Cooks Beach Pukaki

Cooks Beach Pukaki

Cooks Beach Pukaki is at the south end of Mercury Bay Te-Whanganui-a-Hei in the Coromandel. At 3 km long it is the most substantial of the beaches between Whitianga and Pauanui. The adjacent town of Cooks Beach is a popular holiday destination with restaurants, cafes and a nearby winery.

The beach is physically well-protected in Mercury Bay, so generally safe for swimming. In addition to a wander on the beach, there is the option of a walk to stunning Lonely Bay and Shakespeare Cliff at the west end of the beach. Picturesque Purangi Estuary is at the east end.

The beach and wider bay are significant in Māori and European history. Kupe, the Polynesian explorer who reputedly first discovered Aotearoa New Zealand, first landed at Cooks Beach. Timing is uncertain, but it is generally believed to have been between 950 and 1300 AD.

On his first visit to NZ in 1769, Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour sailed into the bay and anchored off the beach. While there he measured the transit of Mercury, having earlier in his voyage measured the transit of Venus across the sun in Tahiti. Astronomically, these measurements were important as they enabled better estimates of the size of the Solar System.

Cook’s visit led to the European names of the bay and the beach. There are monuments to the visit on the top of Shakespeare Cliff and at the east end of the beach near the Purangi Estuary.

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