The Hokianga Harbour is unique in many ways, not least for the stunning 150m high sand dunes which frame the north side of the entrance to the harbour.
In the early days of European settlement the harbour was the main means of transport and a number of ships foundered on the treacherous sand bar that guards its mouth.
Now the harbour is used mainly for pleasure. Small boats are used for fishing inside and outside the harbour. People relax on the sandy beaches and swim in the inviting water. The wharfs at Omapere and Opononi are favourite spots for fishing.
A water taxi transports visitors to and from the sandhills where the energetic can try sandboarding. Opononi is also famous for ‘Opo’ the playful dolphin who was a sensation in 1965 and drew crowds from far and wide.
Towns that developed on the harbour in the early days as thriving commercial centres are smaller today but retain their special character.
Kohukohu on the north side is an example – just over a hundred years ago the population of nearly 2000 was busy with timber milling, and shipbuilding the main industries. Later there was a dairy factory nearby. Now the population is less than 200 with tourism related activities and arts and crafts being the main emphasis.
Rawene is another lovely town on the south side of the harbour where the car ferry can be caught to the north side.
Further up the harbour the historic town of Horeke boasts New Zealand’s first hotel.