ROAD TRIP NORTH – Stage 1: Auckland to Warkworth
About an hour’s drive or 50 km north of Auckland, just past Waiwera, is a turn off on the left that signposts “Puhoi.”
It’s worth a detour when you’re traveling north and it’s also a great day trip from Auckland.
The first thing you’ll notice is a shrine on the roadside just before you reach the village. This is not a common sight in New Zealand and reflects the European Catholic influence.
Puhoi is one of New Zealand’s few historical villages. In the 1860s eighty-three German-speaking emigrants from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) were offered free land in New Zealand. After a long 124-day journey, the first group arrived in Puhoi to find their allocated pieces of land were steep and covered in dense forest. The only access was by river.
They were determined and hard-working people and they started clearing their land and building their huts to live in. In the beginning, their income came from whatever they could work with in the native bush which was firstly firewood, kauri gum, charcoal, and then from the logs they made wharf piles, railway sleepers, and sold sawn timber. The river was the main source of transport.
By the 1880s about 3,000 acres had been turned into farmland and a solid community had been formed and was centred around a school, a boarding house, two stores, a hotel, a church and a small hall.
WHAT YOU CAN SEE TODAY
THE PUHOI PUB
The two-storied colonial Puhoi Pub is located on the top of a hill overlooking the town. The interior walls are covered in fascinating old photos from the area, animal heads, an eclectic range of household goods and memorabilia.
The Puhoi Pub website gives the history of the pub – “An Irishman, Andrew Meaney, took up a bush license which enabled him to sell liquor, in c 1873-75 at his pub shanty and the ‘baby saloon’ was created. Lack of finance in the area prevented success and the business did not prosper to any degree but another Irishman by the name of Clark fared slightly better as times began to improve. Noting his success prompted John Schollum Snr and Vincent Schischka to apply for licenses as well.
Now Puhoi had three drinking establishments! Clarkes baby saloon, Schollum’s German Hotel and Schischka Puhoi Hotel Store and Boarding House established in 1876. Competition resulted in the closure of the baby saloon which was sold to John Schollum.
Two drinking establishments now graced the small village. Some time later Vincent Schischka sub-let his liquor license to Vincent Plescher and later again it was Christian Schischka a younger brother who took over the business.
The once called German Hotel owned by John Schollum was then the only hotel in Puhoi. It was renamed the Puhoi Hotel.”
THE CHURCH OF Saints Peter and Paul
The pretty Catholic Church was built in 1991 and features an interesting tabernacle painting, stained glass windows and statues. It was named The Church of Saints Peter and Paul because the pioneers arrived on the feast day of these saints. The people of Puhoi commissioned the alter painting from an artist in Bohemia called van HERZOG, and it is an exact copy of the one in Littitz church in Bohemia. The bell tower was added around 1900.
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The museum is housed in the building that was the old Catholic School. On display are historic tools and equipment, household items, and clothing. There is an impressive scale model of the village as it was in 1900.
THE TOWN LIBRARY
The quaint town library building (one of the smallest libraries in New Zealand) is right on the river bank and has been flooded several times. The high watermark can be seen on the side of the building. It still operates as the local library.
THE LANDING MEMORIAL STONE
Erected in 1988, the Memorial Stone commemorates the site where two nikau whare were built to house the first group of settlers. The Stone displays the settlers’ names and the names of the ships that brought them. It pays tributes to Te Hemara Tauhia, whose help was vital, to Captain Krippner who led the effort, and to the people whose colossal efforts established the village in the most challenging of bush conditions.*
THE PUHOI CEMETRY
The Puhoi Cemetry is located 3 km from the village and has the graves of many of Puhoi’s pioneers.
PUHOI VALLEY CHEESE CELLAR & CAFE
The Puhoi Valley Cheese Company is loated two or three kilometers up the road. The factory was once a goat farm and is now a premium cheese, milk and yoghurt factory. In the upmarket Cafe and Cheese Store you will be able to see their range of award winning products. The very popular cafe features locally sourced products in their food along with their own range of gourmet products.
Many of the pioneer descendants still live here and the area has retains the Bohemian atmosphere and culture. If you’re in Puhoi on the last Sunday of every month you can visit the Village Market at the sports grounds. Canoe hire is available and you can paddle your way through farmland, native bush and mangrove swamps to the Wenderholm Park beachfront.
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WHAT ELSE IS IN THE AREA?
Orewa, Waiwera & Wenderholm Reserve Park
If you drive from Auckland and avoid the toll section of the motorway by taking the Orewa off-ramp, (the toll-free route is a little longer than the toll route but much more scenic) you will drive up Orewa hill (there’s a great lookout point halfway up the hill) past Hatfields Beach and on to Waiwera. Waiwera means hot water in Maori and until recently there were public thermal pools here, but unfortunately, they’ve been closed now for a few years. The toll-free route is a little longer than the toll route but much more scenic.
As you leave Waiwera, at the top of the hill is a turn off on the right to Wenderholm Reserve Park. This is a beautiful reserve with a safe sandy swimming beach and estuary and lots of pohutukawa trees on the beachfront with barbeques and picnic tables. There’s also an historic Victorian-Edwardian house- Couldrey House and Gardens and plenty of walks through the reserve. It’s a great stop for a break.
As you leave Puhoi and head north you will soon see a turn off on the left to the Honey Centre which includes the Honey Café and the Honey Mead and Fruit Wine shop. They have a cafe and lots of honey related products. There are three large glass panes through which you can see the bees busily going about their business. They have tasting jars so you can sample the various honey flavours. It’s a must-stop if you love honey!