Information about this area - Maps

Mangonui Heritage Trail -
Te Ara Tuku Iho o nga Tupuna Matua o Mangonui

Hover over a numbered site for its name and click for a description.

Mangonui Heritage Trail

This trail is dedicated to the brave and determined men and women, Maori and European, who sailed across vast oceans to make a new and better life here in New Zealand (Aotearoa).

The Polynesian navigator Kupe visited this area about 900 AD in the canoe Mamaru. On a return trip the Mamaru brought the chiefs Te Parata and Tumoana, ancestors of the Ngati Kahu. later, another canoe, the Ruakaramea, was guided into a harbour by a shark. Its chief, Moehuri, named the harbour Mangonui, which means 'large shark'.

Mangonui was known as a safe harbour for whaling vessels by the late 1700s and in 1831 the first European settlers arrived.

By the mid 1800s, Mangonui was a centre for whalers and traders; the sawmilling, flax and gum industries were flourishing. In the 1900s, these industries declined, roads replaced the sea as the main transport route and Mangonui became a much quieter place.

The waterfront c 1900

Trail Description

Beginning and ending at the historic Mangonui Courthouse, the Mangonui Heritage Trail provides a glimpse of the great wealth of Maori and European history associated with this area.

Sites are indicated by Heritage Trail markers. Some of these provide information at the site itself, others have a number which will refer you to details in the trail brochure and on this page of the website. The brochure is available inside the Mangonui Courthouse and at the adjacent Doubtless Bay Information Centre.

The Trail is three kilometres in length and accessible by foot or vehicle. The average time that it takes to walk the Trail is one and a half hours. Walkers are advised to take the St. Andrew's Walkway (from Beach Road oposite the Police Station) to access sites and enjoy the spectacular views from above Mangonui. Please be aware that Mary Hassett Street, Tasman Street and Thomas Street are steep.

Mangonui CourthouseSite 1: Mangonui Courthouse, 1892

This is the second of two courthouses built in Mangonui. The first, constructed in 1850, also served as a customs house and bond store, but had become too small.

The present building functioned as a courthouse until 1948, when court proceedings moved to Kaitaia; then as a police station from 1949 to 1976. Its future became uncertain, and concerned local residents formed the Mangonui Courthouse Preservation Society. Funds were raised for restoration and much of the work was carried out by local volunteers. In 1980, the property was gazetted as an historic reserve.

It is currently administered by the Department of Conservation in conjunction with the Mangonui Courthouse Preservation Society. The building is open as a craft co-operative seven days a week. Please feel free to go inside.

Wharf StoreSite 2: Wharf Store, c.1890

The centre section of this building is built of heart kauri. It is thought to be one of the earliest two-storeyed, wooden, kauri buildings in the country.

Mr Alex McKay purchased the property in 1901. He operated a general store, known as the Wharf Store, in the downstairs area and the family lived above.

In 1910, Mr McKay moved his business across the road to the Mangonui General Store and Office Building. The Wharf Store building remained in the McKay family until 1944.

Mr J Wallis purchased the property in 1981. He built the side additions in 1994 and 1996.

Mangonui Memorial HallSite 3: Mangonui Hall, 1894

The Mangonui Hall was built by George Garton in 1894. In 1950, the hall was purchased by the Mangonui County Council on behalf of the people of Mangonui to commemorate those who died in the two World Wars. It is now known as the Mangonui War Memorial Hall.

A lending library and a number of clubs, churches and organisations have used the Hall over the years; dances are still held here.

Early cottageSite 4: Three Early Cottages, c.1860

At the time these three cottages were built, Beach Road was the link from Mangonui (via Mill Bay) to Coopers Beach.

WRATHALL COTTAGE, built by Mr W Nicholson, has housed three generations of the Wrathall family and remains in their ownership. Stephen Wrathall, arriving in Mangonui during the 1830s, was one of the earliest European settlers in this area.
PENNEY COTTAGE, which is a private residence, was in the ownership of the Penney family for 80 years. Edward Penney first came to Mangonui in 1848 as a Police Sergeant with Magistrate W White.
BARRETT COTTAGE is a well-preserved cottage whose early history has been lost. It functions now as holiday accommodation.

Sailors' GravesSite 5: Sailors' Grave

At dusk on September 3, 1864, three young sailors lost their lives in an accident while crossing Mangonui Harbour. Four others survived. The drowned men were Alexander Rait, 22 years old, a seaman from England; Edmund Moody, 24 years old, a Black American slave who had arrived aboard the Plover in May 1864; and John Rose, 24 years old, an American seaman on the Cherokee. The reason for the choice of their burial site remains a mystery. The actual grave site is thought to be 3 metres behind the trail marker.

Site 6: Three Harbour Entrance Pa Sites

This point on the trail provides an excellent view of the sites of Rangikapiti Pa to the left; and Rangitoto Pa and Moehuri Pa to the right of the Mangonui Harbour entrance, .

