>  Kiwi towns   >  What’s so great about Waipu, Northland: what to see, best things to do
Waipu Cove, New Zealand @david113
Langs Beach @Vrbo
Langs Beach @Vrbo

Check out this town for its Scottish kilts, bagpipes and a story of migration

The nineteenth century witnessed new immigrants, with an austere protestant belief coupled with a language (Gaelic) and culture arrive in the Waipu district. For the pilgrims a permanent home for the Gaelic speakers beckoned. Farming, Sundays at church, the establishment of Gaelic speaking schools, bagpipes thrived in the new home. Today Highland Games, a museum dedicated to the Highlanders and passionate volunteers tell the story of European migration to Aotearoa NZ.


Who turned up and settled in Waipu?

The area was part of the original settlement of New Zealand flowing from East Polynesian ocean explorations. The composite hapu, Patuharakeke, descended from most major iwi groups in the north have their marae located inTakahiwai (16km from Waipu).

Waipu’s name means Wai: water; pu: reddish or brownish in colour.

Town motto

“Cead Mile Failte” Gaelic for One Hundred Thousand Welcomes.


  • Rev Norman McLeod, a Presbyterian minister who led his congregation from the Highlands, to Nova Scotia, then Australia and finally New Zealand. Over 800 settlers arrived in Waipu in the 1850’s. The guy fervently preached against ungodly ways. Either an autocratic demagogue or caring minister opinions are divided over his legacy. Definitely charismatic.
  • Fiona Southorn, who won bronze in cycling at the 2012 London Paralympics.
  • Fiona Kidman’s ‘The book of secrets’ 1987 explores the life of women in a moral bound community.


  • Insider trading, pulling a fast one on the original custodians of the land, could be levelled at James Busby. Busby purchased land in Ruakaka and Waipu in December 1839. This action occurred six weeks before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty particularly excluded private investor purchase of ‘native land.’ Questionable land purchases and failing business ventures dogged James Busby’s life.
  • Fatal Great White shark attack January 2021 Wahi Beach.

Where to take the best selfie

  • Call on your inner Gaelic, sword in hand or bagpipe next to Waipu Museum
  • Riverbank NZ scenery, water and ducks the perfect backdrop
  • Waipu Cove to Langs Beach walk along the coastal track for stunning views of the ocean, out to the Hen and Chicken islands as your backdrop

Check out what to see and do:

  • Waipu Saturday market and Waipu Boutique Sunday Market are regular fixtures for market followers. Pop up stalls in the aptly named Coronation Hall and local gift shops offer one of kind goodies for visitors.
  • Glorious Bream Bay with beaches, horse riding, estuaries and space to spare
  • Bird watching hot spots
  • Waipu Cave exploration
  • Waipu Museum is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a charismatic religious leader, his devoted followers and the life they established in Waipu. NZ has its own pilgrim fathers story.


In July, the village hosts Waipu n Tartan, everything tartan including wearable arts awards.

Easter Carnival is a massive school festival

Scottish Highland Games since 1871 New Year has been welcomed with games such as pole throwing and hurdling.


  • Glow worms in Waipu Caves
  • Bream Bay beaches
  • Ducks at Waihoihoi Reserve with a pretty stream, grassy banks, playground and stone sculptures to clamber over. It’s a great place for families to recoup, recover from the rigors of market stall shopping.

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What makes the place work?

  • Agricultural service centre. There are several manufacturers based in Waipu district from Northland Steel Products and Zego Boats employing locals.


Sub-tropical Northland climate, Waipu, Northland, New Zealand 10-Day Weather Forecast

Best time to go

Year round as the superb Waipu Museum is a great indoor activity together with gift shops and cafes to linger in.


2,712 (2018)

Be careful

  • Temptation of cute baby booties at the local market stall. Remember you actually do not know any babies.


A great day trip from Whangarei or Auckland.  For dedicated market buffs perhaps a day or two. Definitely worth the detour off state highway one.


The journey is worth it.

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