Our Waipu Highland Games

Our Waipu Highland Games are one of the longest-running Scottish gatherings in the Southern Hemisphere, offering fierce competition, spectacular entertainment and a full day of family-friendly fun. Run by the Waipu Caledonian Society for nearly 150 years with all Games Day proceeds continuing to go directly back into our local community.

Our Games have gained the reputation of being one of the most prestigious Highland events in the world, each year attracting hundreds of top pipers, drummers, dancers and heavyweight athletes along with thousands of spectators from far and wide.

We warmly welcome everybody, not just the Scots. Whether you’re an athlete, dancer, piper, drummer or spectator, there is no more exciting or entertaining way to start the New Year than by joining all of us here at Caledonian Park and experiencing the truly unique community atmosphere that is Waipu.

Waipu Caledonian Society

Chiefs speech at 2020 games opening

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys.

Kee-ud     meel-uh    faahl- tjuh     (The Phonetic Pronunciation)

Ceud mile Failte – 100 Thousand Welcomes to our Annual Highland Games in Waipu, where we have been holding Highland gatherings and games since 1871. It is great to see and have the opportunity to meet so many of you here today.

A special welcome also to our VIP guests.

I must first thank our committee and the many volunteers who have put in a tremendous amount of their time and effort working in the background, and upfront helping to make this a successful and iconic event, it enables many of us to celebrate our Scottish heritage at a traditional Scottish Gathering.

The others who deserve special mention, and who I would like to acknowledge, are our Sponsors, some have supported us for many years; others have just come on board. We need you all, we value the support that you give to the games and our Society. Last but not least I must thank staff and Councilors of the Whangarei District Council who have provided valuable support and assistance for the operation of this park during the last 12 months. Over 40 thousand people make use of these excellent facilities every year.

Who am I? I am descended from William McKenzie, one of the first settlers to land at Waipu. I have been actively involved with the Caledonian Games most of my life. I have attended Highland Games in Scotland, Nova Scotia, and America. Since 1976 I have maintained and operated the public address systems at these games.

Unfortunately, our Scottish blood in Waipu is getting thinner, and our younger generation is just happy to be New Zealanders and not participate in Traditional Scottish activities; however, there are people coming to Waipu who are keen to join us and share their expertise in various ways to help the Caledonian Society keep our heritage alive. We welcome you all to our Society and value the skills which you have brought with you.

The Waipu Caledonian Society purchased this park in the early 1900s and has continued to hold Highland Games on this site since then. The park is also home to the Waipu Rugby and Squash Club, The Tennis Club, and the Croquet Club. The Bowling Club property to the south was also part of the original park.

Various indoor sporting activities are also held in our Celtic Barn during the year.

This year our Host Clan is Clan Davidson. Each year we select a host clan from the group of Clans who set themselves up in our “Avenue of Clans”.

McLeod’s Brewery and Pizza Barn are our major sponsor. A range of their locally brewed award-winning craft beers is available here today at our on-site bars. The Waipu Lions Club has been supporting us many years with tasty food. We also, for the first time, have Country Caterers in the Celtic Barn Kitchen providing and serving a range of delicious food.

Next year we will be celebrating 150 years of Highland Games in Waipu.

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce Ken Couper to open our games today.

For those of you who down know Ken, he is a local Waipu farmer who has grown up here in Waipu, he and members of his family have played the pipes in the Pipe band, and he has been involved in a wide range of community activities in the district.

He was recently elected to the Whangarei District Council to represent the ratepayers in the Waipu area.

I now ask Ken Couper to open our 149th Highland Gathering and Games.

Don Ewan
Chief, The Waipu Caledonian Society Inc

The Waipu Caledonian Society Incorporated Chief’s Banner

This banner designed by Wayne Laurence represents the history of the migration to Waipu by the original Nova Scotian / Scottish settlers.

Top left 1st quarter: Saltair, Thistle, and lion rampant, representing Scottish origins

2nd Quarter: maple leaf, Nova Scotian arrangement representing the time spent in these two countries.

3rd Quarter: Southern Cross configuration for New Zealand and Lymphad/ship representing their final destination.

