Sandspit has been a gathering place for people using boats for transport or pleasure since the earliest days of settlement.
Seven coastal craft, bedecked with bunting, set a colourful scene for the annual Matakana Regatta held there on New Year’s Day, 1867. The most eagerly contested race was for flat-bottomed skiffs and there were also races for round-bottomed craft, flat-bottomed dinghies and sailing boats.
The names of some competitors such as Bagnall, Hatfield, Sullivan, Scott and Goldsworthy are familiar as local bays and points are named after them.
In the afternoon, horseracing took place along the beach causing much excitement. The first race was over eight hurdles three feet high, over a distance of one mile. Chief Te Hemara entered a horse as did settlers Meiklejohn, Donnison and Buchanan. The village laid out inland from Sandspit by Government surveyors in the 1850s did not thrive. Brown’s Mill, which later became Warkworth, proved more popular. Sandspit, the departure point for Kawau Island, became a holiday destination for generations of families to enjoy camping, swimming and boating along the coastline where pioneers once engaged in boat building, brick making, processing shark oil and eking out a living on the land.