Welcome to Whitianga, the heart of Mercury Bay!
is the main settlement of Mercury Bay, an attractive
township with a deepwater harbour. Its harbour has
made Whitianga the home of the Mercury Bay Boating
club and the departure point for big game fishing
enthusiasts. Many charter boats ply the waters of
Mercury Bay for fishing or scenic cruising.
has been continuously occupied for more than a thousand
years since Maori explorer Kupe's tribe settled here
after his visit in about 950 A.D.
Now a thriving
coastal town with 4,000 permanent residents Whitianga
is evolving into a delightful place to visit.
The traditional forms of accommodation are being upgraded
with establishments of an international standard.
Whitianga has an excellent selection of fine
restaurants and cafes and a wide variety of accommodation
to cater for everyone. The thriving retail community
provides an interesting collection of outlets.
Within a short drive there are plenty of world
class beaches waiting for you...
are fish to catch and shellfish to gather; the relatively
sheltered waters of the bay are great for all water
sports. On land there are bush walks and horse trekking
over picturesque farmland; or check out the local
artists who reside in our area, renowned for its inspirational
is located on the Eastern side of The Coromandel Peninsula,
208kms from Auckland, 93km from Thames, 42 kms from
Tairua. Mercury Bay is the area of water that
encompasses a spectacular coast flanked by islands.
did our names come from?
Te Whitianga a Kupe is the original
place name of our town, meaning Kupe's crossing place.
It is one of the few places in New Zealand to commemorate
his visit in about 950 AD, many of Kupe's tribe settled
here so Whitianga can lay claim to over 1,000 years
of continuous occupation. The original European settlement
was situated on the opposite side of the river from
approximately 1836 to 1881. The past industries included
boat building, kauri milling, flax milling, gold mining
and gum digging.
For many years, it was a leading timber port, with
sailing ships from Norway, Sweden, France, Italy and
Great Britain coming to load timber. Overseas vessels
of 2000 tons with a draught of 18" and carrying with
their decks loads over a million feet of timber worked
the harbour entrance. The larger ships were towed
into the port from near Centre Island. Over
a period of sixty years, it is estimated over 500
million feet of kauri was exported from the Whitianga
The first kauri gum was exported in 1844. It reached
its peak in 1899 when over 11,000 tons of gum was
exported at an average of $120 per ton. Today, Whitianga
depends on fishing, farming and tourism for its prosperity.
The people of Hei commemorated their leader in a few
place names, one being the bay at the head of which
he had settled, Te Whanganui o Hei, (the Great Bay
of Hei). This large sheltered bay was later renamed
by Captain James Cook when he came here in November
1769 to observe the transit of Mercury. Cook was accompanied
by Charles Green, the Royal Society expedition astronomer
who died on the homeward journey in 1771.
Cooks journal - "my reasons for putting in here were
the hopes of discerning a good harbour and the desire
I had of being in some convenient place to observe
the Transit of Mercury, which happens on the 9th instant
and will be wholly visible here if the day is clear
between 5 and 6 o'clock." Cook also named the Whitianga
Harbour "River of Mangroves" and this area is still
referred to as "The River".
sighting of the Transit of Mercury is commemorated
on Cooks Beach by a cairn of Coromandel granite which
tells the story; "In this bay was anchored 5 Nov
1769, HMS Endeavour, Lieutenant James Cook RN, Commander.
He observed the transit of Mercury and named this
< Captain James Cook