Canibal Bay

Dr Hocken noted in 1892: ‚History discloses no reason why this pretty beach should labour under its suggestive name except for the fact that some human skulls and bones were found here by Dr Hector.‘ But Dr Hocken, his self-contradiction escaping him, went on to note that they discovered shell in a sandbank, ‚evidently the remains of a Maori feast many years ago‘, and dug into the bank – ‚Our spoils are trifling – a few fish and seal bones, a human kneecap and a portion of human backbone.‘

A low bank of dunes extends south-west to separate False Island from the mainland. One may climb some 70 metres up the island for a magnificent view of the coastline and to see the remains of a windlass used by whalers who operated out of the cove below the point. Beyond False Island lies attractive Surat Bay, named after a migrant ship which in 1874 struck a rock farther down the coast. A hundred of her passengers were landed at Jacks Bay before, with all sails set and her ensign flying upside down, her captain sailed the sinking Surat straight on to the beach. The captain was considered drunk and was imprisoned, but some eyewitnesses claimed that he was quite sober. The ship was a total loss and much of her timber found its way into the construction of local houses.

Tradition relates that when one of Te Rauparaha’s scouting parties came south it was ambushed at Cannibal Bay by Tuhawaiki. Te Rauparaha’s men returned to attack hastily constructed fortifications and to drive the defenders up on to False Island, where many of them were killed – perhaps explaining the cannibal feasts. Tuhawaiki himself is said to have survived only by diving into the surf and swimming some 10 kilometres to Tuhawaiki Island, off Jacks Bay.