Curious Cove


Kahikatea Bay is named for the giant trees which once grew there, down to the shoreline.

Defence Dept aerial view

Aerial view of RNZAF recreation camp in Curious Cove. Defence Department image

The land was first offered for sale to settlers in 1859, and was probably bought then by Donald McCormick, who had arrived with his family from Scotland in 1855 and first settled in Maraetai (Tory Channel). Over the next few years he gradually acquired all the land between there and Karaka Point, which includes Kahikatea Bay.

Once the McCormick family had built their homestead in Whatamango, they sold off their other blocks, first to someone claiming to be an English baronet called Sir Charles Forbes, thought to be a remittance man, and almost certainly a fraud.

By 1880 two men, Wachsmann and Bush, were on the Kahikatea land. Bush was drowned in a boating accident,1 and the land came on to the market in 1890. It was passed in, eventually going to the Landall family at the upset price of one penny an acre. Later, John Landall was also drowned from his boat,2 so there was an unlucky succession of owners.

The first time the name Curious Cove appeared in the press was in 1905, when it was mentioned in the NZ Illustrated Magazine.3 It was not until motor launches came into use that the bay was accessible as a holiday destination.

Curious Cove

Mr A.C. Manning collects stores from a boat which is also delivering students, 1961 The accommodation huts can be seen in the background. Picton Historical Society image.

Until the Second World War started it was used for club camps, and when the Americans entered the War they developed it as a potential convalescent base, but never actually used it. The RNZAF then took it over for use as a holiday and recreation site, until it was bought by A.C. Manning who advertised it in December 1945 as a ‘modern, well-equipped Holiday Camp.’

The land from there to Karaka Point was bought at the same time by Fred Musgrove for forestry. During the 1960s Curious Cove was the venue for the annual university students’ summer gathering, with a somewhat riotous reputation. Since then it has changed hands several times, but, still under the name of Kiwi Ranch, it continues to offer youth and family vacation opportunities.

This story was first written by Loreen Brehaut for the Seaport Scene Picton paper

Sources used in this story

  1. Picton Boating Accident (1880, September 25) Star, p.3
  2. Local and General News (1898, September 20) Marlborough Express, p. 2
  3. A cruise in the historic water of Queen Charlotte Sound (1905, January 1) New Zealand illustrated magazine, p.257

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