Cultural attractions


Whangārei Terenga Parāoa was a well established and thriving Māori settlement by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1769. Many prominent hill and land features around the harbour and river valleys show some sign of having been part of a pā (fortified village), garden or food storage pit.

Cultural-attractions-Parihaka-kohatu Whangārei Harbour was a waypoint for Māori tribes from the north travelling south by waka (canoe). Early missionary records show as many as 3000 Māori would camp on the shores of this bountiful harbour and organise their journeys. Legend has it that these great assemblies gave the harbour its true name – Whangārei Terenga Parāoa, meaning ‘the swimming place of the whales’, as whales gathered there to feed during summer. Parāoa are sperm whale, and are highly regarded by Māori. Symbolically the Parāoa represented persons of chiefly status. Often the chiefs of Ngāpuhi met in Whangārei to mobilise their war parties. 


Parihaka was sculpted by early Māori inhabitants into a pā, or great fortress, and it was reputedly the largest in all New Zealand. More than 100 household terraces and 322 storage pits have been recorded. Battles were fought at Parihaka and after the people of the pā were overwhelmed by attacking forces in the battle of Ōparakau in 1827, a large section of the mountain was declared tapu (sacred). Parihaka takes its name from the haka, or war dance, of defiance performed from the steep slopes and cliffs, or pari, of the pā. A special carved kōhatu (rock) at the lookout summit represents the mauri (life essence) of the mountain, inspiring a sense of gravity and significance to the lookout.

Heritage Trail

As part of the Hātea Loop - Huarahi o te Whai, read the heritage panels telling the stories of both Māori (Te Tangata Whenua – the people of the land) and European settlement.

A display at the Whangārei Museum, Kiwi North

Kiwi North - Museum & Heritage Park

The Fraser Collection of Māori taonga at Kiwi North include important treasures to the Ngāti Awa and Ngāpuhi , the first peoples of Te Tai Tokerau/Northland. The Museum has a 200 year-old waka, a fine collection of korowai (cloaks) and beautiful bone, stone and wooden artefacts representative of early Māori technology. Also enjoy photographic collections chronicling early Māori life in Northland.

The Sculpture Trail

The Sculpture Trail, part of the Hātea Loop - Huarahi o te Whai,  includes many contemporary and traditional works by local artists that tell the stories of, and reflect on the unique culture of Whangārei.

Whangārei Falls - Otuihau

Otuihau is a picturesque 26 metre high waterfall and picnic spot. Traditionally this area was a good fishing spot for local Māori. The pools at the base of the falls were an area of healing and used for washing the wounded.

Ten Carved Pou

Ten carved pou (carved poles) representing many of the cultures that enrich Whangārei can be seen at the entrance to the Whangārei Library. Five of the poles were carved by, and represent, Māori. In what is believed to be a world first, the rest have been carved or decorated by other cultural groups and one, the Generic Pou, represents all cultures.

Te Matau ā Pohe

The name, Te Matau ā Pohe, of this rolling bascule bridge means ‘The Fish Hook of Pohe’ and reflects the early history of the people of this area. The design is inspired by the shape of Māori fish hooks and the prows of waka (canoe). Pohe was the Māori chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangārei. He was skilled in manufacturing traditional fish hooks that settlers used in preference to the standard English hooks made of steel. Pohe also built bridges between the two cultures during the first years of English settlement amongst Māori, and used his ranking to protect many of the first settlers from being killed. See and walk across the bridge as part of the Hātea Loop - Huarahi o te Whai.

Te Matau a Pohe bridge, Whangārei

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