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Station Bay, on the eastern flank of Motutapu Island

Favourite anchorages can be easily revised when another even more magnificent spot is discovered in New Zealand’s world class Hauraki Gulf. Oddly, it can take a few visits before the magic reveals itself and Station Bay is a perfect example. Depth in the middle of the bay tucked just inside the headland is adequate for a vessel up to 16 metres [at mean low ~3m]. There’s more depth and plenty of space south along the coast towards Mullet Bay.

Mullet Bay, a small inlet half a nautical mile away, is another great anchorage. Worth noting when anchoring in Mullet Bay; most boaties anchor around the entrance possibly suspecting there is no depth further in the bay; this is not the case. The beach is steep, and that trajectory continues – you can safely find a spot deeper inside the bay. Inside Station Bay there is good shelter from all directions, except east and southeast, with minimal ocean swell being protected by Rakino Island and the Noisies that lie to the east. Often during the summer season, you can find Station Bay all but empty, even on ‘busy’ days there is room to spare – it seems Station Bay can get overlooked when nearby Woody and West Bays on Rakino Island are literally overflowing. Once anchored and settled in for the evening there’s time to take it all in, and every angle is interesting. Why Station Bay is special is its historical narrative in such graphic form. Right there in front of you is a headland which was a fortified pa site. Ngāi Tai Māori were the predominant tribe and first occupiers from around 1500 AD, however their occupation was challenged and overturned more than once by other tribes before they sold it to the European settlers prior to WWI. With reasonable footwear it’s a moderate climb over the headland – starting from the southern end, the features of the pa seem to unfold in the right order and you can easily imagine what went before and why the location was so well positioned for a fortified pā - the commanding position reveals every aspect of the surrounding waters, it’s a sheltered cove protected by the prevailing south westerly, and ideal for fishing and shellfish gathering. There are numerous level hill-top building sites, three easily visible kumara pits and deep defensive trenches. Looking across the trenches you can wonder at the intensity of facing off the enemy just metres apart, let alone the ensuing hand to hand combat. The area was extensively excavated by archaeologist Janet Davidson in the early seventies, revealing a treasure of Māori existence on the headland and the surrounding hills. Motutapu Island also provides as much walking and great running you could want for in a day, with numerous tracks and loose metal roads criss-crossing the island, which is mostly open farmland. There is extensive native replanting in numerous valleys carried out by the Motutapu Restoration Trust, yet the skylines of the island remain in pasture out of respect for Māori and European heritage – also providing panoramic views of the Gulf islands and the ever-present Rangitoto to the West.

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