What’s so great about Kawhia, what to see and best things to do
A historic gem, a quiet backwater and local summer favourite holiday spot
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.
WHAT TO DO 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.
TIP: In the height of summer it could be too hot with the reflection of the sun on the iron sands.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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
- Drugs and unemployment
WHAT KEEPS THE PLACE 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.
BEST TIME TO GO
- March to May — September to November you will miss the holiday crowds and have the place to yourself, (mostly)
- 650 (2018 census)
- A glorious way to explore New Zealand’s quiet delights
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’ … SourceWikipedia
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