View of beach and Te Pare Point from the North
|Territorial authority||Thames-Coromandel District Council|
|Time zone||NZST (UTC+12)|
|• Summer (DST)||NZDT (UTC+13)|
Hahei is located in Mercury Bay, between the settlements of Cooks Beach and Hot Water Beach.It is approximately 6 km south east of Whitianga and 6 km north of Hot Water Beach. The main town of Whitianga can be reached in one of two ways: either by a 40 minute drive or by a ferry ride some 15 minutes from Hahei by car.
A prominent feature of the beach is Mahurangi Island, which lies on the edge of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei marine reserve.
The name of the settlement of Hahei is derived from the Māori name for Mercury Bay, Te-Whanganui-A-Hei, or "The Great Bay of Hei". According to tradition, Hei was one of three brothers who arrived in New Zealand with Kupe. With his family he settled in the area of Oahei, which is now Hahei, and they became the ancestors of the Ngati Hei people. However, in 1818 the Ngati Hei people were attacked by the Ngā Puhi tribe, and almost completely wiped out. The remnant of the Ngati Hei people fled, leaving the land vacant.
The valley of Hahei was purchased in the 1870s by Robert Wigmore, who was the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages from 1876 to 1887. Robert Wigmore built the kauri homestead which is still standing today. The burial place of Robert Wigmore and his wife Fanny in Hahei is marked by a cairn in the Wigmore Historic Reserve, at the end of Hahei Beach Road by the beach.
In 1915 the property was purchased by the brothers Horace and Walter Harsant. The farm primarily supported a dairy herd, but pigs, fruit and crayfish were also part of the produce sold at the nearby store of Coroglen.
Transport at that time was difficult. Heavy and large goods had to be transported by sea, and for an ordinary shopping trip the Harsants would ride on horseback to the river and "coo-ee" loudly for the boatman to ferry them across.
In the 1960s Vaughan Harsant lived in the homestead, and as Hahei began to gain popularity as a camping site, he developed the camping ground, and began to subdivide areas of the farm near the beach into residential sections.
Hahei is a popular holiday destination, with a white sandy beach and sheltered aspect, resulting in safe sheltered swimming waters. Its resident population is around 300, but in peak holiday periods the population swells to more than 9 times the norm. On the southern end of the beach is Te Pare Historic Reserve, which was once the site of two māori pā, Hereheretaura Pā and Hahei Pā.
The town centre consists of three cafés, a gift shop, a general store with a gas station and a takeaways bar, a dive shop, two real estate agencies and an ice cream parlour. Other holiday related businesses include kayaking, snorkelling and boat trips to Cathedral Cove and the Marine Reserve.
- Saltspray and Sawdust, by Janet Riddle, Gumtown Publishers, 1996. p. 46.
- The Wigmores of Hahei, by Horace Harsant, Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 9, May 1968. p. 47.
- From Haveringland to Hahei: the Harsants of Hahei, by Walter Harsant, Hauraki Publishers, Thames, 1994. p. 19-22.
- They called me Te Maari, by Florence Harsant, Whitcoulls Publishers, 1979. p. 171.
- "Thames-Coromandel Peak Population Study 2007-2008". Retrieved 2009-04-05.[dead link]
- "Te Pare Historic Reserve". Retrieved 2009-04-05.