which Northland shares with the Auckland Region, and the convoluted inlets of the Hokianga Harbour.

The east coast is more rugged, and is dotted with bays and peninsulas. Several large natural harbours are found on this coast, from Parengarenga close to the region's northern tip, then Whangaroa Harbour, and past the famous Bay of Islands down to Whangarei Harbour, on the shores of which is situated the largest population centre. Numerous islands dot this coast, notably the Cavalli Islands, the Hen and Chickens Islands, Aorangaia Island and the Poor Knights Islands.

The northernmost points of the North Island mainland lie at the top of Northland. These include several points often confused in the public mind as being the country's northernmost points: Cape Maria van Diemen, Spirits Bay, Cape Reinga, and North Cape. The northernmost point of the North Island is actually the Surville Cliffs, close to North Cape, although the northernmost point of the country is further north in the Kermadec chain of islands. Cape Reinga and Spirits Bay do, however, have a symbolic part to play as the end of the country. In Māori mythology, it is from here that the souls of the dead depart on their journey to the afterlife.

Northland is New Zealand's least urbanised region, with 50% of the population of 175,500 living in urban areas. Whangarei is the largest urban area, with a population of 57,700 (June 2017s).