Hidden Pioneer Cemetery

Discover a little-known early pioneer cemetery accessible only by low tide in scenic Whangarei Heads.

The Gaelic speaking pioneers that settled in McLeod Bay around 1855 were originally from the Highlands of Scotland.  Forced to leave by Highland Clearance, they initially settled in Nova Scotia.

Bitterly cold winters and crop failures led them to continue migrating in search of a better future.

At the age of 71 Rev. Norman McLeod led a group of followers to eventually settle in Waipu and Whangarei Heads.  In all nearly 1,000 people completed the migration.

A hidden, little cemetery is the final resting place of some of these intrepid pioneers.

The walk is special as it can only be done when the tide is out and is suitable for all seasons.

The walk starts right at the beginning of McLeod Bay where the houses start to meet the bay.  There is room to park the car on the grass verge between the beach and Whangarei Heads Road.

Walk along the exposed public beach following the headland away from the road for about 25 minutes.  Interesting rock and tree root formations feature along the cliff face.

Look out for a rustic signpost to the right and climb a pohutukawa and pine covered knoll to discover the cemetery.

It is romanically overgrown with a lush carpet of periwinkle smothering the ground.  Cabbage trees and pungas form a unique backdrop from the bushclad hillside bordering the cemetery.

Many of the surnames on the gravestones repeat indicative of the small, close-knit community.

The wooden railings surrounding some of the gravestones are worth a second look.  Hewn spikes are slid neatly into grooves, not a nail in sight.

Visit McLeod Bay as an ideal place to experience an unspoilt authentic seaside town.

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