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INSIDE: The Complete Pania of the Reef Story for visitors & locals. 

The Pania of the Reef statue on Marine Parade in Napier has a story to tell!

This statue in Napier is a tribute to the old Maori legend of Pania, a beautiful girl/sea-creature who once lived in the ocean.

Pania of the Reef is New Zealand’s own Little Mermaid Story!

Read all about Pania, and how the statue came to be, below.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, we may receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you.

PIN pania of the reef

Guide to Pania of the Reef Statue – New Zealand’s own “Little Mermaid”

See below for the Pania of the Reef Myth. 

Interesting fact: The sculpture was once shot in the head (strange but true) and she’s also been stolen once too.

Read more here.

pania of the reef pic by chris betcher

Image credit: Chris Betcher via Flickr CC BY SA-2.0

The Pania of the Reef Story 

The big question is WHO is Pania of the Reef? 

In a tome similar to the modern day retelling of the Little Mermaid, Pania left her sea people (when love’s irresistible call lured her out of the briny waters) to marry a chief, Karitoki.

Karitoki lived on tribal land on Napier’s Bluff Hill, a place now known as Sturm’s Gully.

When Karitoki was called to fight in a tribal war, Pania’s family took the opportunity to sing to her, calling her name.

Unable to resist, Pania swam out to meet them once again.

But, when she was ready to return, a magical spell was cast upon her by Moana-nui-a-kiwa, Lord of the Sea, as punishment for leaving her family to follow her heart, and to prevent her from leaving her family again.

Pania was turned into the rocky reef which lies just beyond the breakers on Napier beach.

The statue in the Marine Parade Gardens is thought to be the first time a Maori legend has been immortalised in a bronze sculpture. 

She is now one of the most photographed attractions in Napier.

Kids LOVE her!

Buy now on Amazon: Pania of the Reef Story Book   (Puffin illustrated picturebook)

(Wondering who wrote Pania of the Reef? Peter Gossage is the author of this picture book based on the legend.)

Pania of the Reef statue story plaque 800

Pania of the Reef Legend

Who was the Pania of the Reef model? 

Sculpted in Italy in the likeness of a local Maori girl from the Hukarere Māori Girls’ College (15-year-old Mei Robin), the bronze statue was unveiled in June 1954 by the then Prime Minister Sid Holland.

The 60-70 kilo statue was gifted to Napier by the Thirty Thousand Club after members heard the story of Pania from F A Bennett, the first Bishop of Aotearoa (New Zealand) during his tour of Napier.

Pania of the Reef Song

Fun Fact: Did you know there’s a song about Pania?

There is.

Listen to this Maori classic about the Maori mermaid here. 

pania of the reef marine parade by sarah-rose

Image credit: Sarah Rose via Flickr CC BY ND-2.0

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Where is Pania of the Reef statue?

Correct at time of publication on Roam the Gnome. Please check with venue for updates. We apologise in advance if there have been any changes we are unaware of. All prices in AUD dollars, unless otherwise stated

Address:  The Pania of the Reef sculpture can be found to the left of the Napier Sound Shell as you face the ocean, on Marine Parade, Napier South.
Entry fee: Free
Opening Hours: Sunrise to sunset

How to get to Marine Parade Napier

By Car: Click here for google map directions

Marine Parade Napier parking

There’s lots of free street parking all the way along Marine Parade. 

Map of Pania of the Reef Napier

Toadstool Rating for Napier Pania of the Reef 

The tale of this beautiful maiden is interesting Maori culture experience for the kids.

But not much to DO there though, so don’t expect to be there more than 10-15 minutes.
pania of the reef REVIEW

MORE Things to do in Napier with Kids

Along Napier foreshore on Marine Parade, there’s also:

  • The Napier Playground and Junior Bike Track
  • Danish Delight Icecream Food Truck
  • The National Aquarium of New Zealand
  • Sunken Gardens
  • Ocean Spa – super fun outdoor hot pools for all the family!
  • Par 2 Golf
  • Napier i-SITE visitor information centre

Across the road at the roundabout, you’ll find the MTG Hawke’s Bay (Museum, Theatre, Art Gallery complex)

Around the point, you’ll find the Napier Lookout over the Port of Napier too. 

RELATED: The Ultimate List of the BEST things to do in Napier with kids

rotorual travel blog - mud spa pools at hells gate pic

Looking for More Things to Do in New Zealand for Kids?

Click the blue links below.

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