Blessed with a timeless kind of beauty, this charming fishing town in “the Winterless North” has a surprisingly diverse range of visitor attractions.
Rawene’s main street, Parnell Street, slopes down to the water’s edge, where some of the older wooden structures are poised over the harbor like boat sheds. These picturesque buildings include a supermarket, arts and crafts galleries and a café, so start your explorations here.
Clendon Esplanade along Rawene’s waterfront was named after Captain Clendon, a well-respected European settler who became New Zealand’s first United States Consul. Clendon had also witnessed New Zealand’s Declaration of Independence in 1835 and the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
In Rawene, James Clendon acted as a magistrate, settling disputes between settlers and Māori. Visit the heritage-listed Clendon House along the esplanade to hear the story of Jane, who was partly Māori and had 8 children with James. When he died in 1872, Jane was just 34 and had inherited all her husband’s debts. Through hard work and determination, Jane managed to pay off the debts, keep the family home and educate the children within the next decade.
Along the same esplanade, browse the gallery of the iconic Boatshed Café, a historic wooden structure on stilts that quite literally stands out from the rest. While here, pick up the Walk Hokianga map and follow the nearby mangrove boardwalk, where a century ago a timber mill worked around the clock.
You can’t miss The Wedge, an unusually shaped and colorful hub of galleries. Browse the artworks or enjoy the café in the Tony Bridge Gallery. The Wedge also houses Loriz Felts, a shop of hand-made felt creations, and Māori Magic. The latter shows you the ways of Rongoa Māori (traditional medicine) with locally made balms. For more local products, browse the markets at the Rawene Town Hall on the first Saturday of the month.
Rawene hugs the harbor at the end of Rawene Road. Because the town is like a time capsule of a bygone era, it’s worth the short detour from the highway. If you’d like to stay the night, check out The Masonic Hotel and The Postmasters Lodgings, two wonderful heritage buildings. From the Rawene wharf, you can board a vehicle ferry to explore the North Hokianga Harbour.