The principal settlement and only town in Mercury Bay, 88 km northeast of Thames. Ngāti Hei, descendants of Hei of the Arawa canoe, are the local tribe. The kauri timber industry made early Whitianga. Gordon Browne built a spar station on the east side of the harbour entrance in the 1830s. This was the location of the first town. The second town developed on the west side after 1880, centred on the timber mill. From around 1887 the Kauri Timber Company expanded the mill, which operated from about 1888 to 1922, after which point dairy farming on the rich alluvial flats became the district’s economic mainstay. A dairy factory replaced the timber mill on the same site. Whitianga also became a centre for commercial and deep-sea game fishing. Zane Grey, the famous American writer and game fisher, was a visitor in the 1920s.

Meaning of place name
Whitianga is short for Whitianga-o-Kupe (Kupe’s crossing place). In Māori tradition Kupe was the explorer who visited Aotearoa before the canoe migrations.

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