Visiting Kawerau: Things to see and do

The road into Kawerau is lined with majestic trees, flaunting bright greens or stunning reds, oranges, and golds depending on the season. Sacred Putauaki (Mt Edgecumbe) looms above the trees, offering visitors a taste of the spectacular scenery this district is known for.

Kawerau might be small but it packs a punch. Scratch the surface of the district and you’ll find a myriad of outdoor delights. One such attraction is the Tarawera River, which flows out of the lake of the same name about 20 minutes from town. The river winds through flooded caves before emerging from a cliff and forming the spectacular 35m-high Tarawera Falls—a must-see.

There are many walks in the area that lend themselves to breathtaking views of the area. Visit for more information. Visitors can swim, hunt, fish, play golf… the choice is yours.

Founded in 1953, Kawerau is one of New Zealand’s youngest towns. Built around the forestry and pulp-and-paper industries, it is now home to about 6800 people who enjoy a lifestyle second-to-none. There’s a relaxed pace of life, affordable housing, temperate climate—Kawerau enjoys hot summers and mild winters and frequently tops the country’s recorded temperature—and a great sense of community.

The town boasts a compact shopping centre, plenty of parks and reserves, and wide, tree-lined streets, and high-quality schools including the nationally renowned Tarawera High School. Kawerau also has a small, debt-free council providing quality and efficient services such as an excellent modern public library, numerous public halls, and lovely gardens, parks and reserves. Building permits are easy to get and the town is motorhome-friendly.

Little wonder Kawerau’s population is growing. Its reputation as a top events destination is growing, too. In Kawerau, there’s always something happening, whatever the season. Thanks to the Tarawera River, Kawerau has a purpose-built whitewater slalom facility; it’s the only town with such a facility in New Zealand. That makes it an ideal venue for the country’s many whitewater slalom events, including the World Rafting Champs. These events give visitors a chance to see whitewater action at its most exciting. Accommodation for event groups is available at the new Firmin Lodge adjacent to the whitewater course.

Plenty of other sporting events also make the most of the adventure playground that is Kawerau. The Tarawera Ultramarathon, held every February, finishes at Firmin Field beside the Tarawera River.

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In the nine years since its inception, this event has become one of the world’s most-popular ultra-running events. This year half of the more-than-1300 entrants were international runners.

In keeping with its forestry heritage, Kawerau hosts the National Woodskills Competition and Kawerau Woodfest each September.

Other major annual events include Christmas in the Park and the King of the Mountain running race. There are also fishing, hunting, golf, squash and cultural events, and much more.

One of Kawerau’s many highlights is its thermally heated swimming complex that is free for public use. The Maurie Kjar Memorial complex is a local treasure, with a 25-metre pool, swim classes, a spa pool, kids’ pools, and barbecue facilities. In winter, the pools are heated to a toasty 38 degrees. Kawerau District Council is currently installing a children’s splash pad and upgrading the barbecue area to make this popular attraction even better.

There’s a wonderful community garden with a huge range of herbs (lemongrass, dill, lavender, chives, you name it) that are free for people to take away.

The town’s Neighbourhoods of Healthy Homes project team is also creating an Urban Food Forest, which will see a two-hectare forest of food-bearing trees and shrubs established to provide fruit and vegetables to the community year-round.

Natural resources are abundant here. Drinking water is sourced from local natural springs and is supplied free and unmetered to all homes. Natural gas is reticulated throughout the town and geothermally generated electricity is supplied to industry. Firewood is easily obtainable and reasonably priced.

Kawerau was built to accommodate mill workers and their families, and the mills are still the biggest combined employers in the district. But other businesses are moving in and commercial opportunities are plentiful. This is thanks in part to initiatives such as a planned container terminal to strengthen links between the Eastern Bay of Plenty and the Port of Tauranga.

Throw in Kawerau’s central location and its close proximity to larger centres (50 minutes’ drive to Rotorua, 25 minutes to Whakatane and about an hour to Tauranga) and it’s no wonder this is the perfect place to learn, grow and play.

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