From the summit of the head above Shelly Bay are views of the upper reaches of Tauranga Harbour, Athenree and the Kaimai Range. From the trig at Te Ho pa are views right up the beach through Bowentown to Waihi Beach. South past Matakana Island is Mount Maunganui and the whole sweep of the Bay of Plenty.
From S.H.2, follow signs along Athenree Road and at the beach turn right along Seaforth Road. Bowentown Heads are a further 5km.
There are two carparks. The lower has toilets, and both have picnic tables.
Tracks around Bowentown Heads are mown strips of grass through native coastal vegetation and scrub. Occasionally the grass and soil have been eroded and washed off to reveal the rock beneath. This can be lethally slippery when wet.
There are two heads at Bowentown. The upper carpark accesses Te Ho and Te Kura a Maia pa sites. To explore Te Ho pa (the easternmost of the two), takes approximately 30 minutes return. Climb the wide grass track to the summit trig and loop around the northern section of the hill to meet the road.
Te Kura a Maia pa can be explored from both carparks. A network of tracks follow the terraces and you can easily make your own way between carparks.
From the northern end of the bottom carpark at Anzac Bay, follow the wide track The first 5 minutes are treacherously slippery when wet as the grass cover has been removed.
At the crossroads there are 4 options. The first two tracks on the left lead to a track that loops around the headland to Shelly Bay (10 minutes). Straight ahead leads to Shelly Bay (5minutes). Right takes you to the summit.
From the far side of Shelly Bay continue along the track, which forks after 5 minutes. Right leads to the summit, from where you can return to Anzac Bay along the initial track to the left.
From the upper carpark there is also a steep stepped track to Cave Bay.
Bowentown Heads were formed around 5 million years ago from the extrusion of viscous rhyolite lava. The steep-sided domes have since been severely eroded to form the structures evident today. Originally the heads would have been islands, but since the stabilisation of sea levels around 6,500 years ago, a neck of sand, or tombolo, has connected them to the mainland.
Cave Bay is a cosy stretch of sand at the foot of the heads. Huge rhyolite boulders are jumbled in heaps at the base of the cliffs.
Pohutukawa dominate the shoreline with five-finger and introduced wattle and gorse unfortunately prevalent.
Te Kura a Maia is one of the best preserved and accessible pa in the region. The topography and layout are still reasonably intact, so you can deduce how the pa functioned. The terraces on the southern part of the headland were probably used for dwellings, food storage pits and cooking areas. You can also cross the defensive ditch to access terraces from the upper carpark. Middens litter the area.
The pa had a chequered history, because its strategic location was enviable amongst competing tribes. It’s name belies the many battles that were fought here and means ‘training ground for a young warrior’. Originally it is thought to have been occupied by the Nga Marama tribe, but Ngati Maru from the Hauraki Plains later occupied the site.
North Island ▷ Bay of Plenty ▷ Waihi
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