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Your guide to Kawhia
All About Kawhia
Peppered with groves of crimson pohutukawa trees, the small town of Kawhia sits on the northern shore of Kawhia Harbour, around midway down the rugged west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. As the final landing site of the Tainui people, Kawhia has huge significance in Maori culture. Two stones mark the spot where the 14th-century waka — canoe — was buried, making it a sacred place for locals. The beach is renowned for its natural hot tubs — all you have to do is dig a hole in the black sand at low tide and wait for the region’s famed geothermal water to rise up and bubble. Fishing is a big draw in Kawhia. Anglers stake out their favorite spots around the harbor for reeling in snapper, kingfish, and tarakihi. The region is also home to a network of picturesque seaside and inland hiking trails, many of which can be accessed on horseback.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Kawhia?
Remember that New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, so weather patterns and seasons are opposite of those in North America. Summer months are from December through February, and winter goes from June to the end of August. Peak season for Kawhia accommodations is between January and June. July and August are often the rainiest months, although average temperatures rarely dip below chilly; humidity, however, tends to hover around 80 percent. On the nearest weekend to Waitangi Day — New Zealand’s national day on February 6 — people from far and wide come to Kawhia to join in the Kawhia Traditional Māori Kai Festival, a celebration of traditional dishes from land and sea, including hāngī, where fish and other ingredients are wrapped up and slow-cooked in a pit dug into the ground.
Expect at least a few wet days if you visit from September to December, but there will still be plenty to do. October is a good time to explore the limestone caves of the famous Piripiri Cave Walk, about an hour’s drive south of Kawhia.
What are the top things to do in Kawhia?
Kawhia Hot Water Beach
Follow Te Puia Road out of town for 10 minutes to the sweeping sands of Kawhia Hot Water Beach, where geothermally warmed waters rise up at low tide. Beachgoers in the know dig their own hot tubs in the sand and enjoy hot-tubbing the way the people of Kawhia have done for centuries.
Waitomo Caves Discovery Centre
Around an hour’s drive east from Kawhia, Waitomo Caves brim with bioluminescent constellations created by the local glow-worm population. First explored in the 1880s, this magical underground network of rivers and caves can be experienced in several ways, from ziplining to swimming and taking a boat tour — there’s even a trail run that combines adventure above and below ground.
Just outside of Ta Anga, around an hour from town, the 115-foot Marokopa Falls is one of New Zealand’s lesser-known waterfalls. An accessible 20-minute hiking trail leads through lush forest to a viewing platform providing a commanding view of the thundering Marokopa River as it drops and joins with the Tawarau River, a large fishing river where anglers cast for kahawai.