Located here are the only known plutonic rocks on Banks Peninsula, as well as volcanic rocks representing the earliest activities of the volcano that formed Akaroa Harbour. Onawe was also the site of a Maori pa. Constructed in 1831, the Ngai Tahu pa was destroyed by Te Rauparaha, chief of the Ngati Toa, the following year. Up to 1 200 people were killed here, and the land is sacred to Ngai Tahu. While few historic features are visible, the geological features are striking, and the easy track is in good condition, providing excellent panoramas of the harbour.
Onawe Peninsula has recently been transferred to Ngai Tahu ownership. It is now private land. Any trampers interested in walking on this sacred land must first contact the Heritage Officer, Pere Tainui at Onuku Marae 03-304-7607 (best contacted during business hours) or Onuku's Christchurch Administration office 03-366-4379. Permission to visit Onawe is based on the decision of the local Runanga and Ngai Tahu iwi. The intention is to protect the sacred site of Onawe and to provide potential trampers and tourists with accurate historic information so they may understand the importance of this site to the local whanau (people).
Around 75km from Christchurch along SH75, you can turn off along the shoreline at Barrys Bay or Duvauchelle. A car park is located at the Razorback, where the ridgeline of the peninsula drops to sea level. The walk is only accessible at low tide. The new wharf a few minutes walk along the road to Duvauchelle has picnic tables, an information board and a barbecue.
Onawe: 1 hr, easy
Before the car park, striking bands of deep red, soft tuff are visible in the cliffs, remnants of a volcanic ash cone that formed around a vent here. The red pigment is ferric oxide. Trachyte dikes (vertical, intruded sheets of rock) are visible extending underwater like old stone wharves. The walk drops immediately onto a tidal platform on the right (west) side of the Razorback. This slippery surface contains weathered lava bombs embedded in its surface. The orange banding of the Razorback cliffs is iron hydroxide, a product of weathering. Beyond a gap in the narrow ridge where water runs at high tide, the path climbs onto the grassy hillside of the thickening peninsula and passes through a gate.
Climbing gently on a smooth grassy trail, the track passes a junction to the left. Earthworks of the original pa are vaguely defined as ridges in the pasture.
At the foot of the steeper final rise the track bends left to return to the junction. A rougher, potentially slippery trail heads directly up the hillside ahead for only a few minutes before flattening off at the summit. Regenerating kanuka surrounds the summit at a distance. The trig station is gone, although boulders of syenite, which forms the entire southern end of the peninsula, mark the spot.
Returning, you can turn right at the foot of the rise and take the bush track back. Beyond a brief awkward section assisted by a handwire the track becomes a broad, smooth old road through young forest, merging with its twin near the pa site.
Further geological features of the peninsula are visible by following the eastern shoreline from the Razorback south. The geological guide listed under Further Information would be essential for this exploration.
Further historical information about Onawe is available from the Canterbury Museum, Akaroa Museum, the New Zealand Archaeological Association or the Historic Places Trust, or from the Waitangi Tribunal website.