Onehunga History Walk

Explore the historic sights of Onehunga.

Onehunga History Walk

Auckland, Auckland 0622, New Zealand

Created By: Auckland Council

Tour Information

The street grid of the suburb of Onehunga was designed to house Fencibles: soldiers sent to defend Auckland from Māori attacks, which never came. In doing so, the indigenous geography of the place was overlaid with colonial history, until the town became a transport hub filled with attractive buildings from Onehunga’s peak of economic importance. This place can boast the British Empire’s first woman mayor, has vestiges of early Chinese migration, and includes a flowering of contemporary public art.

There are several possible meanings of the name ‘Onehunga’. According to one theory, the name is a contraction of ‘one’ (meaning ‘beach’) and ‘hunga’ (meaning ‘sandy or alluvial soil’). ‘Hunga’ can also refer to a group of people, and it has also been claimed that this part of the word comes from ‘ūnga’, meaning ‘landing’. Alternatively, it could mean ‘place of burial’, with ‘ō’ meaning ‘place’ and ‘nehunga’ meaning ‘burial’. In pre-European times, the lava caves running down from Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) were used as burial sites.

Terrain: Concrete footpaths across mostly flat land, with a gradual slope up Selwyn Road to Jellicoe Park

Starting Point: Onehunga Library, 85 Church Street

Parking: There is a 120-minute carpark along Gerrard Beeson Place off Church Street. There is also limited street parking along Onehunga Mall.

Disclaimer: This walk is along public roads and includes historical facts about the buildings and the area. Most of the sites are private businesses or homes. Please respect the environment and do not trespass on private property. Neither Auckland Council nor private property owners accept responsibility for any loss, damage, or injury to you or your property arising from use of this tour.

Copyright 2023 Auckland Council. Auckland Council holds all copyrights associated with this tour. You may not copy or reproduce the content of this tour without permission from Auckland Council. Auckland Council has taken every care to ensure that the information contained in this tour is accurate, but accepts no responsibility arising from, or in connection with, your use of this tour and the information contained in it.

Tour Map

Loading Tour


What You'll See on the Tour

Onehunga was home to New Zealand’s first free library, with books initially being housed in the spare room of Major Kenny of the Fencible Corps, a cohort of military settlers who initially founded the Borough of Onehunga in 1847. At a lat... Read more
The Anglican and Catholic churches provided schools for the children of Onehunga until 1872, when the Auckland Province took over the Anglican school. A new building was constructed on Selwyn Street in 1876 and then replaced in 1901. Howeve... Read more
This park was an area of green grassland when the Fencibles arrived in 1847, having reverted to grass after the original kumara patch planted by local Māori had been abandoned under threat of Ngāpuhi raids in the early 1820s. The Fencible... Read more
Most of the block between Arthur Street and Church Street was granted to the Anglican Church by Governor George Grey to form a ‘glebe’ (land providing income for the clergyman). Similar land grants were made to the other denominations r... Read more
This plot of land on the corner of Grey Street was bought by the Presbyterian Church from a Fencible settler in 1854. His former cottage was the first home of the congregation. However, no permanent place of worship was constructed until 18... Read more
Now the Heritage House Café, this historic home was built in 1884 and given the name ‘Annendale’, and later as ‘Scotlands’, by its first resident, Dr William George Scott. Scott was a medical doctor and became mayor in 1883 on his ... Read more
Originally known as Queen Street, the main commercial road of Onehunga was made by Fencible labour during the 1840s and 1850s. In 1902, the tram line from Auckland started running down this road and reached the wharf in 1903. This was the o... Read more
The first church on this site was constructed in 1848 for a community of sailors and Fencible soldiers described by the bishop as ‘living in open and notorious sin’. Part of a Fencibles’ duty was to attend church every Sunday, and mos... Read more
The first priest appointed for Onehunga in 1847 was a Frenchman, Father Seon. He is reported to have preached from a storage shed by the coast and he partitioned his raupo whare to serve as a confessional. In 1849, he was transferred to Aka... Read more
A convent school for the Catholic population of Onehunga was established in 1864 in a double-unit Fencible cottage on Church Street. The teaching staff slept in the attic. The current St Joseph’s School was opened in 1924, initially able ... Read more
The Onehunga Repertory Players, an amateur dramatics society, began performing in 1962, initially at the high school to the west of the town on Pleasant Street. They were gifted this plot of land by the Onehunga Borough Council in 1966 and ... Read more
The water supply for Onehunga was originally discovered by a Tainui warrior named Hau at what became known as Te Puna-o-Hau (‘The springs of Hau’), which were blessed by a tohunga to ensure that they would possess health-giving properti... Read more
The Auckland-Onehunga railway line, the first Government-owned rail line in New Zealand, opened on 20 December 1873. The journey between the two termini took 45 minutes and a ticket cost one shilling. Initially, all travel from Auckland to ... Read more
Onehunga possessed the first free library in New Zealand, with books worth £100 sent with the Fencibles in 1847. In 1911, the Library Committee approached American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for funds to erect a new library building, a... Read more
This former post office was built in 1902 on the site of a former police station. The structure was originally erected in Russell in 1852 and was shipped in pieces and re-erected here. It is now serves as a pub. The first licensed hotel nea... Read more
This mural, installed in 2019, depicts Elizabeth Yates, who was elected as Mayor of Onehunga in 1893. She was the first women elected to the office of mayor within the British Empire, taking her oath on 16 January 1894. Several male council... Read more
From the late 1929 until 1988, this shop belonged to the Sai Louie family. They had a market garden plot in Newmarket and sold fruit and vegetables from this shop, selling to locals and to coastal ships in the port of Onehunga. The family o... Read more


Leave a Comment



Download the App

Download the PocketSights Tour Guide mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

iOS Tour Guide Android Tour Guide



Updates and Corrections

Please send change requests to