Motorhome Friendly Te Kuiti
The NZMCA’s 53rd Motorhome Friendly Town Te Kuiti lies nestled in the north of the King Country close to many natural wonders including the Waitomo Caves and the Mangaokewa Scenic Reserve.
The town’s reputation as a Kiwi heartland and rural service town are made clear by the two statues in the main street; one of All Black great Colin Meads and another of a shearer. The town proudly hosts the New Zealand Shearing Championships each year. Te Kuiti lies at the junction of State Highways 3 and 30 and is on the North Island Main Trunk Line. Historically, its origins were the Māori village called Te Kūititanga which stood at the entrance to the Mangaōkewa Gorge at the south end of present-day Te Kuiti.
The second Māori king, Tāwhiao, lived there in exile after Waikato tribal lands were confiscated by the government following the land wars of the 1860s. In 1887 the main trunk railway line reached Te Kuiti (the line’s end until 1894), where a camp was set up to house construction workers. This formed the heart of a busy new township. The town’s fortunes lifted after farms were established to the south and west from the late 1890s.
Must-Do Activities in Te Kuiti
Colin Meads Statue
Lifelong resident of the King Country and legendary All Black Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads is commemorated in a bronze statue in the main street of Te Kuiti. The 2.7-metre sculpture weighs close to a tonne and took Auckland artist Natalie Stamilla about two months to create.
The great man unveiled the statue just a few months before his death in 2017, and was impressed by its likeness: “It’s amazing how much detail has gone into it. Even my boot laces are laced how I used to lace them up,” he said at the time. Te Kuiti’s main street is also home to a 6-metre tall statue of a shearer.
With the Waitomo Caves just 12 kilometres to the northwest, Te Kuiti makes an ideal base for this iconic New Zealand experience. The easiest way to see the Waitomo Caves and the legendary glow worms is with a walking or boat tour, but there are options to explore the area yourself. The 45-minute Ruakuri bush walk showcases natural limestone cliffs that Waitomo is famous for, including arches and tunnels. Travel further down Te Anga Road (SH37) to an easy walk that takes you to the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, a magnificent 17m limestone arch.
Mangaokewa Scenic Reserve
Five minutes south of Te Kuiti adjacent to SH30, the Mangaokewa Scenic Reserve offers great tramping and walking trails that form part of the Te Araroa Trail. There are plenty of picnic areas and an easy one-hour walk through native bush and over a swing bridge to the Cascade Waterfalls. Areas for swimming, bird watching and other recreational activities are also on offer.
Tatsuno Japanese Garden
The Tatsuno Japanese Garden is at the south end of Rora Street and was established in 1998 as a tangible symbol of the Sister City relationship that has developed between Te Kuiti and the surrounding area, and the Tatsuno Town Council in Japan. The garden’s plants provide year round interest and are a combination of New Zealand native and Japanese plants. They include Flowering Cherries, Wisteria, Maples, Hostas, Irises, Sacred Bamboo, Astelia, Flax, Bidibidi, Conifers, Azaleas, Camellias, and Helebores.
Meeting House Te Tokanganui-a-Noho wharenui is on SH3 in the centre of Te Kūiti. It was built in 1873 under the direction of the Māori leader and prophet Te Kooti, who lived in the King Country between 1872 and 1893. He gifted the house to Ngāti Maniapoto as a gesture of thanks for their hospitality not long before receiving a government pardon in 1883. The house has been relocated three times, the last time to make way for the railway line. It is beautifully carved and can be visited by arrangement.
A Must-Do Event in Te Kuiti
The Great New Zealand Muster The town really comes into its own in autumn when Te Kuiti puts on the Great New Zealand Muster, usually held the weekend after Easter each year. As well as all things sheepish (shearing contests, sheep races and more) you can see Maori culture groups performing and enjoy the street stalls. A highlight is the ‘Running of the Sheep’ when approximately 200 sheep run the length of the main street.