Spirits Bay (Piwhane)

The aptly named Spirits Bay, or Piwhane, is located at the most northern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. The isolated bay is 12 kilometers long and was named one of the top campers’ spots in New Zealand.

Spirits Bay
Te Karaka Bay (left) and the long coastline of Spirits Bay (right), viewed from its eastern end.
Credit: williamsphotography.co.nz

Cultural Significance

From Wikipedia: The bay is considered a sacred place in Māori culture as according to local legend, it is the location where spirits of the dead gather to depart from this world to travel to their ancestral home (or afterlife) from a large old pōhutukawa tree above the bay. The bay has two Māori names, Piwhane and Kapowairua, the latter meaning to “catch the spirit”, derived from a Māori language saying that translates into English as: “I can shelter from the wind. But I cannot shelter from the longing for my daughter. I shall venture as far as Hokianga, and beyond. Your task (should I die) shall be to grasp my spirit.” The words were spoken by Tōhē, a chief of the Ngāti Kahu people, who is considered one of Muriwhenua’s most important ancestors. Tōhē made his way south, naming more than one hundred places along the western coast, until dying at Whāngaiariki near Maunganui Bluff.

Reports of apparitions

Spirits Bay is claimed to be one of the most haunted locations in New Zealand. According to legend, if visiting the bay at night you can observe multiple individual spirits travelling down the beach before disappearing at a single spot. The claims are these spirits ignore any attempts to interact or delay them, and are solely focused on their destination. These are believed to be souls departing the island as mentioned in the Māori legend. In the nearby Tom Bowling Bay there is a stream, the Kapo-Wairua., name literally meaning “Snatching Souls.” This is said to be a reference to demons who try to snatch at the spirits passing that way.

Have you visited Spirits Bay and witnessed any paranormal activity? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!


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