Hawkes Bay

All Souls Day Wander at Otatara Pa

What better to do on All Souls Day than wander around an ancient pa site?Otatara Pa is on the outskirts of Napier, approximately 13km from the centre of town. It’s one of the largest pa in New Zealand. The site is jointly managed by the Department of Conservation and the hapu (families) based at Waiohiki marae.

A pa can be a village. It’s usually fortified and usually found on a prominent hill. In total Otatara covers 40 hectares. More than three thousand people lived here from the late 1400s until the mid 1500s. (This was well before European colonisation which began in the 1800s.)

Otatara Pa is ideally positioned.

It’s the highest point in the area and access to the river and estuary, important food sources for the people who once lived here, is relatively easy. In the mid 1500s  the pa came under siege and was eventually defeated by Taraia of Ngati Kahungunu. The  iwi (tribe) eventually dominated the Takitimu region from Northern Hawkes Bay to the Wairarapa.  Because of the number of people who died in the fighting the site was made tapu (sacred) and never occupied again.

Otatara Pa Monday walk with Jo - 15

The area in front of this bluff was the site of a major quarry, after the 1931 earthquake. The fill was used to rebuild Napier. The quarry operated until the 1980s. Unfortunately much damage was done to the site. In those days there was little regard for Maori history. Thankfully, that is beginning to change. The area now works well as an outdoor theatre.

Otatara Pa Monday walk with Jo - 08

The track is well formed and is mostly an easy gradient. There are occasional stiles to clamber over.

The fences are electrified on account of the stock – lots of sheep – so be careful not to touch. I know from experience (not yesterday, it’s a lesson I’ve only needed to learn once) that electric fences pack a punch for the unwary!

Otatara Pa Monday walk with Jo - 07


There’s company along the way. These fellas caught sight of us and scarpered.




It was hot yesterday, summer hot. Sunscreen, a sun hat, and water, were essentials – apart from my camera, that is. The views are the sort that make you glad to be alive.

 Tp the South east: The Tutaekuri River and, in the distance, Cape Kidnapers

To the east: the Tutaekuri River and, in the distance, Cape Kidnappers

Otatara Pa Monday walk with Jo - 18

Looking south across  the Heretaunga Plains

My home town. Over the horizon 9,000 kilometres away, Chile

My home town. Over the horizon, 9,000 kilometres away, is Chile

The site has a lot of middens and kumera pits. (Kumera is a type of sweet potato and was a staple for Maori in pre-European times)

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Otatara Pa is a popular running and walking route. John knows it as well as better than the back of his hand.  Me, not so much. I hadn’t visited since our boys were, well, boys! It’s a pleasant walk for the averagely fit. There are easy to read signs full of information about what life might have been like when the Pa was inhabited.

The YouTube clip is worth watching.  It includes part of a karanga – song of welcome and a summary of the history on the site.

For more Monday walks visit Restless Jo

25 replies »

  1. Otatara is a fantastic place – so much history and such an important archaeological site. Last time I was there it was low cloud and overcast, lending a certain drama to it, but I’d have preferred a fine day!


  2. I finally got here, Jill! 🙂 It was well worth the wait. I love being transported to the other side of the world and taught a little something along the way. Touching an electric fence is one of those mishaps I seem to have avoided so far. I have no doubt it’ll happen though. 🙂 Many thanks for your lovely share.


    • It is very green here at the moment, pommepal, plenty of rain and plenty of pasture growth – so I think that overall the farmers are happy. Come February, everything will be brown, and depending on how hard the season is, almost white brown.


      • I used to milk cows in the Waikato back in 1960’s and I remember always being happy with the spring growth, though not the mud produced by the rain when the cows were calving… 😦


  3. really enjoyed your walk and the history lesson you give us – also, the variety in the post was fun – with the little slideshow of John!
    and I really love views that are the kind that “make you glad to be alive” – what a way to describe it Jill.
    Oh, and did you say outdoor theatre – well those are my favorite kinds… and was laughing about the fence shock – ha! And was wondering if you felt better afterwards – seriously, I have heard some folks say that when they get shocked – well sometimes afterwards they feel rejuvenated. hmmmmm O_o


    • About the electric shock – it was kind of exhilarating, like when you’ve had a very big fright and then you realise you’re still alive? It was like that. I don’t ever want to do it again, though! Glad you enjoyed the post, Y.


      • well thanks for sharing – and I know what you mean about not wanting to repeat – and how it stays in our memory – because I was shocked by a power strip once and now my guard is always up around certain things – because I will “not” let it happen again – ha!


  4. Just looking at your beautiful pictures made my lungs so happy:) could almost feel the purity of the air all the way to Cebu. Thanks for the ride Jill !


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