Centre: A Waipu Caledonian Society Emblem.

Our Partners

These guys threw their weight in behind our Highland Games, so we’d like to throw our weight in behind them now, too!

A hundred thousand thanks also to…

Waipu Cove Surf Life Saving Club, Blue Chip Quarries, Waipu Lions, Jenkins Contracting, Lewis Turrell’s House of Scotland, Rural Delivery Waipu, Waipu 4 Square, John Barber, Vodafone, Waipu ArtyFarty Group, Your Vet Waipu, R A Guy, Waipu ITM, Creative Brand-aid, Waipu Hammer Hardware, Martyn Boots, Camp Waipu Cove, Gordon Walker, Hue Creative, Waipu Primary School, Marshmallow Websites, Alex Oxford Trust, Northland Steel Products, Couper Farms, Alex McLean Trust, The Waipu Caledonian Society Committee, The Waipu Highland Games Committee and the many other volunteers who have assisted, not only on Games Day, but throughout the year.

If you’d like to throw your weight behind us too – especially as we close in our massive 150th Waipu Highland Games celebrations – we’d really love to hear from you. Please send us an email:

Our 150-year celebration Highland Games

On January 1, 2022, we will be proudly celebrating our 150th Waipu Highland Games – a huge milestone in anyone’s history and we approach it with great anticipation. One hundred and fifty years ago the land in the wee village of Waipu was gifted by the Caledonian Society as a green space to be kept in perpetuity for the people of the area to enjoy and to have as a centre for their annual Highland Games. 

These Games went a long way to maintain the culture of the early settlers’ homeland… the piping, drumming and dancing of Scotland have been intrinsic to the Scots where-ever they have travelled. The heavyweight competitions were an important part of this once-a-year celebration.

In 2022 we promise you a bigger, better and even more entertaining event as part of the huge party which will fill the Waipu Caledonian Grounds to overflowing. Make sure you put it in your diaries now.

Highlights of the Waipu Highland Games 1953

The Caledonian Society make our Highland Games happen

Waipu is at the heart of everything we do. We are a not-for-profit organisation established back in 1871 and since then have run the iconic annual Waipu Highland Games, donating all Games Day proceeds back to the Waipu community. We paid for the construction of the Celtic Barn which was finished in 2015, which is, along with the park, used by a large number of community groups, and over time have sponsored many local community members on scholarships to further their Scottish training overseas. We proudly continue to build and maintain many significant community facilities and services to help assist the pride and well-being of the people of Waipu. If you’d like to become involved, please send us an email at:

“In 1905 we purchased the land now known as Caledonian Park. Since that time we have covered all costs of upgrading and maintaining the facilities.

It is with great pleasure that we continue to make it available to you to enjoy for free.”

Life Members

1936 – F.D. McKay

1936 – K. Cameron

1939 – J. McGregor

1939 – W. McKenzie

1939 – A. McKenzie

1939 – Donald McKenzie

1939 – Duncan McKenzie

1939 – Miss. C. McKenzie

1939 – W.M. Fraser

1939 – D.H. McKenzie

1994 – R.A. McLean

1994 – O.J. Schultz

1994 – B. Worthy

1995 – A.F. McKay

1996 – J. Baxter

2004 – B.J. McLean

2007 – B.R. O’Brien

2007 – D.McK. Fraser

2008 – D. Ewen

2008 – B. Matheson

2009 – C. Stevens

2009 – J. Finlayson

2009 – H. Griffin

2016 – D.W. McLean

2019 – Col. S.F. Simm

Waipu RV Park

Waipu RV Park

The small rural town of Waipu is the “Gateway to Northland” situated near the coast on the northern side of the Brynderwyns. Just 90 minutes north of Auckland it is the perfect halfway stop-off point between Auckland and the Bay of Islands.

Waipu is blessed with wonderful restaurants and excellent shops. The iconic heritage museum across the road is acknowledged as a brilliant way to learn about the 1860 Scottish migration through Nova Scotia to Waipu.

The best surf beach for miles is just along the road at the Cove and Whangarei and Mangawhai are only half an hour away.

