The television series Coast New Zealand ends its run with a diverse mix of stories depicting the rich natural and social bounty of Northland's coast.

They include a criminal who is all but forgotten in Bay of Islands' recent history, Terry Clark of the "Mr Asia" drug syndicate notoriety.

In Coast's finale, showing on TV One next Tuesday, the show's presenter, Scottish archaeologist and historian Neil Oliver reveals a secret about the six-bedroom waterfront house the late Clark built at Okiato.

Far more meaty historical stuff is in store in the programme, with author and presenter Riria Hotere taking aim at the musket wars to discover the legend of New Zealand's first arms race. The musket changed inter-tribal Maori warfare in the early 1800s, with the first shots fired in Northland, and was integral to the dodgier side of the region's trade, development, land acquisition and iwi power plays.

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Ms Hotere has deep family links with Mitimiti and Waimate North, and her grandfather Hipiriona Barney Hotere was first cousin to famed New Zealand artist, the late Ralph Hotere.

Before the musket arrived in Northland, though, the French did, during an expedition led by Marion du Fresne in 1772, three years after Captain James Cook's first visit.

With ships needing repair and men sick with scurvy, Du Fresne set up at Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands where his men established a vegetable garden and made friendly contact with local Maori.

That was before the incident that led to the naming of Assassination Cove, the gruesome end of Du Fresne and 25 of his men, the ensuing annihilation of Maori kainga and pa, and New Zealand missing out on becoming French by a hair's breadth and a fortuitous wind.

A more modern story of Northland's coast to feature is the HMNZS Waikato, sunk in 30m of water off Tutukaka in December 2000. The former frigate that once plied the Pacific on New Zealand Navy service is now an international dive attraction, its steel hulk going through a metamorphosis to become an artificial reef brimming with sea life.