Once a Maori village named Opango, Kaikohe has been called the centre of the great northern Ngapuhi tribe. The site was inhabited by Ngapuhi moving eastward from the Hokianga Harbour along an old travelling track. It is also the homeland of the famous chief Hone Heke Pokai.
In the 19th century Opango was raided by a rival tribe and the fugitives survived by subsisting in the kohekohe groves on Tokareireia (Kaikohe Hill). After the battle the village became known as Kai (food) kohekohe (after the trees) - later shortened to Kaikohe.
Following the famous Russell flagstaff incident Hone Heke retired inland to Lake Omapere near Kaikohe, where he built a pa named Te Kahika.
The district was the scene of later fighting during the NZ Land Wars and historic battle sites still remain. St Michael's church was built on the pa site of the Battle of Ohaeawai and fallen English soldiers are buried in the grounds of this church on the main highway approach to Kaikhohe.
In the spirit of mana whenua, the highly popular Ngapuhi Festival is now held at Kaikohe and attracts thousands of participants - Ngapuhi or not!