The history of Waipu starts at the Battle of Culloden in 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie's army was routed by the English who subsequently outlawed the bagpipes and tartan, viciously punished the Highlanders and encouraged the Lairds to clear the Highlands. Many went to Canada and other countries. The Waipu migrants were led by Reverend Norman McLeod, a charismatic Presbyterian Minister who led his people from the Highlands of Scotland in 1820, where they settled in Nova Scotia for 30 years. Life became miserable for these people and circumstances forced them to build 6 ships and continue another migration via South Africa and Australia to New Zealand. Over 800 brave migrants finally settled in Waipu in the 1850s.
Today Waipu is a small friendly village considered the gateway to Northland and its stunning coastline and beaches. Many descendants of the original settlers continue to raise their families in Waipu today. Waipu boasts its strong Scottish heritage with the highlight of the town’s calendar being the annual Highland Games held on New Year’s Day. With its passionate, close knit community the people of Waipu hold a strong sense of pride and tradition and other events such as the Art N Tartan Wearable Awards, the Scottish Ball (bi-annually) and Tartan Week all happen in July. The Waipu Museum is well worth a visit and hosts a fabulous display about the history of Waipu and the story of the great migration.
Every ten years, on the banks of the Waipu river where the settlers first landed, the local people of Waipu, (with some external professional input for a lighting extravaganza) holds a Grand Pageant commemorating the settlement. It is a huge spectacle with a large cast in traditional costumes, cattle, draught horses, pipe bands, burning crofts and Maori waka and long boats paddling on the river. Thousands of people come to sit on the banks of the river on a night in January with no moon and a full tide (to enable the boats to be part of the scene on the river). During the Pageant the people of Waipu retell their miraculous story, the epic saga of New Zealand's oldest European community. The next Pageant will be in 2023.