Prior to roads and railway, the most effective way to travel was by water. Māori used a landing point just south of where The Riverhead is today, landing their waka on a shallow bank at the curve of the estuary. They would then portage their waka across to the Kumeu River, some 3-4 miles away and use this to connect with the vast Kaipara Harbour to continue their travels northward. Thomas Deacon arrived and settled in Riverhead in 1840. With his wife Eliza, they built a store, bakery, butchery and a blacksmith.

As more settlers arrived in New Zealand, those wanting to travel northward would follow that same route, but because deeper draft steam vessels were being used, the Deacon's decided to build a substantial tavern and large wharf on the banks of the waterway alongside the deep channel. The Deacon's new Hotel provided accommodation, food and refreshment to the weary travellers as they made their way up and down the country. It was in this building that the 'men of the day' met to lobby the government to build roads and railway to open up access to the wider area.

In the mid 1800s the regular ferry to Riverhead was key in the transportation route north. Interestingly the assembly of prominent business people who met to formalise a transport system north was held in this establishment. These initiatives were key to the progress of the Northwest Region. The demise of the Riverhead Ferry as a daily run eventually occurred when the transport networks were established. The Riverhead and its jetty were the gateway to the north and it's this relationship with the water that remains its most unique aspect in an area where people are forgiven for thinking it is well inland.

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