Greville Harbour

As a result of Waitangi Treaty settlement agreements this location now has a dual place name; Greville Harbour / Wharariki

Greville Harbour has a reputation as an extremely attractive and well protected anchorage. The entrance to the harbour is 1.1 miles wide, between Ragged and Two Bay Points.

Araiawa Island is a small cluster of rocks approximately 150 m north of Ragged Point. To the east of this cluster of rocks, there is a shoal with under 1 m of water over it at low water.

The outer part of Greville Harbour is open to both sea and wind and does not give any satisfactory overnight anchorages. There are however, pleasant beaches and some shelter from sea breezes. The coastline into the harbour from Ragged Point south has outlying rocks as indicated in the sketch. The beach, just inside the point, is often used during the day as a picnic spot. The southern end of the outer part of the harbour is open to most winds and should not be used other than as a temporary stopping place. There is a farm house here and it is usually possible to obtain information about local conditions from the residents.

The large bay to the east of Two Bay Point is very shallow and boats should keep at least 100 m from the shore. Only at the northern end is it possible to anchor near the shore and be sheltered from the sea breezes. The bay is open to all S winds. A freshwater lagoon backs onto the beach.

The boulder bank divides Greville Harbour in two and shelters the inner harbour from the sea. The channel through the boulder bank is clearly marked by port and starboard beacons. The sketches show the details of the boulder bank and the preferred method of entering.

The port beacon should be given a clearance of at least 10 m and the starboard beacon about 20 to 30 m. There is adequate depth in the deepest part, between the beacons, but the sea bottom shallows on the seaward side to approximately 1.6m at LWS. The bottom on the seaward of the side of the entrance is shingle and boulders covered with patches of seaweed. These are visible in the clear water and can be disturbing as the dark patches seem like rocks.

Because of the positon of the beacons, there can be a tendency to approach the boulder bank at right angles, from some distance out into the harbour. This will take boats straight over the shoal of boulders that extends northwards from the starboard beacon. Deep drafted boats should keep nearer to the port beacon, to remain in the greatest depth of water.

Tidal streams through the entrance vary with the state of the tide. Approximately two hours either side of high water, all of the boulder bank except for the area close to the northern shore, is covered. During this period, the tidal flow between the beacons is not particularly strong and does not give any difficulties. Once the main part of the boulder bank appears above the water, the tidal flow through the entrance increases dramatically and at springs can be in excess of six knots. The current is generally strongest nearest the port beacon and there is a set towards this beacon with the incoming tide.

The beacons are not lighted but do have tape which will reflect light. The false entrance near North Boulder can be dangerous just after high water at night, as there is a strong tide flow through it which can make that area appear as the correct entrance.

Sea conditions at the boulder bank entrance are dangerous in heavy onshore winds. These winds, combined with a strong outgoing tide, can result in a dangerous sea just outside the entrance. In strong NW conditions it is advisable to wait, until near high water before attempting to pass through the entrance in the boulder bank and even then, extreme caution should be exercised.

Yachts attempting to pass through the boulder bank under sail should ensure that the wind or tide is with them. With care, there is sufficient room to tack through the entrance, as the recommended route shown in the sketch does not lie direct into normal wind direction. With a following wind there is no problem in clearing the entrance. The wind is generally fresher in the area of the boulder bank and from there along the first reach of the harbour, than in the main stream.

The Mill Arm is the most used anchorage in Greville Harbour and various parts of it give shelter from all wind directions. This is an extremely attractive area and is surrounded by native bush. The head of the arm is shallow and boats should not attempt to use the last 400 m of the arm. Mill Arm is named after a former sawmill.

The small coves to the east of Wiffen Point give the best all weather shelter in Greville Harbour. A stern line is necessary and will need to be over 30 m in length to allow for the tidal range. Holding is excellent in heavy mud. If the boat is pulled as close to the beach as it is possible, the winds pass harmlessly overhead.

To the south of these coves, the anchorage shown is good shelter in winds from NW to N to E. Holding is good, in heavy mud and a stern line into the northern shore is necessary. The bay is open to SW to W winds and is affected by some tide flow.

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Since 2014, Greville Harbour / Wharariki has been recognised by its dual names. 

The Māori name, Wharariki, refers to a type of red flax that is an important taonga or cultural treasure to Ngāti Koata people.1

The name, Greville Harbour was assigned to the harbour in 1849 by Captain Stokes of the HMS surveying ship Acheron. The name was probably chosen in honour of Algernon Frederick Greville, aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo.

The harbour is also sometimes referred to as Brooke Harbour due to the fact the family of Greville held the Barony of Brooke.2

The harbour has a long history of human settlement and has been occupied by several iwi over time, possibly including one the first groups of people to populate the Marlborough Sounds, the Waitaha. This prehistoric tribe, who arrived from Hawaiki, sometime between the ninth and fifteenth centuries is considered by many to hold semi legendary status and is associated with the quarrying of pakohe (argillite).3

There are at least 14 pakohe (argillite) quarrying sites on Durville Island/ Rangitoto ki te Tonga. At Greville Harbour / Wharariki there is evidence of a flaking floor where argillite rock, probably quarried at Ohana Bay, was worked into tools. The rock was mostly quarried by hand using wooden pegs that were hammered tightly into cracks. The pegs were then soaked with water, and as they swelled the rock cracked off.4

The harbour was later settled by Tarapounamu, a hapu of Tainui. Initially the iwi settled in Taranaki but relocated to Durville Island/ Rangitoto ki te Tonga after one of their fishing vessels was blown into Greville Harbour / Wharariki during a storm. The iwi established themselves in the harbour and created the permanent settlement of Moawhitu, located near the beach at the entrance to the harbour.5

Moawhitu was most likely named after a chief, Awhitu.

Tarapounamu inter married with the existing people in the region, most likely Waitaha or early Ngāti Kuia and over several generations it is estimated the settlement may have grown to as many as 1000 inhabitants. At some point later, possibly during the fourteenth century, the entire community was wiped out by a tsunami, referred to in legend as the taniwha, Tapu-arero-utuutu. The oral histories do not record whether other areas on Rangitoto ki te Tonga / D'Urville Island or the mainland were impacted by the tsunami but even today human remains and artefacts are frequently eroded from the dunes.

A small rock off the south-west end of Durville Island/ Rangitoto ki te Tonga commemorates the tragedy, it is named Tapu-arero-utuutu or Chicot Rock.6

Ngāti Koata, who arrived in the region during the 1820s, currently hold manawhenua (authority over the land) in the area.7


1.“New and altered geographic names of Te Tau ihu,” The, accessed April 11, 2018,

2. H. A. H. Insull, Marlborough Place Names (Wellington, A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1952), 42.

3. Hilary Mitchell and John Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka: a History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough: Volume 1: Te Tangata me Te Whenua- the People and the Land (Wellington: Huia, 2004), 46, 55.

4. Olive Baldwin, Story of New Zealand’s French Pass and d’Urville Island (Plimmerton: Fields Publishing House, 1979), 150-151.

5. Mitchell and Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka, 56, 63.

6. Baldwin, French Pass and d’Urville Island, 19, 21, 139.

7. Ibid, 27-28.

Boating Club mooring in area