Our District

Ōtaki History and Heritage

Historical places to visit

Ōtaki is the oldest settled part of Kāpiti Coast District and has a rich heritage of Māori and early European settlement. with a rich and colourful history.  The Heritage Trail brochure can be downloaded here.

Rangiatea Church (no photographs without specific permission) 33 Te Rauparaha Street, Ōtaki Town, Ph 06 364 6838.  

Church viewing: Monday to Friday 9.30am – 1.30pm. This Anglican church is an iconic part of the story of Māori - European interaction in the southern North Island and the motivations for peace which lead Te Rauparaha to propose the project.  It has unique Māori design features in the interior making it stand apart from any other church.

St Mary’s Pukekaraka, 4 Convent Road, Ōtaki Town,  Ph 06 368 3034. 

St Mary's and surrounding buildings - photo by Mark Coote

St Mary's is the oldest Catholic Church in New Zealand built in 1859. It is surrounded by a very interesting array of traditional Māori buildings, wooden colonial buildings and plaster building.  The church interior has a lovely artwork featuring Kāpiti Island with Māori art elements.

Raukawa Marae, (no photographs to be taken), 90 Mill Road, Ōtaki Town, Ph 06 364 7617.

Otaki Museum, 49 Main Street, Ōtaki Town, Ph 06 3646886.  

Open Thursday - Saturday 10.00am  to 2.00pm during exhibitions.  This historic Category II building was built in 1918 as the BNZ and isone of the oldest buildings in Ōtaki. It is now home to Ōtaki Museum, displaying and preserving the rich bicultural history of Ōtaki. 

Otaki Civic Theatre, 19 Main Street, Ōtaki Town

The Civic Theatre was built in 1938 by the Borough Council to replace the original Brights Theatre that was destroyed by fire in 1935. The theatre ran mainly as a picture theatre, but over the years it also hosted a range of other events including patriotic concerts during the war years including concerts by the world famous opera singer Inia Te Wiata who was raised in Ōtaki.

Shipwreck Cairn, Ōtaki Beach, opposite 224 Marine Parade, Ōtaki Beach

The stone monument commemorates two significant shipwrecks along the Ōtaki coastline and the skill and courage of the people who helped bring passengers and crew ashore. 

Health Camp, 29 Health Camp Road, Ōtaki Beach

Otaki Children's Health CampThe New Zealand health camp movement arose from growing concern about children’s health and welfare in the early twentieth century. The first permanent Children’s Health Camp opened on this site in 1932. 120 children stayed for six weeks, thriving on a regime of good food, plenty of sleep, fun at the seaside and a few hours of schooling daily.  Between 1941 and 1945 the camp became a wartime emergency hospital. In 1945 the health camp re-opened with a new emphasis on emotional needs as well as physical health. Today a holistic approach addresses the social, emotional and physical needs of children.

The Pipi Trail

The following sites can be visited as part of The Pipi Trail, a guided or self-guided walking tour of important historic sites in Ōtaki.  Brochures are available from the library. 

  1. The Telegraph Stables
  2. Telegraph Hotel
  3. Te Whare Toi – Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa
  4. All Saints Church and Hadfield Hall
  5. Ōtaki Native Boys College
  6. Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa
  7. Tū Roa Kōhanga School
  8. Memorial to Te Rauparaha and the Obelisk
  9. Rangiātea
  10. Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Rito
  11. Pukekaraka
  12. Tainui Marae
  13. The Mangapōuri Stream: Ōtaki lifeblood of yesteryear

The Hill of Dedication 247 State Highway North, Ōtaki

The Ngāti Toa defeated Muaūpoko and Ngāti Apa tribes (c1821–28). One of the paramount chiefs of Ngāti Apa, Te Hakeke, rallied his people to maintain his independence. Te Hakeke was married to Haewa, a Muaūpoko woman of high rank. On the birth of their child, Te Rara-o-te-rangi, Te Hakeke carried him to the summit of this hill and composed a waiata (song) dedicating his son to the task of restoring the manaof his ancestors over the surrounding lands. It washere that the young warrior was to stand when he had driven out the invaders. Unfortunately the high hopes of the father were unfulfilled. Te Rara-o-te-rangi died in his youth. Ngāti Toa and later Ngāti Raukawa gained authority over this hill and the surrounding lands which has remained to this day.

Will Scotland Memorial Layby south-east of traffic bridge, SH1, Ōtaki Town

This memorial celebrates the first sustained flight in the Wellington district on 29 January, 1914. 

Hautere Stone Walls (Hautere Turnips), Old Hautere Road, Te Horo.

There are dry stone walls in Te Horo, on Old Hautere Road. The stones were cleared by gangs of unemployed men who worked at Te Horo as part of the Hautere Work Scheme in the early to mid-1930s. The stones used in building the walls are greywacke boulders, which were washed down from the Tararua Ranges by the Ōtaki River. The locals call the stones 'Hautere Turnips'.

Ōtaki Railway, Arthur Street, Ōtaki 

The original station building was built in 1886 on completion of the Wellington and Manawatu Company’s railway line. Coaches linked it with the town, over a mile westward. After a fire in 1910, New Zealand Railways constructed the present building, designed by George Troup. Its stockyards, post office and refreshment rooms were the beginning of a second town centre, ‘Ōtaki Railway’. From 1919, Wellington’s town milk supply travelled daily from the nearby Rāhui dairy factory. After World War II, a burgeoning market garden industry made the station yards a hive of activity. Several times a week growers loaded their produce on wagons bound for markets from Wellington to New Plymouth. However, road competition led to its closure in 1987 and the building fell into disrepair. With the help of a community trust the station was restored (1999) and still serves commuters.

Site of the Battle of Haowhenua – c1834 Opposite 216 Te Waka Road, Te Horo

Haowhenua was one of the biggest inter-tribal battles in the southern North Island. In 1834, Ngāti Ruanui and Taranaki iwi, in particular Ngāti Tupaea and Ngāti Haumia hapū, arrived in the Ōtaki district in the migration called Te Heke Hauhaua. An over-population of the area led to insufficient food and other resources. Tawake, a Te Āti Awa chief, was caught stealing food by Ngati Raukawa and was killed. The main body of Te Āti Awa marched north to avenge his death, and engaged Ngāti Raukawa, their former allies, near the fortified Rangiuru Pā close to the Ōtaki river mouth. Ngāti Raukawa, led by their chief Te Rauparaha, was besieged for many months in Rangiuru.

Te Rauparaha sent a message to specific northern tribes asking for help, which enabled him in return to besiege Te Āti Awa in nearby Paakaakutu Pā. Te Āti Awa retreated to Haowhenua, south of the Ōtaki river. Prolonged fighting with muskets around the pā followed, with neither side gaining any advantage. Many important chiefs on both sides were killed. Finally, peace was made and marriages were arranged to seal the peace, the tribes dispersed, and new tribal boundaries were drawn from Manawatu to Pukerua Bay