A harbour with a history; guarded at the sea by sandbars and solid rock; a seascape of luminous dunes and tides.
It is a beautiful place. If you come by SH 12 from the south you travel through the ancient kauri forest of Waipoua, a stunning reminder of the depth and dignity of Northland’s native bush.
Hokianga was named after the celebrated Polynesian navigator Kupe, the founding father of Maori lore and leaver of legends and landscapes bearing names. The harbour starts at Arai Te Uru, ancestral mother of eleven sons, each a valley leading to the tidal stream, a gathering of rivers merging as a sweep of currents and flows of colour and form.
Over time, the Tangata Whenua, the ‘people of the land’, shaped the surrounding hills with pa sites and gardens creating a vast homeland reaching into the mountainous heart of Northland.
It was a haven fiercely protected, yet shared amongst generations of Maori for centuries, until the first Europeans were welcomed for barter and trade in the early 1800’s. It is a long time since fleets of waka stirred the water; the sailing ships are well and truly gone; but the Hokianga ferry still makes her graceful way across the tides, showing off the handsome harbour for all to see.
These days, along the waterfronts and hidden in the hills, small towns and communities offer the traveller insights into the quieter side of life. It is a glimpse of something precious; a living past, splendid in a wilderness of great beauty.
Lindsay Charman – www.outlines.co.nz