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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Kihikihi

  • 3 minutes

Kihikihi, Waikato

Nearby Te Awamutu what to do and best things to see

Kihikihi there are plenty of things to do. Kihikihi is not an ordinary little town. A tiny place where a Space Centre competes with a significant historical legacy for attention. Grab some foodie treats from a well known bakery, Viands and explore the district starting with the Kihikihi heritage trail.


What to do in Kihikihi, highlights

  • Free Lavender Farm Tour (seasonal). What a glorious reason to stop in Kihikihi for while
  • Quirky passionate volunteers Te Awamutu Space Centre open by appointment only. Owned and managed by Dave Owen, also known as Space Dave.
  • Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain is a stone’s throw away, a predator free park for endangered birds and wildlife
  • Kihikihi historical precinct with intact original police premises and Rewi Maniapoto Memorial

McDonald’s Kihikihi Speedway is a popular Waikato venue attracting big crowds throughout the year. As described by McDonald’s Kihikihi Speedway, Buckle-up, pack a picnic and bring the whole family down to Kihikihi Speedway to enjoy a spectacular night of thrill-seeking, adrenaline pumping motor-sport action.

Kihikihi’s heritage precinct is now known as Rata-tu to Turata – its original name.

Kihihi has 17 heritage sites marked with yellow / green plaques describing the significance of the building or location. Included in the heritage trail is the Kihikihi Police Station. The police station premises include the constables home, police station, ablution block and jail located at Ratatu Reserve. Artefacts, documents, photographs and memorabilia are stored in the original buildings. The Kihikihi Police House volunteers treat visitors to a silver tea service using fine china. School groups are introduced to the jail and 19th housekeeping tips such as making butter from scratch. Kihikihi Police House & Temple Cottage check for up to date opening hours and contact details. Located on Te Rata-tu Reserve in Lyon Street (SH3), Kihikihi, opposite the historic Alpha Hotel. Open 1st Sunday of the month or by arrangement.

@Kihikihi Police House & Temple Cottage
@Kihikihi Police House & Temple Cottage

Other significant buildings are the Kihikihi War Memorial Hall, the Rewi Maniapoto Memorial, the Ratau Hill Redoubt and Orakau Battle site. In the 1830s Kihikihi was a village for Ngāti Maniapoto, after the battle of Orakau in 1864 the Ratatu Hill Redoubt was built for the Armed Constabulary. (see Travel Pack Section for further details on NZ Land Wars & Confiscation).


Cycle / walking trails

Cycleways and walkways linking Te Awamutu with Kihikihi and Pirongia.


Feel hungry or need a coffee break

Viands Bakery has three New Zealand Bakels Supreme Pie Awards. It is a family-run bakery, the current owners, John and Lynda Atwell, are fifth-generation bakers and John’s grandmother is believed to be the first female baker in the country.

Kihikihi is a second-hand shopper’s joy with clothing stores, books and collectables along the main street.

Kihikihi festival

Kihikihi international horse trail is organised by Kihikihi Polo Club

Kihikihi fame

  • Ngati Maniapoto chief Rewi Maniapoto memorial erected in 1894. It is also his grave site. A military strategist and prominent Kingitanga leader, he is well known for his famous rallying cry during the siege of Orakau Pa (5km from Kihikihi). Previously his house and that of his followers had been torched with extensive crops destroyed. Today the site of his home is the Rewi Maniapoto reserve where you will find the monument for Rewi Maniapoto’s tomb donated by Sir George Grey, his former foe.
  • Needing a drink before entering alcohol free King Country then Kihikihi was a compulsory stop. Prohibition movement, 1880–1919 – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
Main street of Kihikihi, Waikato with 1904 town hall and WW1 war memorial, New Zealand
Main street of Kihikihi, Waikato with 1904 town hall and WW1 war memorial

Kihikihi notoriety

War, brutality and the loss of identity, the Waikato is witness to this universal theme of history. The confiscation of land. The British colonial forces took 1.2 million acres of Waikato land. Of this, 225,000 acres became “native reserves” and 50,000 acres were repatriotiated to Maori ownership. About 150,000 acres were subdivided for military settlements, the remainder sold to pay for the war. See Travel Pack Section for further reading on the subject. The past should not be a forgotten country.

Kihikihi slogan

“Learners today, leaders tomorrow” … Kihikihi Primary School Motto … Our School History. Not the official town slogan.

Kihikihi mascot

CICADA (insect)

Where to take the best selfies in Kihikihi

  • Where else but the cicada statue
  • Rewi Maniapoto memorial
  • Heritage precinct

Where to take the kids in Kihikihi?

