Waikawa Beach lies in Horowhenua — turn off SH1 at Manakau, about half way between Levin and Otaki.
It’s a quiet settlement where life revolves around the beach and the outdoors. People enjoy swimming in the river or sea, kayaking, fishing, cycling, horse riding and walking.
There are plenty of birds and frogs, and, unfortunately, rabbits. Sometimes you’ll see a small seal or two on the beach.
This area has a rich history. Before Māori came to New Zealand moa and Waitaha moa hunters roamed the area, followed by Ngati Mamoe, Moriori. They, in turn, wee followed by Muaupoko from Hawkes Bay.
In the 1800 Europeans and Māori alike travelled through and resided in the area. Te Rauparaha made it his base for a while.
Late in the 1800s there was farming and flax milling going on, some boat building, trade, and even an accommodation house.
In the 1900s activity at Waikawa Beach dwindled down to farming, but in the later part of the century small baches appeared and it became a little-know but favoured place for weekends and holidays.
Source for all the above: Bitter Water, by Deb Shepherd and Laraine Shepherd, published in 1999.
Unfortunately the book is now out of print and you can’t buy it. Try your local library for a copy. The library in Levin has it.
Looking north along Manga Pirau Street in 2003.
Looking south towards Otaki Beach 1993
Waikawa Beach in 1972. Note the absence of sand dunes and the position of the old pedestrian bridge across the river.