In the early days of European settlement in coastal Bay of Islands there was only limited contact with the Maoris of the interior. Unlike other hapu who regularly visited the seashore for the purposes of gathering seafood supplies, it appears that the hapu of the central plateau, who had fishing rights in Lake Omapere, lived on their land almost all year around.
It was early missionary initiatives spearheaded by Maori Christians that resulted in the first known European settlers. The Rev Richard Davis and his wife Anne Davis were the first European Kaikohe residents when they arrived in 1845. In 1854 Anne, his second wife, died. The death of Anne, together with his arduous duties in the Kaikohe mission, preaching, teaching, gardening, keeping the peace, acting as doctor and feeling the grief of his people as their families succumbed to illness – all affected Rev Davis’s health. He struggled on for a few more months in Kaikohe, but returned to Waimate in April 1854 and died there in 1863.
It was on the basis of the gum trade that the town of Kaikohe was founded. The first gum prospectors were the Maori working the land in their own areas. By the 1860’s the market for gum was in a healthy state and European immigrants were arriving to join in the hunt.
In the 1880’s Europeans, lured by the trade in Kauri gum, soon established the town of Kaikohe in the centre of the mid-north gum fields. By 1890 eight European families were living in Kaikohe. Businesses were established and by 1892 there was a blacksmith's shop, wheelwright, storekeeper, saddler, photographer, auctioneer and boot and shoe maker. Kaikohe soon became the commercial centre for the gum trade. G F Dickeson and George Patterson had gum stores trading goods for gum, and the latter in 1894 built the Kaikohe Hotel.
When more land was opened up for settlement after 1911 the town grew rapidly. The railway from the south was extended to Kaikohe in 1914 which led to further dairy farming development of surrounding lands.
In 1914 Kaikohe became a riding of the Bay of Islands County Council. It was gazetted a town district in 1919 and remained dependent on the Bay of Islands County Council. In 1927 Kaikohe became an independent town district.
After the First World War returned servicemen settled there, and then in the Second World War it was a base for an American army hospital and air force bomber unit.
Electric power arrived in 1939.
The Airport, build by the American army, was opened in 1947. Also in 1947 Kaikohe became a Borough and in 1990 local government amalgamation took place with the headquarters for the Far North District being situated in Kaikohe. At the time, the Kaikohe Borough was the only member of the amalgamated Boroughs and Councils that was without debt.