Resolution Bay or Atapu


It has been suggested that the Māori name for this bay, which is off Tōtaranui/ Queen Charlotte Sound, should perhaps be O-Tapu, (a sacred place) or Ata-po (early dawn). Captain Cook named it Shag Cove, during the first expedition, and again on charts by master of the HMS Adventure, Peter Fannin, during the second voyage. The bay was renamed 'Resolution Bay' after Cook's ship from his second and third voyages, probably by Captain John L Stokes in the early 1850s.

Resolution Bay

Resolution Bay. Postcard. Courtesy Picton Museum and Historical Society

There were no Māori reserves set up in this bay with the Waitohi Purchase in 1850, and very soon the land was taken over by farmers. As early as 1869, James Boon bought 10 acres in the bay from William Keenan (for £5.7.6d), and it was said to be William Woodgate, who settled in the bay and whose later history was both sad and scandalous, who first found stibnite, the ore of antimony, on the Resolution beach. Mining this was eventually to become a thriving local industry around the corner in Endeavour Inlet.

When the land was being cleared, there was a thriving timber mill in the bay, and several farms were established, the early names being Turner, Ewing, Vipond and Adams. The Pullmans were there early, engaged at first in milling, and still there during World War I when two of them were called up and one was wounded.

Early photo of Resolution Bay

Early photo of Resolution Bay. Picton Museum and Historical Society

An aided school operated on and off (depending on the number of children) from 1904 onwards, and the teacher would board in a local farmer’s house. In the 1905 election there were 17 voters in the bay, which suggests quite a community. By the late 1920s, when the McManaway family moved there, the school was still running and the Annear family were living on the next farm. The two families, plus children from Endeavour Inlet, made up the 12 or so pupils in the little school.

It was there that they experienced the Murchison earthquake quite dramatically in June 1929: "You couldn’t stand up, and the noise was just deafening. We thought the end of the world had come! Oh, it was terrific – you’d swear the hills were coming down!" recalled John McManaway. Reg McManaway said that, years later, the school was washed away when a flood brought a huge slip down through the bay.

In those days the farmers sent large amounts of their butter up to Picton to be credited against their orders from the local grocers, according to Eric McIsaac up to 130 pounds of butter a week.

Most of the land in the Bay has now gone back to the Crown. Eventually a holiday camp was established, and from the 1960s Douglas and Libby Brown owned and ran this – a big change from an architecture business in Wellington. Today, walkers on the Queen Charlotte Track are pleased to find the Resolution Bay lodge serving coffee at the first stop after Ship Cove.

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

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  • Yes, the name Ātapu has always been a bit of an enigma. I think either of the two suggestions in this article are worthy of the Bay. It is indeed a sacred place to many, many people, but also the view at dawn there is utterly magnificent. I have countless photos from our verandah at dawn with the sun about to peek over the hills of Arapawa.

    Posted by Liz Hill, 23/02/2020 9:01am (4 years ago)

  • The remains of the school house were still evident when we first started going there .Also in edivance was an old orchard

    Posted by Doug Braddock , 11/10/2017 4:39pm (7 years ago)

  • As a family ,Mum and dad and me and my brother spent every summer at resolution bay from the early 60s for over 20 years. A magic place and a great place to learn about the outdoors. A rock at the entrance to the bay we always called whatapu,I wonder if that ties in with atapu ?.
    Doug Braddock

    Posted by Doug Braddock , 11/10/2017 3:27pm (7 years ago)

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Further sources - Resolution Bay or Atapu