  • Space Centre
  • Best bakery in the Waikato, Viands Bakery
  • Heritage precinct jail for a peek at the interior
  • Cycle / walking trails

Kihikihi population


Rewi Maniapoto reserve, Kihikihi, Waikato, maori, New Zealand
Rewi Maniapoto reserve, Kihikihi, Waikato
@Kihikihi Maori Village
@Kihikihi Maori Village

Who turned up and named Kihikihi?

Maori name for cicada or tree locust, a name that imitates its strident song. Kihikihi’s administration falls under Waipa District Council, Waitomo Region. In 1864 Kihikihi was garrisoned by the 65th regiment and the 1st Waikato militia. It remained strategically important because of its proximity to the King Country border. During the 1880s it was a construction camp for the main trunk railway. Once the last refreshment stop before the (officially) alcohol-free King Country, Kihikihi has two historic hotels: the Alpha Hotel (1868) and the Star Hotel (1882). Source Page 11. Kakepuku to Maungatautari – Waikato places

Judgement on Kihikihi

A great place to linger, explore the area while taking a road trip to the iconic Waitomo Caves.

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.

Getting to Kihikihi

Te Awamutu to Kihikihi distance:

Travel pack information

Suspended mountain

Maungatautari can be translated as ‘suspended mountain’. It is said that the name was given by Tainui tohunga Rakataura, who first saw the mountain rising above the fog that often blankets Waikato.

The Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust was formed in 2002 to restore forest and reintroduce species. 3,400 hectares is enclosed by a 47-km predator-proof fence, and then all mammalian pests were eradicated. Visitors to New Zealand’s largest mainland sanctuary can encounter kiwi, kākā, takahē, hihi (stitchbirds) and other birds and animals not seen on the mountain for generations. Maungatautari, the sacred mountain of the Ngāti Raukawa people. The tribe takes its name from its founding ancestor, Raukawa – who was named after the raukawa perfume his mother wore for her night-time encounters with his father.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari signage, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari signage

New Zealand land wars – Waikato land confiscations

Under the New Zealand Settlements Act, Waikato lost almost all their land and Ngāti Hauā about a third of theirs. But kūpapa (pro-government or neutral) Māori also lost land as the yardstick rapidly changed from guilt to convenience. Ngāti Maniapoto territory still under Kīngitanga control was untouched. In the long term, Taranaki Māori suffered most from confiscation in terms of land actually occupied.” Source Land confiscation law passed NZ History Updated 4 Dec 2020.

Most streets were named for politicians and military personnel when the town was laid out. It is a roll call of nineteenth century colonialism… Origins of Some Kihikihi Street Names:

  • Atkinson St. Major (later Sir) Harry A. ATKINSON. Soldier 1863. M.P. 1880. Colonial Defence Minister. Premier 1883-84. 1887 – 91
  • Ballance St. John BALLANCE M.P. Minister Native Affairs & Defence 1884-87
  • Bryce St. John BRYCE. M.P. for Waipa. Minister Native Affairs 1883-84. 1890
  • Cameron St. Major General Duncan CAMERON. General Officer commanding Imperial Forces in N.Z. 1861-65
  • Carey St. Brigadier General G. J. CAREY 2nd. IC to Cameron 1861
  • Dick St. Thomas DICK. M.P. Colonial Secretary, Minister Justice, Education l882-84
  • Galloway St. General GALLOWAY. 1863
  • Grey St. Sir George GREY. Governor N.Z. l861-68
  • Hall St. John HALL. M.P. Minister Public Works. 1881
  • Haultain St. Colonel T.M. HAULTAIN Commander all Waikato Militia. Commander Kihikihi Redoubt. 1863
  • Havelock St. Colonel, Sir Henry HAVELOCK, COMMANDER 70th Regt. 18th Regt. Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General 1864
  • Leslie St. Colonel Leslie. Commander 40th Regiment.
  • Lyon St. Colonel W.C. LYON. 2ND IC to Whitmore 1869
  • McAndrew St. James MCANDREW M.P. Minister Public Works, Lands, Immigration. Mines. 1878-84
  • Moule St. Colonel William MOULE. 4th Waikato Militia. Inspector, 4th Armed Constabulary. 1867
  • Nixon St. Colonel NIXON. Colonial Defence Force Cavalry. 1863
  • Oliver Rd. Richard OLIVER M.P. Postmaster General l882-84
  • Rolleston St. William ROLLESTON M.P. Minister, Lands, Immigration, and Mines. 1882-84
  • Sheehan St. John SHEEHAN M.P. Minister Native Affairs. 1878
  • Walmsley St. Captain WALMSLEY. Colonial Defence Force Cavalry l863
  • Whitaker St. Frederick A. WHITAKER M.P. Land speculator. Premier 1882-83 and Attorney General.
  • Whitmore St. Colonal (Later Sir) George Stoddart WHITMORE. Commandant Armed Constabulary. 1868. M.P. 1884

SOURCE Origins of Some Kihikihi Street Names



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