The name of this bay in Māori means the place of springing up. This name probably refers to the New Zealand Flax, or Harakeke plants that are found growing at the edge of the water.1
The bay has a long history of occupation with archaeological evidence of early Māori gardens.2
In 1840, the naturalist, Johann Dieffenbach, aboard the New Zealand Company ship the Tory, noted Opihi Bay had a resident population of approximately 40 Māori.3
Pākehā (non Māori) settlers were also drawn to the bay. From the 1860s onwards, several generations of the Daken family lived in the bay.4
In 1884 the original Port Underwood School was shifted to the bay from Whangataura Bay. It operated until 1901.5
During the Second World War, American marines used the bay to practise invasion manoeuvres. They came ashore with equipment and dug fox holes in the flat land behind beach. They also set up observation posts on the hills overlooking the bay.
The marine landing exercises were carried out from landing craft barges or self-propelled amphibious tanks. In November 1943, these marine units went on to serve at the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific and suffered significant losses.6
1. “Pihi”, Te Aka Māori Dictionary, accessed, May, 21, 2019, https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=pihi .
2. James R. Eyles, Place Names of Port Underwood - a post European History, (Picton: October Enterprises, 2002) 32.
3. Loreen Brehaut, the Bays of Port Underwood, (Picton: Picton Historical Society, 2012) 11.
4. Eyles, ‘Place Names of Port Underwood’, 32.
5. Brehaut, ‘Bays of Port Underwood’, 11.
6. Eyles, ‘Place Names of Port Underwood’, 33-31.