The King Country, which lies to the south of the Waikato, gets its name from the Maori King Movement. This movement was formed by a number of North Island tribes who felt that the only way to stop further European encroachment on their lands was to stop feuding among themselves and to unite under a common leader.
Potatau I was proclaimed the first Maori King in 1858. Today the movement is led by Queen Te Ata-i-rangi-kaahu, who has her base at Ngaruawahia. During the land wars, the King Country was a refuge for those Maori who were struggling against colonial rule and for many years afterwards it was strictly off-limits for any Europeans. It was not until the 1880s that local chiefs finally allowed the region to be surveyed and the first European settlers were able to enter the area without fear for their safety.
Physically, the King Country has more in common with the Coromandel than the Waikato. The terrain is very rugged with many areas still covered by a luxuriant blanket of native forest. The principal towns are Otorohanga, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui.