Only 7km from Warkworth to the coast
Today Sandspit is known as good place to launch a boat, catch a ferry to Kawau Island, or enjoy a coffee at the waterside cafe. It’s a short drive from the Snells Beach shopping centre. The Sandspit Holiday Park, beside a safe swimming beach, is a hit with families. But back in the 1800s, the water teemed with sharks during the summer months and it was a popular Maori fishing ground. Shark meat was the staple diet of the area’s tribes, and they would dry their catch in the sun on manuka poles. Making most of the abundant catch, settlers built a shark factory opposite the Sandspit Wharf. They collected the oil from shark livers and found multiple uses for it from killing ticks on pigs to preserving timber. Eventually the sharks were fished out and the factory closed in the 1900s and was pulled down. According to The Story of Sandpit by the Sandspit Residents and Ratepayers Association, the first settlers arrived in 1842 and lived on either side of the Matakana River mouth. The area had a good supply of suitable timber, including kauri, for shipbuilding and the first recorded boatbuilders in the area were R Howe and William McKay who established a shipyard in 1856 to the east of the camping ground. There was also a small school, a hotel and post office where the holiday park is today. Coastal steamships would berth at Sandspit, nearby Greens Point, and Matakana allowing regular trade of farm produce and fruit to Auckland for sale at the markets. Scows carried timber, sandstone and cattle.