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Whitianga

(4.4/5 based on 3,200+ reviews for top 20 attractions)
Things to do: nature, wineries, museums
Whitianga is the main settlement of Mercury Bay on the North Island of New Zealand. The population was 3768 in the 2006 Census, an increase of 690 from 2001. The population is now 4100 an increase of 332 since 2006.GeographyWhitianga is located on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula, 208 km from Auckland, 93 km from Thames, 42 km from Tairua. It is situated on the coast of Mercury Bay along the 5 km long east-facing Buffalo Beach. The town centre is at the southern end of the beach.Buffalo Beach is named after the HMS Buffalo, which was wrecked during a storm while anchored in Mercury Bay. Her anchor can be seen at a monument at Buffalo Beach.A passenger ferry crosses from Whitianga to Ferry Landing, close to Cooks Beach. The alternative to the two minute ferry crossing is a 45 minute drive around Whitianga Harbour.HistoryMāori historyWhitianga has been continuously occupied for more than a thousand years since Māori explorer Kupe’s tribe settled here after his visit in about 950 AD. Following this visit, many of Kupe's tribe settled here. Te Whitianga a Kupe is the original place name of the town, meaning Kupe's crossing place.Whitianga Pā, located on the ferry landing side of the river is a notable site. According to Ngati Hei history the earliest known chief occupying the rock was Hei Turepe. The pa is protected on three sides by sheer cliffs. The hill leading up to the pa on the fourth side is defended by a 22-foot man made ditch which is now part of the track leading down to Back Bay where pa inhabitants had access to shellfish. On Cook's visit to the site in November 1769, the inhabitants who welcomed him believed the pa had been disused for a generation since it had been attacked by a Tauranga chief who married the slain chief's wife and settled peacefully into the area. Whitianga rock has several holes cut into the stone that were used as firepits, water stores, and palisade holes. Cook noted burnt palisade stumps as evidence that an earlier attack had evicted the ancient pa's residents.
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