Waikouaiti and Karitane are located half an hours scenic drive from Dunedin City on the East Coast of the South Island. Oral Maori tradition places Waitaha settlement of the area prior to the 15th Century. A Whaling Station was established in 1830 at the Mouth of the Waikouaiti River and then in 1840 Johnny Jones set about establishing the first official agricultural settlement in Otago. In the 1858 Gold Rush, prospectors from all over the world swarmed ashore from Port Waikouaiti. Today the area is a haven for fishing, surfing, boating, golfing, tramping, horse riding, kayaking, biking, bird and wildlife watching.
Huirapa Marae is the Kai Tahu (Mana Whenua of the area) Marae, which is situated at Puketeraki overlooking Karitane. The marae is very active and contributes a great deal to the community. It is frequently used by groups from outside the area for marae visits.
Waikouaiti's population has remained stable over the last 10 years. Waikouaiti has a Community Centre (Events Centre), a primary school with a roll of 90 (2010), fire station, police station, doctors' rooms, library, a, veterinarian, boarding kennels, a golf club, a DCC landfill, rugby club, camping ground, holiday accommodation, fantastic beach, a grassy Domain, a lagoon, river, museum and a racecourse. These contribute to the lives of Waikouaiti's residents, and volunteer working groups that have formed.
Waikouaiti's location on State Highway One contributes to the township's commercial activity. Businesses here include a grocery store, market gardens and horticulture, a bakery, butcher, saddler, hardware store, garages, a fish and chip shop, second hand stores, hotel, a cafe, clothing store, and art gallery. Waikouaiti also has a large egg producing poultry farm. Waikouaiti also serves a service centre for the nearby Oceana Gold Mine.