© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Vintage Railways and Famous Toilets at Kawakawa

© NZPocketGuide.com

343 Days on the Road

We would like to unofficially call this blog post: “A Day of Randomness in the Bay of Islands”. Although none of the activities we do today necessarily go together, it just goes to show the variety of things to do here in what locals call “The Bay”. This morning, we are making our way from Kerikeri to the neighbouring town of Kawakawa which is not only home to the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway but the most famous public toilets in New Zealand. Yes, we are serious!

New Zealand’s funkiest public toilets

So first things first, we have got to see these toilets! Why are public toilets a tourist attraction in Kawakawa?! Well, at least the toilets known as the Hundertwasser’s Toilets are easy to locate with their vibrant ceramic pillars sticking out like a sore thumb on Kawakawa’s main street. We park up for a closer look.

Several colourful ceramic pillars hold up a roof garden with a tree sticking right through a hole in the roof. Inside the toilets are a treat too with light glaring through colourful wine bottles cemented into the walls and mosaic tiles covering from floor to ceiling. They are certainly the most colourful toilets we have ever seen!

More about the Kawakawa Hundertwasser’s Toilets

If you’re waiting for your partner or friend to finish their business, you can read more about the architect behind the artistic toilets, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, on some leaflets displays on the walls. The Austrian-born expat was welcomed into the community of Kawakawa and commissioned to design the Kawakawa Toilets in 1997.

The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway

After having an obligatory pee in the Kawakawa Hundertwasser’s Toilets, we then follow the railway going right through the middle of the road all the way to Kawakawa Railway Station, which is the home to the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway. The railway at Kawakawa was not only the first railway to be opened in the North Island, it was the first to run a rail passenger service in the North Island too. In fact, scenic rail journeys still continue today with a diesel locomotive every Friday and a steam train every Saturday and Sunday. In conclusion, our timing is pretty horrendous visiting on a Wednesday, but we are lucky enough to catch up with one of the guards, Dennis, who is happy to show us around some of the vintage locomotives on display here at the Kawakawa Railway Station.

The trains of the Kawakawa Railway Station

Bright and brilliant locomotives stand proud and freshly restored outside of the Kawakawa Railway Station for everyone to see. We meet the likes of Timmy and Charlie, as well as carriages named after various different native birds. What’s more, there are even carriages with special bike attachments to combine a cycle experience on the Twin Coast Cycle Trail with a vintage ride through the countryside. Dennis shows us inside the carriages to take a look at their beautiful wooden interiors with fabulously vintage air conditioning system and reversible carriage seats.

Possibly the most hilarious 360 we have done to date

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Restoring these giant machines

Now that we have seen how these trains look fully restored and almost mimicking that of those chugging down the railways back in the early 1900s, Dennis shows us the work yard where more trains are being restored. We walk around grand steam engines currently being restored as we speak, one engineer is replacing the dashboard, for example. Seeing them in the state they are now, we can really appreciate the work that goes into these machines to bring them back to life.

The usual star of the Bay of Islands Railways is Gabriel, a steam engine built in 1927, but unfortunately she is looking rather bare and rusted in the workshop at the moment. She faces four different carriages in the same warehouse going through different stages of restoration. An almost complete one looks flash and luxurious compared to those that have been left out in the weather for who knows how many years!

We leave the Kawakawa Railway Station with a better understanding of the work and passion that goes behind the railway, as well as the many stories Dennis shared with us along the way. All we need to do is come back one day and ride those trains!

Free tastings and chocolate factory viewings at Makana Confections

Until then, we head back to Kerikeri where we make a conscious effort to stop by the Makana Confections. If you remember 263 days ago, we visited the Makana Chocolate Factory in Blenheim as part of a wine tour. (We know, chocolate and wine: scandalous!) They had such incredible macadamia chocolate samples that we still have dreams about that we simply have to stop by at their Bay of Islands store. As soon as we enter the shop, we are greeted with those very same macadamia butter toffee crunch and an orange cream truffle. Double yum! What’s also really neat about this store is that you can watch the chocolatiers at work through some large windows looking into the factory. They are currently making some seriously sticky popcorn and some fast-drying chocolate “stix”. It’s like watching a tasty science experiment.

Indulging at the Makana Cafe

Another addition to the Makana Confections is the cafe next door, where you can treat yourself to some epic deserts. Of course, many of the pieces of art that they like to call “deserts” are made here too, with more windows into the kitchen to just make sure. They even make their own gelato, so Laura gets a macadamia butter toffee crunch flavour thanks to the sample tried earlier and Robin gets a rich chocolate and orange tart… Again, he may have been inspired by the sample we tried. Along with a hot chocolate with whipped cream (and a naughty hot chocolate and Baileys), we indulge beyond redemption. We almost feel bad destroying the creations!

Final night at Hone Heke Lodge

Our evening ends in our Kerikeri accommodation, Hone Heke Lodge for one last night of card games and mingling with workers who have come back from a hard days’ fruit picking and making the money. Tomorrow, we move onto Paihia and the start of the Bay of Islands’ famous water activities starting with swimming with dolphins! See you then!

Dennis teaches us heaps about bringing trains back to life

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Want more?

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See you tomorrow!


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