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Mountain biking in the Tairua Forest – half a day
Lazing on the beach – all day
Fishing with Te Ra Charters – half or full day
Guided rainforest walk with Wildman Milne – half day
Auckland-Whangamata, 2 hours
Hamilton – Whangamata, 1.5 hours
Tauranga/Mount Maunganui – Whangamata, 1.5 hours
Whangamata Population: 4,000
A popular beach resort which overflows with visitors in the months of January and February when the summer is at its height. The 6km stretch of beach with estuaries at either end caters for all sorts of water activities. Big game fishing is also popular off this coast.
History and Culture
Whanga means harbour and mata means Obsidian. The area was named by Maori because of the Obsidian washed ashore from nearby Mayor Island. There are numerous signs of habitation by Maori and Pre-Maori. There are Pa sites on the Peninsula and at Pa Hill which overlooks the Wentworth Bridge (by the 18 hole golf course). Moana Point was used by Maori of the Ngatipu hapu for growing crops. Artifacts found near the wharf indicate a "Moahunter Factory" as there were also a large number of moa bones. These are now on display in the Auckland Museum. In pre European times there were several Maori Pas on both sides of the river. At the head of the Whangamata Harbour is the Otahu Estuary. Otahu means “beacon” and on the far point a watch was kept and a fire lit to warn of approaching enemies.
European prospectors and squatters started arriving in the Whangamata area following the gold strikes in Thames and Waihi in the mid 1800’s. The government officially opened up the area for gold digging, logging and gum digging in 1873. From then until the 1920’s the area prospered and grew with extensive kauri logging on the hills of the Coromandel Peninsula and gold mining in the Wentworth, Wharekawa and Parakawhai Valleys.
The first store opened in Whangamata in 1873 and served loggers and gum diggers. Gold mining started in 1887 and continued on and off until 1929. There are several sites where mining relics can be viewed. One of the best documented and most accessible is the Luck at Last Mine. During this time the community was served by a hotel (1892), Say’s and Watts Stores, a school (opened 1897), packhorses and a regular coastal boat and paddle steamer from Auckland.
The early part of the century saw the establishment of farming in the area though poor access and high rainfall made it a hard life. In 1929 the first investigations into establishing forestry plantations were made by the Forest Service and a number of experimental plantings were made. The first sections for beach houses were sold in 1929. Building in the southern part of the town was started in the fifties when the Maori owned land became available for sub-division. The causeway to Moana Point was opened in 1973 and this opened up that area for housing.