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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 4 (July 1, 1939)

New Zealand's… — Yachtsmen's Paradise — Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf

page 28

New Zealand's…
Yachtsmen's Paradise
Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf

Sheltered and peaceful Bon Accord harbour, Kawau Island.

Sheltered and peaceful Bon Accord harbour, Kawau Island.

Arriving at Auckland by train from the south is now a more pleasant experience than it was in the years before the present railway track was laid down. Instead of flashing past a series of small uninteresting suburban stations and grimy urban backyards, the express now passes through a more sparsely populated area of green fields and market gardens and then, after crossing the quiet backwater of the Orakei Basin, skirts finally the waters of the Waitemata Harbour itself. Thus does the traveller get a first and most inviting glimpse of what has rightly been called—“New Zealand's Yachtsmen's Paradise.”

If you are fortunate enough to arrive early on a Saturday afternoon or on a day when a club regatta is in progress, you will think that you have been precipitated into some hitherto unimagined piece of pageantry. There will be sails spreading like a swarm of moths over the surface of the harbour and white plumes of spray curving outwards from the prows of dozens of pleasure launches. And if you have a spark of soul within you (together with a stomach for aquatic motion) you will press your nose to the carriage window and sigh—“My kingdom for a yacht.”

Should Providence accept your challenge and convert desire into reality, you will experience one of the major joys of your existence. You will find an escape from the fret and noise of modern life and enter into one that is carefree, simple, healthful and exhilarating.

Islands of the Gulf.

Surely there are few places in the world that can surpass the Hauraki Gulf as a cruising ground. It is so generously provided with islands, large and small, and its coastline is so conveniently indented with bays and inlets, that there is an almost bewildering number of places from which to choose an anchorage.

A glimpse of Schoolhouse Bay—another haven at Kawau.

A glimpse of Schoolhouse Bay—another haven at Kawau.

Go to Waiheke Island for instance and you will find enough bays to satisfy your cruising fever for many days. Waiheke is the largest island in the nearer gulf. In the early days of New Zealand it was one of the chief resorts for ships coming here to load cargoes of kauri spars. It was known to sailors long before Auckland city was founded.

The original bush has long since disappeared and sheep now graze on the grass-sown hills, but man has not yet defiled the shores with anything more obnoxious than clusters of summer cottages, an occasional boardinghouse or a jetty. The tide still flows its inevitable way into the curving bays, and with it every week-end or holiday goes a fleet of Auckland's pleasure craft.

Some of the islands of the gulf are page 29
The entrance to Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island.

The entrance to Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island.

privately owned, but as a rule the owners are generously disposed towards yachtsmen and many an act of hospitality is rewarded by a gift of freshly-caught fish Motuihi, the quarantine station, has recently been made available to the public and its beaches are now the favourite marine picnic grounds for Aucklanders.

A Governor's Choice.

Beyond these nearer islands lies Kawau, loveliest island of them all. It is within a two or three hours’ sail of Auckland and is the Mecca of all cruising yachtsmen. It is neither too remote nor too approximate; its beauty neither too rugged nor too effete. The waters of the Pacific, tired of their long journey, flow into its many bays and harbours to rest there in deep loveliness. Where the hills have not been cleared by farmer or woodman, the bush grows to the waterline where it is fringed with the vigorous, rufously flowering pohutukawas.

Sir George Grey chose Kawau for his home. At Mansion House Bay his old house still stands in its spacious grounds and serves holiday-makers as a boarding-house. Though its ancient glory may have departed somewhat it is still a place of great attraction. Leading southward from the house is the old road along which Sir George used to drive in his carriage. It is now just a wide track where the roots of the tall pines stretch like petrified snakes; but it still leads to the crown of the hill from which a tramper will be rewarded by a panorama of ocean, gulf, island and mainland.

Kawau is rich not only with beauty but with history. Could hills speak and trees give voice they would tell tales of the early Maori occupation of this island. Many Maoris fought in its quiet groves and on its wooded hills in order to gain the full rights of possession, while from its shores sallied forth many parties of Maori raiders. Kawau made an excellent stronghold for the old pirates and in those early days it was a place for sea-wayfarers to avoid.

Later still than the history of the Maori inhabitants is the story of the men who started to mine copper on the island. At Smelting-House Bay and at the entrance to South Harbour there stand ruins of the buildings which were erected for their purposes. No other sign of this past industry remains. The syndicate went out of business in the 1860's and the miners they employed rushed to the newer gold mines farther south. Now neither noise nor dust nor the incongruities of civilisation mar the quietness and the beauty of Kawau.

The bays and bush-clad shores of Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island.

