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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Kawhia

  • 3 minutes

Waikato, North Island

A historic gem, a quiet backwater and local summer favourite holiday spot

Kawhia there are plenty of things to do. Kawhia is a local holiday resort for New Zealanders who regularly travel to Kawhia for the summer season. A place with intriguing festivals and a sense of place and pride for the Tainui tribal people.

Kawhia gallery, New Zealand
Kawhia gallery, Waikato, North Island, NZ

What to do in Kawhia, highlights

  • Kawhia Art Gallery is pretty with its well known red chairs welcoming visitors to rest
  • Hot water beach for a natural spa
  • Museum to check what happened yesterday and before
  • Festival time when the town in pumping with energy and buzzing joy
  • The harbour is a maze of inlets and estuaries

Ocean beach or hot water beach with its iron black sand dunes is an exercise in fortitude as you trudge over the soft hot iron sands exposed to the elements in search of warm bubbling geothermal water.

It’s worth the effect. The West Coast beach is all about drama. Thundering waves on an ocean beach and hardly a soul present.  At low tide, spade in hand dig for the thermal Te Puia Springs to seep into your impromptu spa pool.


In the height of summer it could be too hot with the reflection of the sun on the iron sands.

Kawhia Museum

  • The former Kawhia County Council building is now a waterfront museum. The museum is stacked with memorabilia, fascinating facts and dedicated volunteers. There are dinosaur fossils including moa bones. Photographs galore and slightly dusty exhibits. It is the perfect place for fans of regional collections. Look for the nineteenth century whaling boat. Five boats were built in Auckland in the 1880’s. Four of them survive; one on display in the local museum and the remaining three to compete, alongside modern replicas, in the annual New Year’s regatta.
  • View Mangapohue Natural Bridge, limestone arches spanning the Mangapohue River. Fossil hunters look for limestone bluffs and cliffs where layers of oyster shell fossils are evident.
  • Kawhia to Mangapohue Natural Bridge

Festivals in Kawhia

  • Kawhia Regatta, New Year’s day is a whale boat race, organised by the Kawhia Rowing Regatta Club and Te Waitere Boat Club.
  • MAORI Kai Festival – February over Waitangi weekend world famous in New Zealand with a growing international presence
Kawhia wharf, fishing boat, locals swimming, New Zealand
Kawhia wharf, fishing boat, locals swimming, Waikato, North Island, NZ

Kawhia for kids

  • Magic, a place to jump, run and explore the landscape
  • The wharf where black sands invite kids to build sandcastles. There is a public tap to wash sandy kids and nearby toilets.
  • Dig your own hot pool (remember to take snacks and there are no public toilets at hot water beach)
  • The museum is interesting for kids with its fossils, photographs and memorabilia
  • Local playground, Omiti Reserve is overlooking the harbour
  • Eel feeding, ask locals where to go

Where to take the best selfie in Kawhia

  • Kawhia village its attractive with its harbour
  • Aotea Harbour at low tide with its orange tinted rocks, the enormous iron black dunes
  • Yourself at hot water beach
  • Numerous stops where you have pulled over to feast your eyes on the view
Kawhia Harbour signage, Waikato, North Island, New Zealand.
Kawhia, Waikato, North Island, NZ
Kawhia hot water beach, New Zealand
Kawhia hot water beach, Waikato, North Island, NZ

Who turned up and named Kawhia?

  • You’ve been at sea for a long time, the journey is gruelling however there is hope on the horizon. Polynesian navigators would have been elated with the sight of leaves in ocean currents and bird patterns indicating land. In the 14thc the Tainui ocean double hulled wakas (sailing vessel) arrived in Kawhia Harbour. At the current site of Maketu Marae people strode ashore for the first time. The name is: to support or help, from the Maori word “awhi”, named by the earliest waka crew that entered the harbour and saw it as a place of abundance. Kawhia is part of the soul of the Tainui Maori iwi (tribal affiliation). The harbour has five rivers feeding into the estuaries creating a rich fishing resource.

Kawhia fame

  • Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha born in Kawhia, Maori nineteenth century chief
  • Hōne Waitere Te Aoturoa signed the Manukau-Kāwhia sheet of the Treaty of Waitangi on 15 June 1840 at Kāwhia. He was a rangatira (chief) of Ngāti Te Wehi and Ngāti Paiaka of Aotea

Kawhia notoriety

  • Drugs and unemployment
Te Rauparaha, New Zealand
Te Rauparaha
Kawhia wharf area, New Zealand
Kawhia wharf area, Waikato, North Island, NZ

What keeps Kawhia ticking?

The quiet town, formerly a busy port town with shipping offices, warehouses and chandleries with nearby flour mills and flax processing centres. The harbour continues to support a small local fishing fleet. Today the place is a quiet backwater with the working population departing for larger urban areas. Today on Kawhia’s main street, there’s little more than a general store, a cafe and a motel. In Kawhia, 34 percent of residents are over 65. Rural depopulation is an issue. Summer holiday makers are important to the hospitality sector.

Weather in Kawhia

Kawhia Boating Forecast

Best time to go in Kawhia

  • March to May — September to November you will miss the holiday crowds and have the place to yourself, (mostly)

Kawhia population

  • 650 (2018 census)

Judgment on Kawhia

  • A glorious way to explore New Zealand’s quiet delights

Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Hamilton & Waikato Region nearby attractions and events.


Travel pack information

  • Useful link is Kawhia Harbour, a local online resource with links to tour operators for heritage 1 hour walks and horse treks on the beach. For fishing charters check the signage at the local wharf. Remember to check the local museum for up to date opening hours.
  • ‘Kawhia Harbour (Maori: “Kāwhia”) is one of three large natural inlets in the Tasman Sea coast of the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island. It is located to the south of Raglan Harbour, Ruapuke and Aotea Harbour, 40 kilometres southwest of Hamilton. Kawhia is part of the Otorohanga District Council and is in the King Country. It has a high-tide area of 68 km2 (26 sq mi) and a low-tide area of 18 km’ … Source Wikipedia




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