Traveling Far North for a…toilet?

The North Island of New Zealand is renowned for a couple of things. The “City of Sails” Auckland, the famed Shire from the Hobbiton, its rich Maori culture at Rotorua, and the “Winterless North” Bay of Islands. Yet,  many tourists tend to flock over to the more spectacular South Island, traveling down from Auckland and bypassing all the beauty up Far North.

With the time I had in NZ, and the proximity I had from Whangerai, I wasn’t about to be like them. Claire kindly gave us a day off, and we set off for a 2 hour drive up to Paihia, the gateway to the Bay of Islands. I was anticipating warm weather, stunning views of the bay and perhaps a walk on the beach. But a world famous toilet that sees visitors walking around talking photos of it? That I did not expect. I mean, who drives 2 hours up just to see a toilet?

Apparently, a lot of people do just that for the Hundertwasser Toilets, most probably because it was featured on Lonely Planet Guide. These brightly coloured toilets situated at Kawakawa, came from the hands of Austrian artist  Friedensreich Huderwasser, who is also known for the famed Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna.

I didn’t really know what to expect from a world famous toilet. But unsurprisingly, there weren’t a lot of tourists crowding at the toilets (NZ is the last place you will expect hordes of people, and winter season is considered the low tourist season). I could stride right in, and take as many photos as I wanted.

The toilets were easy to spot once we drove into Kawakawa. It stood out prominently from the other ordinary shopfronts, with a live tree incorporated at its “doorsteps”, and plantations growing widely on the rooftop.

20927TN36: Kawakawa's Hundertwasser public toilets - Famous Austrian architect. 1997. Kawakawa, Far North Dist., NZ

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I don’t know much about art, but these toilets did have a distinct style of tiles, that were purposely mismatched, and had seemingly clashing colours to go with it.


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I especially liked this gate right before the toilets, and how he made used of recycled glass bottles to create a window panel of sorts, refracting the light that were streaming into the toilets during daytime.


DSCN4562These toilets are fully functional, which meant that while I was busy snapping photos, there were other people around doing their private business. It was weird, but with a camera and my gigantic backpack, it was pretty obvious that I was another tourist to the famed toilets.

It was a interesting place to visit, and if you are driving up North and happen to pass by a little town called Kawakawa, do visit them. Otherwise, unless I was a big fan of Hunderwasser, I don’t think I will drive up 2 hours just to have a piss here, no matter how special the toilets were.


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