Onawe Pa Historic Reserve

Onawe Pa Historic Reserve - Banks Peninsula

Onawe Pa Historic Reserve

Banks Peninsula

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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The teardrop shaped Onawe Pa was perfectly sited for defense


2.5 km return | 1 hour return

A tear-drop peninsula in Akaroa Harbour with a violent story.


At Barrys Bay turn into Onawa Flat Road and continue to the parking area at the base of the peninsula. The road is unsealed at the end.


On all but the highest tides the best way to access the peninsula is at sea level. The turrets are composed of clay and can be slippery with steep drop offs on both sides.

Once on the peninsula follow the obvious track through the grass to the summit.


Onawe Pa protrudes into Akaroa Harbour. Some say its form resembles a whale.

Polynesian History

Onawe Pa holds a grizzly story.

The notorious Ngati Toa chief, Te Rauparaha, arrived with bloody hands, having sacked Kaiapoi in 1831. Many local Ngai Tahu sought refuge on the peninsula. Although surrounded on three sides by sea, Te Rauparaha amassed warriors and encircled the pa.

The pa was heavily defended, with a wall at the neck and strongholds atop the hill. A ditch, bank and palisade were supplemented with trenches that led to a spring. Additional water encapsulated in canoes and kumara storeshouses gave the defenders confidence the 400 men, women and children could last a siege.

Tangatahara, the Ngai Tahu chief, tried a pre-emptive attack on the Ngati Toa warriors encamped in the area, but sentinels gave advance warning and foiled the plan. During his retreat, Ngati Toa gained access to the pa.

Only the strong were spared - captured as slaves and taken back to Te Rauparaha’s base at Kapiti. En route Tangatahara escaped.


Feature Value Info


DOC Canterbury

Central government organisation


South IslandCanterburyBanks Peninsula


  • Walking
  • Free


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DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner