History of Waiheke
Discovered and settled by Maori approximately 1000 years ago, Waiheke translates to ‘cascading waters’. Some Maori legends say that one of the pioneering waka (canoes) to New Zealand came upon the island. The first traces of Europeans arrived with the missionary Samuel Marsden in the early 1800s, several years after Captain Cook passed by and acknowledged the island in his travels through the Hauraki Gulf.
Signs of Maori occupation on Waiheke Island still exist today. Archaeological sites are scattered over the island including more than forty pa sites, cooking pits and terraced areas.
Located on the eastern tip of Waiheke is Stony Batter, a historic WWII defence complex that is accessible by a countryside walk, which offers striking views of the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula. Stony Batter today is open to visitors, who can walk through the network of underground tunnels and chambers that link to magnificent gun emplacements. The purpose of the complex was to provide outer harbour protection in case of an invasion.
Waiheke Island is home to a permanent population of around 8,000 residents. About 2,000 of these residents commute to Auckland via ferry every day for work. As a popular holiday destination, the population is said to swell to about 50,000 people over the summer months.
Much of the population lives close to the western end of the island, or close to an east-west isthmus between Huruhi Bay and Oneroa Bay. Here are the settlements of Oneroa and Blackpool, and immediately east of these are Palm Beach, Surfdale, and Ostend. Further east lays Onetangi, which is located on the central north coast on the wide Onetangi Bay. Much of the eastern half of Waiheke Island is privately owned farmland.
Socially, the island is highly diverse, ranging from those on a minimal wage to some of the wealthiest people in New Zealand. The creative sector is highly represented, with many artists, musicians, scientists, writers, poets and actors.