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Exploring New Zealand

Kawakawa Area Guide

Kawakawa's Hundertwasser public
toilets - Famous Austrian
architect - ©
Kawakawa is the unofficial gateway to the Bay of Islands. But its lack of a coast means most people are passing through on the way to seaside towns like Paihia. Kawakawa's heyday lies a few decades back when it was an active mining enclave. The vintage railway that runs from the town to Opua is a reminder of that industrial past.

In more modern times, Kawakawa is better known for a famous inhabitant. Acclaimed Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser lived just to the east of the town. He was buried on his land after his death in 2000.

Hundertwasser left his mark on Kawakawa in the incongruous form of the public toilets, which he redesigned and helped build in 1999. The distinctive and colorful Hundertwasser shapes and colours won a "premier" certificate in the Creative Places Awards 2000, as well as first place in the "Urban and Landscape Design" category.

Another reason for travelling to the area is the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves, south of the town in the Waiomio cave system. Kawiti was a renowned Maori chieftain and warrior who participated in the various armed struggles against the British in the 19th century.


Bay of Islands Hospital

28-bed rural hospital with an emergency department and extensive community health services.

Bush'n'Bike Adventures

Quad bike and horse riding experiences among the local bush, river and hill landscapes. Also offer custom corporate activity programmes.


Victorian villa with cafe and gardens on the road between Paihia and Kawakawa. Serves lunch and tea and is situated in several acres of landscaped gardens, with a children's playground, fruit trees and vines, fish ponds, fountains etc.

Hundertwasser Toilets

The public toilets in Kawakawa were designed and built by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. This site details the history of the project and its impact on the town.

Kawakawa Memorial Library Centre

Located in the town's WWI Memorial Library, with coal mining, military, engineering and printing displays, as well as collections of art and vintage motorcycles.

The Grass Hut

Store selling New Zealand arts and crafts, but mainly focused on products related to the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who designed the shop's front verandah: prints, posters, books, videos, t-shirts and similar.

Vintage Railway

Brief details of the steam railway running from Kawakawa to Opua, with emphasis on its history and the efforts being made to restore and save this attraction.