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The Tour

Discover local history, native wildlife and the exclusive waterways canals.

What you’ll see

The tour will first cross the river to see the old stone wharf at Ferry Landing. It was built in 1837 and is reputed to be the first stone wharf built in Australasia. It was first built to facilitate the transportation of spars out to the sailing ships in the bay and was later used when ship building yards were built on that side of the river. In fact, the east side of the river was the location of the first town in the area. The second town was developed on the west side after 1880 and was centred around the Kauri Timber Company’s mill.

    ferry landing
    Back Bay

    We will then travel around the headland, where the Whitianga Pā was situated, and into Back Bay. According to Ngāti Hei history the earliest known chief occupying the rock was Hei Turepe. The Pā is protected on three sides by sheer cliffs. The hill leading up to the Pā on the fourth side is defended by a 22-foot man-made ditch which is now part of the track leading down to Back Bay where Pā inhabitants had access to shellfish.

    Just up from Back Bay is a shag colony. Little shags nest in trees over-hanging water and also on ledges or sea cliffs, forming colonies alone or with other shag species, especially pied shags. In mixed colonies, pied shags make large stick nests occupying open sites, whereas the nests of little shags tend to be built of thinner twigs and to be hidden in the foliage. Nests may be no more than one metre apart and are sometimes reused. Some little shags begin nesting in July or August, while others join the colony later and breeding can extend to April or May. Peak activity occurs in October-December.

    Shags nesting

    Throughout the tour, keep an eye out for other wildlife. Occasionally dolphins and even orca are spotted in the river!

    From there, we will motor up the Whitianga River. Historically, Whitianga was a centre for boat building, kauri milling, flax milling, gold mining and gum digging. For many years, it was a leading timber port, with sailing ships from Norway, Sweden, France, Italy and Great Britain coming to load timber.

    Overseas vessels of 2000 tons with a draught of 18″ and carrying with their decks loads over a million feet of timber worked the harbour entrance. The larger ships were towed into the port from near Centre Island.

    Over a period of sixty years, it is estimated over 500 million feet of kauri was exported from the Whitianga district. The first kauri gum was exported in 1844. It reached its peak in 1899 when over 11,000 long tons of gum was exported at an average of $120 per ton.

    Cook also named the Whitianga Harbour “River of Mangroves” and this area is still referred to as “The River”.

    Whitianga Waterways Entrance

    About three kilometres up the river is the entrance to the Whitianga Waterways. Started in 2001, this development is being done by Hopper Developments. Over a 20 year period it will transform 230ha of farmland into 5km of canals and up to 2500 building sites for homes. The channel dug is suitable for deep drafted boats, although some of the larger yachts need to be aware of shallow water around low tides. The tour will slowly meander through the waterways so you can enjoy looking at the beautiful homes and boats moored there.

    The cruise then comes back down the river to end at the Whitianga Wharf.

    Whitianga Waterways Entrance

    Historical Landmarks

    The old stone wharf at Ferry Landing built in 1837 and Whitianga Pā.



    A shag colony, reef herons and other native birds. Occasionally dolphins and even orca are spotted in the river!


    Luxury Lifestyle

    See million dollar luxury homes and yachts.

    The Details

    Best For

    Family day out. Scenic boat tour without sea sickness. Group events.



    A 1h 30 min cruise from Whitianga Wharf up the river and around the waterways and takes place around high tide times.


    Adults: $60
    Children (3 - 14 yrs): $30
    Infants (0 - 2 yrs): free
    Family (2 adults/2 children): $160


    Boat Capacity

    We can comfortably cater for up to 39 people.

    Important Info


    We reserve the right to cancel or amend any trip due to weather conditions or if minimum numbers are not reached. If a trip is cancelled, there is no charge. Cancellations by the client less than 24 hours before the start of the trip will incur the full charge. You will receive confirmation of your booking by email.


    Cruise may be rescheduled at operator’s discretion due to numbers or weather conditions.

    Passengers must check in and be ready to board 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.

    The passenger agrees to comply with all rules and directions given by the skipper.

    Contact Us

    Z Pier, Whitianga Marina, 1 Esplanade, Whitianga