Curious Cove


Kahikatea Bay, in Tōtaranui/ Queen Charlotte Sound in the Marlborough Sounds,  is named for the giant trees which once grew there, down to the shoreline. Te Ātiawa o Te Wakaa-Māui and Rangitāne have significant association with Tōtaranui and its bays, for the kaimoana and other resources.

Defence Dept aerial view

Aerial view of RNZAF recreation camp in Curious Cove. Defence Department image

The land was first offered for sale to settlers in 1859, and was probably bought then by Donald McCormick, who had arrived with his family from Scotland in 1855 and first settled in Maraetai (Tory Channel). Over the next few years he gradually acquired all the land between there and Karaka Point, which includes Kahikatea Bay.

Once the McCormick family had built their homestead in Whatamango, they sold off their other blocks, first to someone claiming to be an English baronet called Sir Charles Forbes, thought to be a remittance man, and almost certainly a fraud. The McCormick's also retained about one acre of land on the left hand side of the cove, on the flat, and built a substantial bach there in about 1957, which is now probably part of Kiwi ranch.1

By 1880 two men, Wachsmann and Bush, were on the Kahikatea land. Bush was drowned in a boating accident,2 and the land came on to the market in 1890. It was passed in, eventually going to the Landall family at the upset price of one penny an acre. Later, John Landall was also drowned from his boat,3 so there was an unlucky succession of owners.

The first time the name Curious Cove appeared in the press was in 1905, when it was mentioned in the NZ Illustrated Magazine.4 It was not until motor launches came into use that the bay was accessible as a holiday destination.

Curious Cove

A guest at Curious Cove helping to load the picnic lunch onto the launch before a day out to visit Ships Cove for the day, 1961. The accommodation huts can be seen in the background. Picton Historical Society image.

Until the Second World War started it was used for club camps, and when the Americans entered the War they developed it as a potential convalescent base, but never actually used it. The RNZAF then took it over for use as a holiday and recreation site, until it was bought by A.C. Manning who advertised it in December 1945 as a ‘modern, well-equipped Holiday Camp.’

The land from there to Karaka Point was bought at the same time by Fred Musgrove for forestry. During the 1960s Curious Cove was the venue for the annual university students’ summer gathering, with a somewhat riotous reputation. Since then it has changed hands several times, but, still under the name of Kiwi Ranch, it continues to offer youth and family vacation opportunities.

This story was first written by Loreen Brehaut for the Seaport Scene Picton paper 2016 (updated 2021)

Sources used in this story

  1. Pers. Comm. Rick Manning (son of Mr A.R. Manning), August 2018.
  2. Picton Boating Accident (1880, September 25) Star, p.3
  3. Local and General News (1898, September 20) Marlborough Express, p. 2
  4. A cruise in the historic water of Queen Charlotte Sound (1905, January 1) New Zealand illustrated magazine, p.257

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  • The land that the original camp stood on, and most of the rear or the bay, was purchased by the Manning family, and as far as I am aware consisted of Mr A.R. Manning, (my father) and my mother, Mrs P.E. Manning, (Patricia Eileen) and their parents, Manning & Walshe, all who were from Wellington. My grandfather, H.E.Walshe was Surveyor General from 1929 through to 1946. The McCormicks also kept about one acre for themselves on the left hand side of the Cove, on the flat. They built a substantial family “Bach” there in about 1957, now part of Kiwi Ranch, I understand.
    The photograph is not my father. A more correct caption may well be “ A guest at Curious Cove helping to load the picnic lunch onto the launch before a day out to visit Ships Cove for the day”
    Note, he is picking up two wooden trays of cups, and another tray is on the right hand side of the truck deck, on a box (rope handle) that is packed full of sandwiches, and the 4 gallon tin is for making a billy tea for lunch.
    I think the year may be right looking at the buildings that are or are not there.
    I lived at the Cove from about 6 weeks of age, in 1946. I was the youngest of four, Geoffrey, Terence, Susan and myself, Richard. We all attended (?) Correspondence School, then boarding schools for secondary education. We sold the Cove in 1973.

    Posted by Rick Manning, 21/09/2018 11:00am (6 years ago)

  • Story indicates Mr A.C.Manning bought Curious Cove in 1946, Was Mr A.R.Manning ( Albert Remmington), and not in photo loading stores, not sure who it is, but it is not my father!
    Richard Manning, his son. :). Ed. Thank you - I will amend this.

    Posted by Richard Manning, 06/08/2018 11:20am (6 years ago)

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