The peninsula is 21.7 kilometres (13.5 mi) long and 11.3 km (7 mi) wide. Its highest point is Rahuimokairoa (397 m (1,302 ft)) above sea level. Mahia was initially an island but over time,a sand bar joined it to the North Island. Whales often strand on the shallow sand build up.
Early whalers had a whaling station on the farm "Kini Kini", sheltered by "Long Point" on the west coast of the peninsula. Portland Island ('Waikawa') was named by Kahungunu when he visited there to look for fresh drinking water and only found salt water. Waikawa means "sour water". Waikawa is a small island off the southern tip of Mahia Peninsula with an unmanned lighthouse. The name Mahia means "indistinct sound".
The area is a popular seaside resort and contains a holiday park dating back to the 1960s. The remaining settlement consists mostly of holiday houses and baches. Sheep and cattle farms are still an important part for the local community, however the most important activity of the area is tourism. Mahia's population swells greatly during the warmer months and in particular during school holidays. Mahia is famous for its surf, scuba diving, hiking, and fishing. Many tourists stay in Napier, Hastings or Wairoa and travel to Mahia Peninsula for the day. Morere Hot Springs is located at the northern end of Mahia Peninsula.
In Maori legend, Whatonga who came to New Zealand in search of his grandfather Toi, settled at Mahia. The community these days is still generally a mix of Maori and European. The local Maori people are known as Ngāti Rongomaiwahine.
More recently Mahia has become famous for the presence of Moko the Dolphin.
The Rocket Lab company started to set up in 2016 a rocket range to launch its 'Electron' vehicle under development. Once in regular operations, it is meant to be used as a commercial launcher of a type miniature satellites called CubeSat.
- Ahuriri Point (Southernmost point of Mahia Peninsula)
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