Kawhia is a tranquil, coastal town beside the 6000-hectare Kawhia Harbour at the end of State Highway 31, west of Waitomo and Otorohanga.
Kawhia is one of the few coastal villages in New Zealand which has retained a nostalgic, "good-old-days" charm. It's an hour's drive from Hamilton, two hours from Auckland, and 45 minutes from Te Awamutu or Otorohanga. For some travelers, the hill road is a beautiful but formidable drive; although it's sealed and well formed, it shouldn't be hurried. You'll have time to admire the view across Kawhia Moana, "the Sea of Kawhia", from the top of the hill. Another popular route is the scenic back road from Raglan - with intriguing coastal and bush views as you skirt Mount Karioi and Aotea Harbour. (Allow an hour between Raglan and Kawhia Harbour).
For Maori of Tainui descent, Kawhia is of special significance. Tradition has it that the Tainui waka arrived in Kawhia Harbour in the 14th century and was hauled ashore where Maketu Marae now stands. Kawhia was also one of the first places where Europeans settled in New Zealand.
The Kawhia area offers harbour trips, bush walks, kayaking, yachting and fishing . There is an excellent boat launching ramp, a fishing wharf with boat-boarding pontoon attached and sand flats which yield fat flounders.
On your Kawhia visit be sure to make time to dig your own hot pool on the beach at the Te Puia Natural Hot Springs. When the tide's low, you can sit in a hot pool dug in the black sand on Ocean Beach. Follow the signs to Ocean beach, drive to the end of Te Puia Road and walk over the sand dunes. The Hot Springs can also be reached by walking along the beach from the boat ramp on the south side of Kawhia township. You have two hours on either side of low tide to dig a pool. (Check websites for tide charts). Watch for warm water running gently out of the sand or bubbles and steam rising, sometimes accompanied by a sulphurous smell. Then dig a shallow pool and trap the warm water with walls of dug-out sand.
(Ask the locals for the best location and time and take a shovel or spade to make the digging easier! Take care in fine weather to wear shoes of some kind - the dry black sand becomes very hot on sunny days).