Searching for a destination to lift your mid-winter spirits? Look no further than Kāwhia, the Kiwi-culture township perching picturesquely on the edge of Kāwhia harbour 3 hours south of Auckland. This west coast community with its quaint old-world attractions is rugged-as, and seeking out the sites is half the fun. So pack your bags, fill up with gas, and don’t forget to throw in the spade – because on top of everything else, Kāwhia has its very own hot-water beach hideaway!
We love it that this teeniest of libraries is so obscure it doesn’t even make it onto the Search for Tiny New Zealand Libraries page, but there it is, perched proud as punch on a small rise at the northern end of Kāwhia’s main street. Doubling as the town’s war memorial, it’s a one-room show with a cosy oil heater in the corner, a great selection of reads, and a real live librarian! So worth a snap even if you haven’t time to borrow a book!
Coffee’s a hit
Painted a bright cobalt blue, the main street’s Rusty Snapper cafe and takeaways isn’t easy to miss, and while many a city-slicker is too terrified to try a hinterland coffee, we can assure you you’ll have no regrets if you order one here. And while we didn’t sample the fish and chips, customers dining at the tables set out on the footpath looked pretty stoked. Rustic chocy cake and slabs of apple square were going down a treat for dessert.
Pou maumahara (pillar of remembrance)
Kāwhia has great meaning for Māori because it is the final landing place of the ancestral voyaging waka Tainui. In remembrance of the two heritages (European and Māori) that make up the Kāwhia of today, an almost 5 metre high pillar, carved from a Waikato tōtara log, stands in the grassed area on the harbour side of the town’s main street. Be sure to view it from both sides to appreciate the significance of this work by carver Te Kuiti Stewart.
‘The Old Post Office’ (like everything else, it’s in the main street) is a cute collection of locally made arts and crafts. If you’re looking for a seascape or a fishy souvenir to take home, this is where you’ll find it.
Hot water hideaway
The icing on the cake of a tiki-tour to Kāwhia is Ocean Beach, a ten minute drive from the town itself. Unlike its more northern cousin, Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel, this isn’t a well-known spot, so forget the makeup and grab the gummies instead. The area to dig in at low tide is 140m directly out from the pole on the beach. Bear in mind this is a west coast beach with all the attendant water dangers, and keep well back from the waves.
Make for the museum
Occupying one of the prettiest spots in town, the Kāwhia Museum hugs the water close to the town’s wharf. Phone ahead to check its winter opening hours – but if you’re in town when the establishment is closed, ask around and you may well find someone will open up for you!