About Us » History
Waihi means rising water and is the stream flowing through the camping ground near the surf club at the northern end of the beach. The beach and the gold mining town take the same name.
Katikati is originally the name where Bowentown is now. It means “nibbling” and there are differing legends how that name came into being ( Sir George Bowen was an early governor of New Zealand).
Bowentown like Mt Maunganui was once a volcanic Island. The joining of these two to the mainland by sand (Tombolos) along with the Matakana sandspit formed the Tauranga harbour.
This area was fought over by several tribes through many generations. Two of the tribes being Ngai Te Rangi from Matakana and Ngati Maru of Paeroa. There are remains of fortified pas on several hills and headlands.
The wires (Telegraph wires from Auckland to Wellington in the 1850’s, 60’s and 70’s passed along here). At Bowentown there was a boarding house, store, stables and telegraph office. Tourists came through this way from Auckland by boat and horse to visit Rotorua and the Terraces there.
Early European landowners were George Vesey Stewart and then James Shaw. There were gold mines sunk in the hills at the northern headland but they were not successful. In 1941 Mrs Shaw generously donated her northern property as a domain which is now the lovely Orakawa reserve.
Once the only access to Waihi Beach was over the shallow estuary at Athenree - for many years known as Athenree Ford.
Around 1920 the Waihi Town borough purchased land at the northern end for miners suffering from lung disease (mining dust) to build batches. Some of these lease hold titles still exist.
Illegal bachs were situated where the Bowentown domain is at Anzac Bay until 1957. Transport to this popular site was along the beach at low tide.
Two books by local identity the late Hank Hanlen on the history of the local and surrounding areas - “ The Why, How, When and Where - The Waihi Beach Story” and “Bowentown, Athenree and more a Beach Pot Pourri” are available for sale from the following outlets: Waihi Museum, The Art Market and Waihi Information Centre .
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