Doubtless Bay is home to one of the oldest ports in New Zealand, Mangonui, with historical accounts dating back to the early 1800s when it was an important whaling, timber and trading port.
The region around Mangonui was well populated before the arrival of Europeans with archaeological sites revealing the extent of this settlement. A number of pa sites remain visible, well preserved and accessible to the public.
Kupe – the Great Navigator
Doubtless Bay, the bay west of Mangonui, is claimed as the site where the Great Navigator - polynesian explorer Kupe first landed in the waka (canoe) Mamaru, 900 AD. A monument at Taipa marks the spot of this landing, which later led to Maori migration and settlement many years later.
Mangonui harbour as seen from summit
of Rangikapiti Pa
Areas settled by Maori were marked by pa sites, many of which are still visible today. The public can access these sites, the most popular being Rangikapiti and Taumarumaru. Pa sites were fortified areas, which provided protection in times of warfare. Usually built on hills and headlands they were good natural defences, which were extended, forming man-made ditches, banks and palisades.
One tradition tells of Ngati Kahu ancestor Moehuri, who made landfall in Mangonui in the ancestral waka Ruakaramea, being guided safely into the harbour by a big shark (mango - shark; nui - large; big), giving Mangonui harbour and town its name. It is said Ruakaramea lies at the foot of Rangikapiti Pa, where it has turned to stone, and is visible at low tide.
In 1769, Captain James Cook sailed past the entrance to the area and recorded in his journal "doubtless a bay", hence the name.
At the same time, the French ship St Jean Baptiste of Francois Marie de Surville was anchored within the bay. Both were unaware of the other.
During the 1800s Mangonui become a centre for whalers, traders, and sealers, creating a thriving port. However, by the 1930s, with the development of new roads throughout the north, the trade population moved away and Mangonui reduced in size.
Doubtless Bay has transformed over time from a bustling whaling, timber and trading port, to a scenic historic village centre, now home to heritage buildings and areas of historical beauty.
Doubtless Bay is a 40-minute drive from Kaitaia.
Head north on State Highway 1, turning right at Awanui onto SH10. Go past Inland Rd (Karikari Peninsula), following signage towards Mangonui.
Pass through Taipa (single lane bridge) and Coopers Beach. Keep a look out for historic sites Rangikapiti Pa and Taumarumau Scenic Reserve.
Continue following signage towards Mangonui township, taking a left turn off State Highway 10. Here you will find historic Mangonui Courthouse.