"Whakatane - portal to White Island Volcano" Whakatane by pedroswift

Whakatane Travel Guide: 16 reviews and 59 photos

The legend of Wairaka and the naming of Whakatane

My lasting memory of Whakatane is the speed of the outgoing tide (video) through the entrance of the harbour.
Being an old and once bold sailor-upon-the-sea, I can not help take more than a passing interest in rivers and estuaries with boats at their moorings. It came as no surprise to me to find that this rip roaring ebb current played a part in the naming of "Whakatane" by the Maori.
Legend has it that Wairaka, the daughter of the captain of an exploring Maori canoe (waka) saved the women and children who had been left on board while the men went ashore to explore. The out going tide swept the waka out to sea and it was only Wairaka's brave decision to break a tabu against women boat handling that saved the day. She is reputed to have said, 'Kia whakatāne ake au i ahau' (Let me act as a man) as she steered the canoe away from the breaking surf. How good is that?
Today her statue stands on Turuturu Roimata, a rock at the entrance of the Whakatāne Harbour
The legend of Wairaka and the naming of Whakatane

Wairaka Park & Matatua Canoe Memorial

The significant rock feature on the east side of the river is part of the Wairaka Park and has plaques set into the rock to commemorate the naming of the park and to commemorated the landing of the Matatua Canoe nearby.
The plaque reads:
Erected on the 16th march 1940 by the Matatua tribes to commemorate the historic landing on this sandy spot of the Matatua Canoe one of the main fleet of the Maori migration from Hawaiki in the year 1340 A.D. after a voyage of 2000 miles under the guidance of the famous chief and navigator Toroa."
.........also written in Maori .

My fascination with the tidal influence at the Whakatane River mouth was heightened by the activities of the "Evelyn J" coming and going in the entrance channel apparently towing a structure from the stern. Let me tell you, the "coming" was laboured and slow: the "going" very fast: a 180ยบ turn mid-stream not without risk.
see the video.
A quick check with the very modern Coast Guard Station revealed the channel was only .6 of a metre deep at low tide so "Evelyn" was scooping deposits off the bottom and dumping it clear of the entrance & probably hoping the ebb tide would shift some of the loosened material out to sea.

P.S. I won't even dream of giving you a lesson on how to pronounce "Whakatane". Ask someone when you get there..................or check out "Scunthorpe Problem" under "Blocked Web Search"

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Interesting river estuary
  • In a nutshell:departure point for active volcanic visit
  • Last visit to Whakatane: May 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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