The bays and bush-clad shores of Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island.

To Farther Shores.

If the weather is good and the real passion for cruising is in your blood you will not be content to remain even at Kawau. You will gaze northward and see the outline of the Great Barrier looming greyly through the haze. Soon your yacht's prow will be pointing in that direction. On your way you will pass Hauturu, more commonly known to unromantic white men as the Little Barrier. It is the Government bird sanctuary, and if you are tempted to effect a landing on its shores, be warned and keep away. Both nature and official restriction will rebuff you. It has no hospitality. Let it remain the place of birds and the resting place of the winds.

But at the Great Barrier there will be a welcome, both from nature and the inhabitants. Here is a place where deep harbours pierce far into the hills like searching antennae; harbours wherein a large fleet of ships could anchor and remain unseen to the outside world. It is estimated that at Port Fitzroy the whole of the British Grand Fleet could lie at anchor. Yet the entrance to this harbour is only a narrow channel which a newcomer would be well-advised not to enter after dark. Only a small number of settlers live on the Great Barrier and they are remote from both the advantages and disadvantages of modern civilisation. They are naturally conservative. (A yachting woman in trousers! Whew!) But they have kindliness and a warm hospitality for most comers.

One of the greatest delights for a cruising yachtsman or woman is bathing page 30
Mansion House Bay and the old home of Sir George Grey, Kawan Island.

Mansion House Bay and the old home of Sir George Grey, Kawan Island.

in some fresh-water pool in a secluded valley. The Great Barrier Island can provide a multitude of such delights. In almost every valley runs a stream, and almost every stream broadens out somewhere during its journey into a good pool. Can you think of anything more delightful and more exhilarating than stepping after a long walk into a cool clear pool with soft sand under your feet and warm sun filtering through the trees above?

A Warm Stream Flowing.

At Whangaparapara, a harbour as impressive as its name, there is unfortunately ample evidence of human vandalism. The bush-cutters have been and are still at work denuding the forest of its kauri trees. On one shore are the ruins of a timber-mill with weathered timber and odd bits of machinery lying about in unsightly disorderliness, while beyond this, cutting through the green like a yellow wound, is the present bushman's trolley-way. If you have the temerity to follow this trolley line and the equilibrium to scramble across the trestle bridges (unfloored and unbalustraded) you will eventually come to a place where a warm green stream flows among the trees. This spot is known to the initiated as the Hot Springs. To bathe in one of the pools is a new sensation and a pleasant one. Just imagine! A warm bath out under the trees and plenty of room in which to splash around. Ample reward for a long and strenuous walk? There are many who would think so.

Back to City Life.

You will leave the Great Barrier with regret, for you will have learned to love its hills and valleys, its rugged peaks, its blue deep waters and its pools. You will have learned to love the carefree, simple life where only the necessities really matter; where money and politics count for little and everyone passes everyone the friendly word. But your old way of living cannot be forever abandoned. You must needs point your prow back to the city. Perhaps you will sail across to the Coromandel Peninsula and work your way down those uninhabited shores; or maybe you will stand across to the mainland and take the homeward journey in easy stages, calling at Omaha, Matakana or Mahaurangi on your way. Eventually you will find yourself back in the Waitemata Harbour, most likely becoming a unit in that fleet of pleasure boats that makes its way home on Sunday afternoon, from all the bays and islands of the gulf. And if you have to take the train back to the south, you will again sit in your carriage and press your nose to the window glass until the last blue glimpse of water has vanished from sight. Then you will sit back and make your vow. You will vow that at some other time you will come back and cruise again on those lovely waters of New Zealand's Yachtsmen's Paradise.

“When I was young, and better looking than I am now,” remarked a speaker at a Wellington smoke concert, “I was engaged to be married, and my financé (a confirmed smoker of cigarettes herself), was always asking me why I wasn't smoking. Gentlemen, I didn't because I couldn't (Laughter). But I pretended that I could. I said I smoked a pipe, but made all sorts of excuses for failing to produce it. Well, one evening my intended presented me with a fine briar. Seeing I was cornered I accepted a fill from her father's tobacco-jar (strong stuff!) in his absence, and tremblingly lit up. In ten minutes I had had more than enough—and hurriedly left the room—just in time! (Laughter). However, I've been a smoker for years now. I learned of Riverhead Gold. It's toasted, and like the other New Zealand tobaccos (Navy Cut No. 3. Cavendish, Desert Gold and Cut Plug No. 10) it's practically free from nicotine. The toasting does it! I smoke New Zealand tobacco, gentlemen, because I can't get any that is better — or half as good.” (Applause.)*