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7 Best Things to Do in Kawakawa

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What to Do in Kawakawa

Kawakawa is the gateway to the Bay of Islands and a fascinating little town not to be missed! The colourful town centre is decorated with murals and New Zealand’s most famous public toilets. If you arrive on a weekend, don’t be surprised if there is a large steam train is making its way right through the town centre. The little Bay of Islands settlement is a highlight of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail and a great excuse to stop and grab something to eat at one of the many quaint cafes. If you’re not sure how to spend your time in Kawakawa, just take a look at the list of things to do in Kawakawa below!

While exploring the Bay of Islands, don’t miss the highlights in these nearby towns:

1. Take a Pee Break at the Hundertwasser Toilets

Yes, New Zealand’s most famous public toilets are right here in Kawakawa. They are probably going to be the most colourful and artistic toilets that you’ll ever get the chance to relieve yourself in. The toilets are decorated in mosaic ceramic and glass bottles, designed by a late Austrian expat artist.

Location: State Highway 1 (Gillies Street in Kawakawa town centre).

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2. Cycle the Twin Coast Cycle Trail

This 87km (54 miles) cycle trail crossing from the Bay of Islands to the Hokianga Harbour passes right through Kawakawa. The Twin Coast Cycle Trail follows an old railway corridor and is an easy-going right suitable for all ages. While the whole trail takes 2 days to complete, a popular section is the Opua to Kawakawa, about 11km (7 miles) long. Bike hire and transport can be arranged in Paihia or Opua with Paihia Mountain Bike Rentals and Shuttles. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.

Location: Start from Opua Wharf and follow the well-marked trail to Kawakawa.

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3. See the Art at the Kings Theatre Creative

This refurbished 1930’s theatre is now the home of a refreshing art gallery full of creations from around the Far North and Bay of Islands districts. See local Maori art and other thought-provoking pieces in this gallery that is open September to June.

Location: State Highway 1 (Gillies Street in Kawakawa town centre).

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4. Ride a Vintage Train

Every weekend, the vintage steam train, Gabriel, chugs its way through the town centre of Kawakawa at the start of its scenic railway journey. Get in on the action by hopping on the train at the Kawakawa Station with the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway. If you don’t manage to make it to Kawakawa on a weekend, there are still restored locomotives and carriages on display outside of the Kawakawa Station.

Location: Gillies Street, just off State Highway 1 in Kawakawa.©

5. See the Kawakawa Mural

Kawakawa is an artsy town and another addition is the beautiful mural found alongside the Hundertwasser Toilets. This remarkable piece of art was made by local school children and makes an amazing photo opportunity.

Location: Hundertwasser Toilets, State Highway 1 (Gillies Street in Kawakawa town centre).

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6. Visit the Glowworm Caves

Just 5km south of Kawakawa is the magnificent Kawiti Glowworm Caves. Take a guided tour through this gorgeous cave network, while listening to stories from your local Maori guide. Learn about the fascinating (yet brutal) lifecycle of the glowworm. Check out more 7 Places to See the Famous Glowworms in New Zealand.

Location: Waiomio Road off State Highway 1, just south of Kawakawa.

John Hartanowicz on Wikipedia© John Hartanowicz on Wikipedia

7. Grab Yourself a Coffee and a Bite to Eat

Kawakawa is one of those classic Kiwi towns with great food and great coffee! The main street has four fantastic cafes to choose from, giving you a great excuse to stop by while travelling around the Bay of Islands.

Location: Gillies Street/State Highway 1.

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Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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