Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

11 October 2009

Mangonui Hotel

I wrote and illustrated ‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’. It was published in 1995. It was a snapshot of some New Zealand pubs as they were at the end of the 20th century. I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.

Mangonui Harbour, a protected inlet at the south-eastern corner of Doubtless Bay, is always tranquil when I pass through but its expanse is great enough, I imagine, for its surface to become severely ruffled at times. From studying historic photographs, it’s clear that Mangonui has retained its old time seaside village dimension because little has been done to widen the narrow road, squeezed between the hills and the sea, that winds around the foreshore.

A particular delight is the general store, dating from 1907, which rests on piles over the harbour. It is opposite the old courthouse built in 1892 on a slight elevation as if to conduct the serious business of the law with a dignity slightly removed from the everyday. Such enchantments arc likely to be preserved since State Highway 11 has been re-aligned to by-pass the village.

The Old Mangonui Courthouse 
Mangonui is one of New Zealand’s oldest towns; it was established as a port for whalers hut it later prospered from the felling and shipping of timber from the Northland kauri forests. Its first hotel was the Donnybrook at Mill Bay, built in 1842, which was replaced by the Settlers after a fire in 1873. The Old Oak, no longer licensed, dates from 1861 (when it was called the Mangonui Hotel). It played host to some of the tough seamen who came to trade around the sheltered waters of the harbour.

This ‘new’ Hotel Mangonui, built in 1905 by John Bray, is original and unspoiled - a classically colonial pub; it offers accommodation for ‘19 guests in 19th century comfort’.


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By Don Donovan