New Zealand Maritime Museum

Northern Steam Ship Company


The Excursion

Around the turn of the last century, excursions and picnics were a favourite pastime of the citizens of Auckland. From the 1890s on, people were more prosperous and had a little more free time and money to spend enjoying themselves. The Victorian work ethic was left behind for the more liberal Edwardian era. The population of Auckland in 1904 was 80,000 and each weekend several thousands of those would head out of town on an excursion of some kind. The wharves would swarm with people dressed in all their finery fighting their way onto the numerous steamers berthed there.

The Northern Steam Ship Company played a large part in delivering people to all points of the compass for the day, the weekend, or longer. There were various trips that one could take on one of their steamers.

The Round Trip consisted of three days in the north at a cost of 2. At that time, the roads and railways in the north were few and far between. Steamer and horse and cart were the only way to go. Passengers left Queen Street Railway Station and headed for Helensville. From there they took a Kaipara steamer (eg WAIRUA) up the Kaipara, and then up the Northern Wairoa River to Dargaville. There they would stay the night then catch a river steamer (eg OMANA) and continue upstream to Tangowahine. There they joined a coach and headed to Whangarei where they had another overnight stop and joined a steamer (eg NGAPUHI or MANAIA) at Onerahi for the trip back to Auckland.

The Summer Cruise began Friday night and went through to the next Saturday and cost 7. The first summer cruise was held in 1904 and they continued until 1908. They were truly the high point of the summer, combining picturesque scenery with activities, excellent food and entertainment. On-board facilities included a library and a darkroom for processing photographs. The NGAPUHI was used for this venture, normally on the Whangarei run carrying passengers and cargo, but spruced up in preparation for the Summer Cruise. The cruise took in Great Barrier, the Hen & Chicken Islands, Whangarei, (including trips to Whangarei Falls and the Kamo Mineral Pools), the Bay of Islands, Whangaroa Harbour, Totara North, Mangonui, Doubtless Bay, Kawau Island, Waiwera and home again.

Gulf excursions were a popular service provided by the Company. Around the turn of the century, there were thriving steamer services taking the citizens of Auckland around the harbour. The Northern Steam Ship Company steamers however, also took people a little further afield. Popular places included Waiwera (for its hot springs), Mahurangi and Kawau Island. The three large vessels NGAPUHI, CLANSMAN and NGATIAWA were known to carry passengers to Kawau on the same day. The Northern Company ships also went to Motutapu Island, various points all around Waiheke Island, and Browns Bay. In 1903, 10 steamers ran 15 trips from Auckland to Motutapu Island for the annual Manchester Unity of Independent Order of Oddfellows Picnic, carrying 12000 to 14000 people.

NGAPUHI and NGATIAWA at Kawau 1913. Photograph: Furniss Collection. NGAPUHI and NGATIAWA at Kawau 1913.
Photograph: Furniss Collection.

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