If low tide is late afternoon, Kawhia’s hot water beach offers the rare experience of soaking in a sandy spa pool while you watch the sun go down.

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The coastal village of Kawhia is a great fishing spot for holiday makers. For much of the year, Kawhia is a peaceful, quiet spot, with an increase in beach-goers arriving over summer. One of Kawhia's claims to fame is the hot water spring on Ocean Beach. 

At low tide, geothermally heated water bubbles up through the black sand – you can dig your own bath. To find the springs, walk around the beach from the boat ramp or drive to the end of Te Puia Road and walk over the dunes. 

If you're visiting in February, be sure to check out the Kawhia Kai Festival. Listed as one of the Lonely Planet's top 10 Maori experiences, the festival offers you the chance to try unique indigenous foods, including hangi food cooked in an earth oven.

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Kawhia Harbour is a drowned river valley system on the Tasman Sea coast west of Hamilton. The harbour entrance is guarded by a large sand bar - a feature of many harbours along the western coasts of New Zealand. The black sand ocean beach is pounded by ocean swells; the inner harbour is vast and tranquil.

On the northern shore of the inner harbour is the final resting place of Tainui, the migration canoe from which the Waikato Maori are descended. Two large upright stones mark the stern and prow of the buried canoe. You can visit these stones on the walk to Maketu Marae.

Functional facts: Approx. population 650, choice of cafés, some accommodation.