The North Island's coastal town Kāwhia hosts the greatest festival of Māori food and culture. Traditional food is splendid here, locals even call Kāwhia "kai food heaven", and the word "kai" in Māori language means "food". Kāwhia kai festival offers traditionally cooked dishes using large underground ovens called "hangis". These dishes are later served in the likewise traditional woven flax baskets. You may also try dishes made of kumara or sweet Māori potato, dozens of wild pork, lots of seafood including watercress, shellfish and mug snails. The most specific offers on the menu include shark liver pate, marinated mussels, whitebait patties or baby fish omelette and much more. The festival is held in early February and often coincides in time with Waitangi Day.
The festival that is listed among best tourist experiences of New Zealand attracts about 10,000 visitors every year. Held on the scenic Kawhia foreshore, it features much food gathered from the sea. Visitors can also local artists creating traditional Maori art and craft: rāranga (flax weaving), wood carving and more. Entertainment includes kapa haka performances and tattooing demonstrations.
Kawhia is located on the West Coast of New Zealand's North Island in Otorohanga, Waikato. The village populated by about 650 people is the ancestral home of the Maori Tainui tribe. Tainui tribe arrived at Kawhia harbor in the 13th century and founded the first settlement for the Tainui people here.