The name "Kaponga" means "tree ferns used for palisades". Kaponga, nestled at the base of Mount Taranaki, is the closest village to Dawson Falls. The village was first settled in 1882. In 1883 a Star correspondent described Skeet Road as "impassable to traffic, a mere track made by throwing the felled timber to the sides, with stumps still sticking up above its surface and great roots running off in all directions".
In its heyday Kaponga had two cheese factories and was a busy, thriving community. Kaponga now has a population of approximately 300.
Kaponga has a strong Swiss community and is known as the Swiss Centre of New Zealand. In fact, some of the first settlers in the area were Swiss and in 1952 a Swiss Club was formed in the town.