A tiny town on a state highway seems to be the big cheese and is worth pulling over for, says Elisabeth Easther.
Origin of name: There are two schools of thought, one refers to air pressure and a cloud that appeared over the area when a respected elder in the community died and now when the cloud "Kaiwaka" appears against a clear sky, it foretells the passing of a person of rank. The other meaning refers to the destruction of several waka (canoes) by fire, referring to the way the canoes were consumed by the flames, with "kai" meaning to devour rather than "food", per se.
Population: A smidgen over 600 in the township, plenty more in the wider region
Town slogan: Little Town of Lights - in honour of the church first being lit up in 1997, although sadly the lights have been dimming a little of late, as it's hard to find outdoor lights that last a good long time.
Famous locals: Mary Jane Mander (journalist and novelist) went to school there. Peter Panyoczki (artist) lives and works there.
Best website: kaiwaka.co.nz
Old news: Kaiwaka is the site of the battle of Te Ika-a-Ranganui in 1825, the last and most fierce battle of the Musket Wars.
Big business: Kauri Park Nursery and Kaiwaka Clothing, the latter famous all over the world for its wet weather gear.
Source of pride: The Kaiwaka Sports Association is an impressive beast. Their brilliant building and spacious grounds are the envy of Northland and were created in part by funds raised at Sweetwaters music festivals. Locals would band together to provide security services and fast food, operating the only 24-hour food stands at the festival - this wore them out but also raised the necessary funds. Today there is a pavilion, a bar and social area, squash courts, showers, a gym and fitness centre.
Town fiestas: Top of the Rock is a brilliant multi sport (walk, run, cycle) event held at the beginning of February each year. And each Halloween Fright Night sees the changing rooms under the pavilion dressed up like a suitably spooky haunted house. This year more than 500 people had the living daylights scared out of them.
Read all about it: The Kaiwaka Bugle, the local newspaper, is produced once a fortnight and is full of advertising, news, views and information. Staffed by volunteers, every issue is available online and it's read all over the world. Great advertising rates too.
Moving pictures: Since the 1950s, Kaiwaka has had a movie theatre in the Kaiwaka War Memorial Hall. Recently the facilities have been upgraded to blue-ray and the sound and picture quality are amazing. It's not just movies either, sometimes the films are accompanied by dinner and dancing.
Quelle fromage: The Kaiwaka Cheese Shop is immensely popular, gourmet purveyors of fine crafted cheeses; they also sell coconut products, whole foods and coffee machines.
Long standing service: The Jaques General Store, now Jaques Four Square, has been in operation since 1924 and is still run by the same family.
Best place to take the kids: Let them loose in the great outdoors, they'll figure out what to do.
Best park: The domain, with its generous fields, lofty trees, two rugby fields, next to the primary school.
Best playground: At the sports association domain, there's an impressive range of climbing, swinging and sliding equipment.
Spend a penny: The Kaipara District Council oversee the facilities at the Kaiwaka War Memorial Hall: some people say they're the most frequented in the district - over the road from the Four Square.
Best walk: The Kauri Loop in the domain takes 10 minutes to walk, close to the main road at the entrance to the Kaiwaka Sports Association on Gibbons Rd, you'll quickly find yourself deep in native bush. For more hearty hiking, swing across to Mangawhai, or climb to the top of Baldrock.
Best view: Head to the top of Pukepohutu (aka Baldrock) once the plug that popped out of the volcano, today it's a great spot to survey the world from. At 238m, the dome is visible from SH1, to reach the top head for Baldrock Rd, stop at the parking area and gird your loins for a steep 30-minute climb.
Best place to pull over: There's a ripper rest area next to the motel, maintained by Elizabeth Preston, this lovely lady makes sure it's always spotless.
Best swim: The Kaipara Harbour comes all the way up to Kaiwaka via the Kaiwaka River but, because it's tidal, this is more of a fishing and kayaking spot.
For arts sake: There's no gallery per se, but lots of artists live and work around here. Sadly Bev Taylor, famous for his prolific poultry paintings, died last year and with him went his gallery.
Top shops: Buy the Way, next door to Bianca's Cafe is full of distinctive clothing and it's not too pricey either. Feeling crafty? Nip into the Apple Basket Quilting Shop.
Open again soon: The eccentrically fruity Eutopia Cafe is being renovated at the moment but when it's open again the incredible mosaics will blow people's mind. With its magical nautical theme, and the giant gull keeping watch this is probably the most photographed building in Kaiwaka. Sheer lunacy, just fabulous.
Power to the people: Next door to Jaques Four Square you'll find an electric car charging station, this Rapid Charger can charge a car in 20 minutes. charge.net.nz
Cream of the coffee: Cafe Bianca, Mormors and The Coffee Pot (at the motel) all do excellent coffee, as well as most excellent food.
Baked: La Nonna's Italian Bakery is amazing, their chocolate-filled croissants are especially decadent, good pies and sausage rolls too. People drive long distances for breads that include french sticks, sourdough and ciabatta. Plus their coffee rocks. The Travel Editor makes a point of stopping at La Nonna's on his regular northward jaunts.
Best food: Three Furlongs Bar and Grill, the new owners are doing a great job, the pizzas are amazing and people rave about the steaks. The Spice Lounge Indian Restaurant is also grand.
Wet your whistle: Three Furlongs has warm family-friendly atmosphere with a little outdoor area, plus they have accommodation too
Wildlife: There are lots of pesky possums, but people are dealing to those as best they can. Plus there's an abundance of birdlife, and sometimes you might see seals pop up the river to have a look around.
Safety warnings: It might be on a state highway, but it's a 50km zone, so please don't speed.
The verdict: An absolutely ace little place.
Thanks to Wendy, Lindsey and Tony from the Kaiwaka Bugle for tooting Kaiwaka's horn.