The small town of Kakanui lies on the coast of Otago, in New Zealand, fourteen kilometres to the south of Oamaru. The Kakanui River and its estuary divide the township in two. The part of the settlement south of the river, also known as Kakanui South, formerly "Campbells Bay", was developed as a collection of cribs (holiday homes). A recent increase in the development of subdivisions have increased the density of dwellings within South Kakanui. The population was 414 people in the 2006 census, unchanged from 2001.
The Kakanui River reaches the sea near the town, and the low range known as the Kakanui Mountains stretch inland from south of Oamaru towards the Maniototo. Kai Tahu used to temporarily occupy Kakanui as they travelled north and south, as evidenced by the midden on the north side of the estuary.
The area around Kakanui has a reputation for its limestone formations, and produces many fossils. Quarrying formerly took place. The rich and fertile soil of the area around the river has physical properties which make it perfect for use in sports grounds, especially cricket pitches. Many of New Zealands's top cricket venues use Kakanui soil on their wicket blocks.
Kakanui's main beach, south of the main headland, is known as Campbell's Bay. It provides the first surfable break and the first safe swimming beach (apart from Timaru's Caroline Bay) south of Banks Peninsula. The beach has a length of approximately two kilometres, and the southern end, known as All Day Bay, offers more shelter than the northern end, but with less surf. The sandy beach below the shingle spit north of the river mouth stretching toward Oamaru is safely swimmable. The beaches south of the main headland feature orange sand. The northern beach has white sand.
Kakanui's rich volcanic soil suits intensive horticulture. The township contains a number of glasshouses, primarily used for growing tomatoes, but also producing cucumbers and capsicums (bell peppers). Land surrounding the settlement (especially to the north towards the settlement of Totara) also features market gardens (often operated by Chinese New Zealanders) growing a wide range of vegetables. Kakanui has a particular reputation for its new-season potatoes, which sell throughout all New Zealand.
Kakanui was once a bustling port on the northern side of the river, with a hotel, blacksmith, meat works, and a post office. Kakanui's commerce declined after the railway was built inland, going through Maheno and with the advent of the frozen meat trade.
Kakanui is often named on maps as "Taranui". However, this name is not in use locally, nor is it evident on road signs. "Taranui" may be a naming error from early maps referring to a station farm of that name, located slightly inland from Kakanui.
- Quickstats about Kakanui