Straight through genteel Matakana and out the other side is Leigh – a historic fishing village surrounded by beaches, with a deep water harbor. There are fantastic views wherever you look; Hauturu, Little Barrier Island, dominates the horizon. There’s stacks of history, with early settlers colonising the area from the 1830s onwards.
The village was named in after Rev. Samuel Leigh, a missionary who visited the area, in 1858, but there are centuries of Maori history here by Ngati Wai and Ngati Manuhiri. At the time of European arrival, the Maori Chief Te Kiri ruled the district.
Boat-building and farming were key in the early days. The Matheson family were the most well-known builders. Their homestead is still there, well looked-after – last on the left on the way down to Matheson Bay. Boatbuilders also plied their trades at Leigh Cove and Whangateau Harbour.
Leigh Fisheries was established in 1957, and the Goat Island Marine Laboratory in 1964. The marine reserve at Goat Island was set up in 1975; the first in New Zealand. And in 1996 the Leigh Sawmill (which had been moved from its original site by the water to its current site on Pakiri Road in 1939) was reinvented as the Leigh Sawmill Café, delighting party people ever since with a constant flow of entertainment in its eclectic bar and gardens.
It’s a busy, friendly community and although it’s only ten minutes from Matakana, it’s retained its laid-back, seaside vibe. Welcome to Leigh.