MOEHURI, an excavated pa site, is located on Butler Point.
RANGITOTO PA is a DoC-owned reserve accessible only by water.
RANGIKAPITI PA is a DoC-owned reserve land can be accessed by vehicle from Rangikapiti Road, off State Highway 10. From the summit, the 360° views of Mangonui Harbour and Doubtless Bay are spectacular. It is a 40 minute walk from the village of Mangonui via Mill Bay to the top of Rangikapiti Pa.

WhakaangiSite 7: Whakaangi

The oral genealogy of Ngati Kahu links them to the chief Te Parata, the canoe Mamaru, and the mountain Whakaangi (320m above sea level) overlooking Mangonui Harbour and Doubtless Bay.

There were large village sites on the coastal slopes of the mountain. Many food storage pits, terraces, defensive ditches and burial sites are still visible.

Scattered over Whakaangi, among the forest regrowth, are kauri trees more than 600 years old. The native forest of Whakaangi is the northernmost remnant of mainland New Zealand forest. It is only in the last 2.5 million years that sand spits joined what were once island areas of KariKari and Aupouri Peninsulas to the mainland. A predator trapping programme on the mountain is providing a safe haven for brown kiwi, which are increasing in numbers.

St Andrew's ChurchSite 8: St. Andrew's Church, 1860

St Andrew’s Church which was opened by the Rev Joseph Matthews in November 1860, served as a combined school and church until 1870.

The churchyard gravestones record many of the early family names from Mangonui. The belfry was erected in 1862 and an extension to the building added in 1976. The stained glass windows were installed in 1992; the window behind the altar depicting a scene from the life of St Andrew as a fisherman, the two smaller windows showing early Mangonui history - whaling, timber milling and early Maori settlement of the area. The circular church lounge addition was dedicated in 1997.

Regular services of several denominations are held here.

Mangonui SchoolSite 9: Mangonui School, 1884

This single-room school was opened on July 2 1884.

Prior to 1884, Mangonui children had been taught next door in St Andrew’s Church (Site 8) with an average of 12 pupils and then in a schoolhouse on Tasman Street (Site 11).

From 1950, Mangonui School acquired new buildings, expanding to accommodate its growing roll.

Early villaSite 10: Early Colonial Villa, 1902

This beautifully-preserved villa was built in 1902 by Mr John Bray, proprietor of several hotels in Mangonui.

It was home to a number of early Mangonui doctors, including Dr Douglas Cameron, a surgeon who conducted a private practice from this house. In 1926, Dr Cameron was appointed as the first Surgeon-Superintendent of the Mangonui Hospital, which was located further up the hill (across State Highway 10). The Hospital buildings were subsequently relocated to Kaitaia.

Please respect the owner’s privacy by not entering this property.

Site 11: Original Mangonui School and County Council Building, 1870

This was the first purpose-built school in Mangonui. Classes had previously been held in St Andrew’s Church. From its beginning in 1877, the Mangonui County Council held its meetings here after school hours. When a new school was built on Colonel Mould Drive in 1884, the Council had exclusive use of this building until moving its headquarters to Kaitaia in 1918.

Please respect the owner’s privacy and do not enter this property.

Mangonui c 1900
Mangonui c 1900

WindermereSite 12: Windermere - an original homestead, c.1870

Charles Harris, an Englishman, built this house of pit-sawn kauri for his New Zealand-born wife, Harriet Wells. Near the house were stables and a saddle room, part of the Harris coach and livery business.

A semi-detached cooking area and another side addition were incorporated into the main structure of the house in the early 1900s.

The house remained in the Harris family for nearly one hundred years. By the early 1970s it had become dilapidated. Subsequent owners have restored the home and grounds to their present beauty.

Please respect the owner’s privacy by not entering the grounds of Windermere.

Old Oak InnSite 13: Old Oak Hotel, 1861

The Old Oak Hotel was built by John McIntosh and was first known as the Mangonui Hotel.

In 1906, when the Settlers Hotel in Mill Bay was demolished, the name and licence were transferred to this hotel. In 1910 the proprietor, John Bray, changed the hotel’s name to The Old Oak. At that time there was an oak tree, about 30 - 40 years old, in front of the hotel.

In the following years the building was been used as a boarding house, private residence, butcher’s shop, restaurant, craft shop and again as a hotel.

Old Feist BakerySite 14: The Feist Bakery, 1920

This bakery, owned by Mr J Feist, was built in 1920 on the site of a previous saddlery constructed around 1900. The adjoining cottage was built shortly after 1920 and housed most of the subsequent owners of the bakery building.

The bakery was extended to accommodate wood-fired brick kilns which in turn gave way to electric ovens. By the mid-1900s, the need for local bakeries had disappeared and the building lay empty.

From 1981 to 1985, the building was used as a workshop for handcrafted kauri furniture. Since then it has been in use as a shop.

Site 15: Viewing point for the Flax Mill site

Eight hundred metres to the south, at the intersection of Waterfront Road and State Highway 10, is Pikiwahine Stream. This was the site of a flax mill operated by local Maori in the 1860s.

