Brief Karekare history

Pre-European history

The earliest inhabitants of the Karekare valley were people known as the Ngaoho who lived in the area for 300 years from the 13th century. IN the late 17th century the Maori tribe of Te Kawerau a Maki settled in the area building a pa on the Watchman which was called Te Kaka Whakaara. They planted the valley with kumara, gathered shellfish from the headlands and fished from the rock ledges. In early 1825 the Ngapuhi tribe from the north of north, attacked Karekare besieging the pa. The warriors fought bravely, but had no defence against the muskets of the attacking tribe. The women, elders and children were sheltered in the large cave above the beach known as Wharengarahi and were smoked and burnt out, the attacker’s setting fire to manuka brush and lowering it from above. Karekare was given a new name after this episode, Mauaharanui – the place of the great wrongdoing. The only survivors of the carnage was a sole warrior who escaped by climbing down the north face of the cliff.

Farming, logging and tramways

Brothers John and Silas Shaw with their wives and 24 children were the first Europeans to live in the valley then known as Karkare. The came in 1845 clearing the bush for grazing and cutting a steep bridal path up to the ridge, now used for the main road into the valley. In 1881, the Shaws were bought out by Charles Murdoch, the owner of a sawmill in the Pararaha valley to the south. He extended the tramway which ran south to the Manakau harbour at Whatipu in order to extract the logs; the iron spikes from this tramway can still be seen today on the south rocks. Dams were built high in the ranges were logs were collected and then flushed down the valleys in the spring to the Karkau sawmill at the near the waterfall. In 1886 after the Shaw farmhouse burnt down, Murdoch built a grand new home from kauri planks and planted extensive gardens and orchards.

Early visitors

Charles and Maria Farley bought the property from Charles Murdoch in 1900. The property was modified, extended and named “Winchelsea” by Maria Farley after her childhood home on the Sussex coast in England. In the early 1900’s, the first tourists started to visit Karekare staying at “Winchelsea House” as it accommodated those who wanted to stay in Karekare. The trip by horse-coach from the train station at Waikumete took all day on horrendous roads but the accommodation at Karekare was luxurious. It even had electricity power using a flume built by the Farleys, 10 years before Auckland had electric lights. The Farleys built the tennis court and took visitors on scenic flights over the island landing the tiny planes on the beach. The pilots were Wally and Dudley Badham, grandsons of the Farleys. “Winchelsea House” is now registered with the Historic Places Trust, is fully restored and is available as a holiday or rental home.
by Alan Moore

Beach Races history

The first of these race days was in 1985 and they have now become a bit of a Karekare institution. It is a strictly non-commercial event, nothing is sold for personal profit, all the money raised goes to the groups who organise the event.The emphasis is on fun for all the family – a memorable and different day at the beach.
This is always a very special fun family day, lots for the kids to do, home made food to buy, a sausage sizzle, the excitement of horses racing on the sand, sweepstake betting for a flutter on the horses, pony rides, children’s races. It is all in a good cause, profits from the day go solely to local organisations – the school, the surf club and environmental groups.
by Caroline Grove

Links to historic Karekare images

On Local History Online website

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