Whitianga is a town on the Coromandel Peninsula, in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island. The town is located on Mercury Bay, on the northeastern coast of the peninsula. The town has a permanent population of 6,160 as of June 2020, making it the second-largest town on the Coromandel Peninsula behind Thames.
Whitianga has been continuously occupied for more than a thousand years since Māori explorer Kupe’s tribe settled here after his visit in about 950 AD. Following this visit, many of Kupe’s tribe settled here. Te Whitianga o Kupe is the original place name of the town, meaning Kupe’s crossing place.
Whitianga Pā, located on the ferry landing side of the river is a notable site. 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. On Cook’s visit to the site in November 1769, the inhabitants who welcomed him believed the pā had been disused for a generation since it had been attacked by a Tauranga chief who married the slain chief’s wife and settled peacefully into the area. Whitianga rock has several holes cut into the stone that were used as firepits, water stores, and palisade holes. Cook noted burnt palisade stumps as evidence that an earlier attack had evicted the ancient pā’s residents.