The west coast town of Kāwhia is a great place to visit this Waitangi Day long weekend; the town will be bustling with visitors who will all be there to attend the popular Kawhia Kai Festival.
Visiting for the festival also provides a great opportunity to explore other activities and sights on offer around Kawhia once bellies are full.
Kāwhia is a great place to escape to and relax, whether that be by heading to the beach, playing a quiet round of golf or wandering through the museum and art gallery. On the other hand there are plenty of activities for adventure-goers such as horse trekking and kayaking to limestone formations.
Kāwhia Kai Festival
When Waitangi long weekend rolls around it means the Kāwhia Kai Festival is on. This year over 4000 people are expected to head along to the festival on Saturday to get their hands on some of the kai on offer, including hangi, mussels, whitebait, oysters and kina which are traditional favourites.
There will also be many craft stalls demonstrating the art and processes of weaving and stalls featuring jewelry like greenstone and clothing.
Entertainment will be provided by local band The Kāwhia Muso, The Diamond Divas, the popular Hulanesian and country music favourite Raymond Soloman.
There will also be a paddle of a waka crewed by local paddlers and a performance made by the Te Pou O Te Kowharawhara kapa haka group.
The festival is amongst the Top 10 Indigenous Events in the country and in 2018 it was ranked amongst the 30 Best Attended Attractions.
It starts at 9am and goes until 5pm at Omimiti Reserve; entry is by gold coin donation.
A short drive from the town centre and a climb over a sand dune will take visitors to Kāwhia's Ocean Beach. Here are Te Puia Springs, natural hot pools that can be enjoyed at low tide – just be sure to pack a shovel. The beach is also a great place to swim, sail, paddle board, surf cast and wind surf.
Kāwhia is famous for its west coast fishing spot and keen fishers can choose from harbour fishing, kayak fishing or charter fishing which are all very popular amongst visitors. Fishing charters can be great for groups and families and can be booked through Dove Charters or Venture Fishing Charters. Kayaks can be hired from Kāwhia Beachside Scape Holiday Park.
As well as fishing, kayaking is also popular and is a great way to explore the nearby limestone formations and fossils. A 40-minute kayak from the harbour towards Rakaunui, Matukaraka Island and Tuapa Island are some interesting limestone formations.
"You'd want to head there with the tide coming in and come back with the tide going out otherwise you're paddling against it all the way," says chairman of the Kāwhia Community Projects Trust Inc, Kit Jefferies.
Kāwhia Museum and art gallery
"In the museum itself they have got a plaster cast of the biggest ammonite that was ever found in New Zealand, it was found just down the coast a little bit here. It is huge," says Kit.
The ammonite was discovered by an amateur palaeontologist in the mid-70s and sits in the Kāwhia Museum among other Jurassic fossils found around the local area. At the time of its discovery it was the biggest one in the world. The museum also houses many other local artefacts, photographs and publications that tell the history of Kāwhia. It is situated in part of the old waterfront offices on Omimiti St and is currently open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 4pm.
After checking out the museum head to 78 Jervois St, the town's former post office building, and visit the art gallery. It is run by volunteers and features interesting works and souvenirs made by artists and designers that call Kāwhia home.
Kāwhia is one of the country's most adventurous and scenic places to go horse trekking with miles of ocean beach and forestry trails on offer. Kāwhia Ocean Beach Horse Riding Treks offer a number treks varying in price and time, ranging from two hours to two days and starting at $100. Inquiries can be made to 021 715 619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A great track for visitors to do is the Te Kauri Park Circuit Walk. It is a 2.5 kilometre loop and features a swing bridge, runs alongside the Waikuku stream and offers views of both Kāwhia and Pirongia. The walk starts from the Manuka Track, across from the Te Kauri lodge on State Highway 31. Along the track there is a junction that leads to a picnic and camping spot.
Kāwhia Golf Club
The golf club is said to be one of the most relaxing places to go for a round. It is located at 181 Pearl Ave and is open all week, open clubhouse on Sunday from 10.30am. Green fees are $10 for either nine or 18 holes and on Sunday there is an open mixed scramble.
Late last year the Kāwhia Community Projects Trust Incorporated opened a new playground, providing the children of Kāwhia and visitors with a challenging and modern playground. It features a climbing net, climbing walls, rope climbs, swings, a slide and a hamster wheel. It is on Jervois St and has expansive views of the harbour. There is a skate bowl close by and picnic tables.
The Pou Maumahara stands in Omimiti Reserve, near the playground on Jervois St, and it represents 150 years of Kingitanga and symbolises the long-standing partnerships between Māori and European cultures in and around the Kāwhia Harbour. It was carved from a giant, ancient totara log from Pureora Forest.