Short walks: Mapoutahi Pa and Doctor’s Point

Mapoutahi, the former site of a Maori pa, juts out from Purakaunui Bay and leads to the...
Mapoutahi, the former site of a Maori pa, juts out from Purakaunui Bay and leads to the Purakaunui Inlet and township. Potato Point is the headland in the centre of the photograph. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Turn off State Highway 1 at Waitati and turn left to get to Doctor’s Point Rd.

'Excellent Short Walks in the South Island', by Peter Janssen, New Holland, RRP$32.99
'Excellent Short Walks in the South Island', by Peter Janssen, New Holland, RRP$32.99
Follow this road to the end and park by the beach.

From the car park, walk down the beach and head south (right) and around Doctor’s Point, passing through sea caves on the way. From here the views along the coast are marvellous towards Karitane to the north. This walk can only be undertaken at mid to low tide, and if the tide is not right, the northern access to the pa is via Osborne Rd and from there a short walk through the sand dunes to the pa.

Like Huriawa Pa to the north, Mapoutahi was located on an inaccessible peninsula, protected by steep cliffs and superbly fortified. Taoka could make no impression on the impregnable fortress. The attack took place in the middle of winter and on one particularly cold night, the sentries of Mapoutahi set up dummies at the entrance to the pa and then retreated to the warmth of the fires in the huts. Alerted to the ruse, Taoka attacked, quickly seized the pa and then proceeded to massacre the inhabitants. The pa was never reoccupied and the peninsula then became known as Mata-awheawhe, ‘‘the dead gathered in a heap’’.

The Mapoutahi Pa site. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The Mapoutahi Pa site. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN

While today the fortified ditches and terraces have disappeared, the site of the pa is perfect. In either direction the views are extensive: Orokonui Lagoon and the Otago Peninsula to the south, and Purakaunui Inlet to the north with Huriawa Pa in the distance. Blue penguins nest above the beaches and aquatic birdlife is prolific.

AT A GLANCE

Grade: Easy

Time (return): 1 hour to 90 minutes 

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