New Zealand flax was used for making ropes, bearing a greater strain than many other materials available at the time. In the 1860s, a ton of dressed flax was valued in England at 18 - 25 pounds sterling.

The flax price peaked in 1873, after shortages of manila were caused by the American Civil War. Prices then slumped until around 1900, when they increased again. The flax mill then operated for at least another ten years by Messrs Gillibrand and Bray.

Leser BuildingsSite 16: The Leser Buildings, 1900-1909

The complex of buildings on the corner of Thomas Street and Waterfront Road was built by a German, Gustav Leser, in the early 1900s.

Prior to this, a small group of structures stood here, including the Massey Harris bicycle shop which was demolished in 1900 to make way for Mr Leser’s general store.

Mr Leser lived around the corner on Thomas Street in a tiny building affectionately known as the “toy store”, a replica of which is there today.

At the time of his marriage in 1909, Gus Leser built the two-storeyed wooden residence on Waterfront Road on the southern side of his general store.

Crick CottageSite 17: Crick Cottage, 1864

It is thought that the central portion of the cottage was built in 1864 by a Mr Crick.

Several doctors, a solicitor and members of both the Wrathall and Wilton families have lived here in earlier days. During the 1980s, renovation work was undertaken by Mr D Hawthorne.

Extensive restorations and the addition of a verandah overlooking the harbour were carried out in 2000.

Please respect the owner’s privacy and do not enter this property.

Methodist ChurchSite 18: Mangonui Methodist Church, 1909

The Methodist Church was built in 1909 on this site, but was unable to be preserved. It was demolished for safety reasons in 2009 after 100 years.

Bank of AustralasiaSite 19: Bank of Australasia Building, 1911

The Bank of Australasia was opened for business in Mangonui on 22 August 1911, initially with 37 customers. The bank building consisted of a banking chamber; a manager’s office and a sitting room and bedroom, so the bank officer could live on the premises, as was the custom.

In 1947 the Bank of Australasia ceased to exist and was replaced by the ANZ Bank.

The ANZ Bank continued to operate out of these premises until the mid-1960s, after which a variety of shops and professional offices have used the building.

Mangonui HotelSite 20: Mangonui Hotel, 1905

The Mangonui Hotel, sometimes known as the New Settlers Hotel, was the fourth and last of the hotels which had been established in Mangonui over a 63-year period. It was built in 1905 - 1906 by John Bray, then the proprietor of the Old Oak Hotel at the southern end of the village.

The Historic Places Trust of New Zealand considers the two-storeyed Mangonui Hotel building to be the most beautiful old hotel in the country. It holds a Category One rating from the Trust.

Old mangonui Post OfficeSite 21: Mangonui Post Office Building, 1904

The second, larger post office building was erected in 1904 on the site of the first post office built in 1876. Opened on 28 November 1904, the new building included accommodation for the postmaster.

A telephone exchange was added in 1971, with 15 initial subscribers. In May 1989, as part of the restructuring of postal services, the post office was closed. A restaurant now occupies the building.

General SoreSite 22: Mangonui General Store and Offices, 1907

This building was erected on piles over the waters of Mangonui Harbour in 1907 by Mr R T Wrathall. The store was located adjacent to the old Mangonui Wharf. The old Mangonui Wharf, built in 1877 but later demolished, was the port of call for the Northern Steamship Company’s passenger vessel the Clansman. The Clansman operated between Auckland and the Far North from 1884 until 1931.

The building housed a dentist’s surgery and a variety of small shops until 1910 when Mr Alex McKay moved his general store operations here from the Wharf Store across the road. It has retained its function as a general store over the years as well as providing private accommodation.

Butler HomesteadSite 23: Whaling Museum, 1840s House and Gardens,
Butler Point

Captain William Butler (1814 - 1875), an English whaler settled here in 1839 and established a trading post for American and European whalers. The Museum displays a restored and fully-equipped whaleboat and a comprehensive collection of whaling artefacts.

The Butler Homestead is recognised by the NZ Historic Places Trust. Extensive grounds include a certified Garden of Significance and notable trees, including a pohutukawa tree approaching 1,000 years old.

The Moehuri Pa site has been archaeologically investigated and interpretative signs are provided.

Butler Point is open strictly by appointment. Charge applies. Phone 0800 MUSEUM (687386).

Clansman at the 1877 Mangonui Wharf


The development of the Mangonui Heritage Trail would not have been possible without the inspiration of Neva Clarke McKenna. Much of the historical information offered on this trail is derived from her book "Mangonui - Gateway to the Far North" published by the Northland Historical Publications Inc 1990. The Trail itself is based on her Historical Mangonui Walk outlined in her books "Doubtless Bay" and "Discovering Northland's Past".

The Trail is maintained by Mangonui Heritage Trail Management Committee
(ph: 09 406 0344 | Contact: Cliff Knight) with financial support from Te Hiku Community Board, Far North District Council.

You can pick up a printed map (NZ$1.00) from the Doubtless Bay Information Centre or the adjacent Mangonui Courthouse (#1 on the map).

© 2005 - Doubtless Bay Promotion Inc