Maori originally settled the area and there is archaeological evidence of dense early occupation around the Bream Head area, no doubt this was in part due to the close proximity of the sea and the moderate climate. Many middens are still clearly visible today, there are examples on the roadside around Taurikura and near the track as you walk between Urquhart Bay and Smugglers Bay.

sailing ship gazelle

The Sailing Ship “Gazelle”

Following the Highland Clearances the first European settlers in the area came from the Scottish Highlands, via Nova Scotia and Australia around 1853. The “Gazelle” was the first to bring settlers to Waipu and a few made the journey across the harbour to the Heads, strong links still remain between these two communities.

Find out more about this at Waipu Museum’s Website.

Other pioneers soon followed them from the United Kingdom – among them the Jaggers from Yorkshire, the Odys from Wiltshire and the Robinsons from Ireland. Many of the descendents of these families are still proud to call this area home. A Celtic summer school – Gaidhealtachd – is held every year at the Whangarei Heads School celebrating this heritage.

highland dress

Scottish Heritage

During WWII a naval radar station was built above Ocean Beach, as well as a gun emplacement at Home Point, as defence against possible invasion. The painting inside the gun emplacement gives a good picture of the coastline at the time – no refinery in sight!