The Park is well maintained and has shady trees. We are also happy to host rallies here in the Park with a large space in the Caledonian Barn for meetings and gatherings. We can offer a slice of Scottish heritage by way of entertainment for your rally.

Venue Hire

The Celtic Barn hire

A wonderful, modern, multi-purpose facility in Waipu situated in the Caledonian Park with great park surrounds, providing the perfect venue for weddings, parties or large scale corporate and community events. The Main Hall can seat 400 for dinner or 600 auditorium style. The Barn has excellent modern kitchen facilities and local caterers are available if required. The Lobby area is also ideal for more intimate smaller weddings or functions. This area can seat 180 auditorium style or 130 for dinner.

Accommodation options are available nearby and the stunning Bream Bay Beaches are only a few minute’s drive away.

For more information please contact us on:
09-432 1132

Caledonian Park hire

Our 4-hectare park along with our multi-purpose Celtic Barn are available for hire to local community groups and organisations.

For more information please contact us on:
09-432 1132

Other local things of interest

The Waipu Museum

A UNESCO listed collection with an award-winning exhibition and gorgeous gift shop, open 7 days a week from 9.30am – 4.30pm.

The Waipu Centennial Trust (WCT) was established to nurture engagement by the Waipu and region’s community in arts and cultural heritage development. The WCT is the governing body of the Waipu Museum, which preserves & promotes the internationally significant UNESCO Memory of the World registered story & collection of the migration of 1000 Nova Scotians of Scottish heritage who settled in Waipu in the 1850s. The Museum maintains a genealogy database of 75,000+ Nova Scotians names, develops public programs to engage the community, & provides a much utilised Tourism Information Service for the Twin Coast Discovery trail and the whole Northland region. The WCT also cares for the Arts & Heritage Precinct, a landscape of repurposed heritage buildings.

For more information please visit:
Ph: 09-432 0746

The Waipu Tartan

A dream that became a reality for the descendants of the great migration was to create a tartan unique to the Waipu area and call it their own. With the involvement and tenacity of many, including local Primary School pupils, the end result is a stunning piece of tartan artistry profoundly described in the poem by our own loom master Lloyd Cullen. Officially registered and woven in Scotland, the first bolt of Waipu Tartan dress weight 100% wool fabric was shipped to Waipu in 2008.

The Waipu Tartan

It starts off with the clearances, when a Scotsman’s life was cheap
They forced the people off the land (replaced them all with sheep)
They then departed Scottish shores and Nova Scotia bound.
They stayed on there for thirty years (etched a living from the ground)
When hardship and the famine forced them once again to flee
The craft Scotsmen built some ships and headed out to sea.
They landed on the Aussie coast, did not like what they saw
And once again they sailed away for some new distant shore.
They ended up in Waipu and they’ve been here all this time.
So, I’m telling you this story in a tartan and a rhyme.
The white is for the shaggy sheep and also for the snow
And Aotearoa where the Scotsmen were to go,
Purple is for the Heather on the Scottish countryside
And the thistle is an emblem that is recognised worldwide.
Blue is for the ocean it’s the highway for their trips
Seven colours in the tartan represent the seven ships
The green is for the forest and the colour of the land
Which they saw while they were anchored out beyond the Waipu sand.
The red is the MacFarlane Tie, adopted by the school
No tartan from the town itself that was the only rule.
It was the Reverend Norm McLeod the leader of the pack
Who takes the last two colours with the yellow and the black
We’ve used up all the colours and the story has been told
And the Scotsman got to live in peace and all of them grew old.

Lloyd Cullen 2003

Waipu Surf Lifesaving

Just down the road from Waipu township is one of the best surf beaches in New Zealand. Waipu Beach was legendary in the early days of surfing back in the 50s and 60s. It still attracts year-round surfies looking for the perfect break. As a result, a surf lifesaving club was born and continues to this day, keeping visitors and locals safe throughout the long summer. 

The Waipu Cove Surf Life Saving Club members are proud to support the Waipu Highland Games. Each year we are proud to man the gates at the Games. Look out for us in our bright red and yellow gear.

The family-friendly club has been patrolling the beach for over 90 years.