Waikato, the longest river in New Zealand, rolls through the rich, green farmland of the King Country.
The river has provided food and means of transport for Tainui Maori for centuries. For holiday-makers, the river and the hydro-lakes strung along it provide fantastic spots for rowing, kayaking, water-skiing and fishing.
Hamilton Gardens, photo: Hamiltonwaikato.com
In Hamilton, stroll, bike or run beside the water on the Waikato River Walkway. If you’re in the city then visit Hamilton Gardens, perfect for picnics or a gentle wander through beautiful themed gardens - from the Italian Renaissance to the Japanese Garden of Contemplation. For the largest walk-through aviary in N.Z. visit Hamilton Zoo, home to over 600 mammals, birds and reptiles. Waikato Museum has a great collection relating to the tribes of Tainui, as well as social and local history collections and activities for children.
Venturing further afield, the region is world-famous for the Waitomo caves, a subterranean wonderland of stalactites and glowworms. Cave experiences range from a 45 minute tour with a gentle boat ride and commentary, to more adventurous pursuits such as black water rafting through caves on an inner tube, squeezing through tunnels, abseiling or zip-lining.
Raglan - sunsets, sea and surf
Raglan, Whale Bay, photo: Bookabach/26004
On the coast, Raglan has a legendary surf-break, beautiful beaches and a holiday feel. There are good cafes, craft shops and eateries, and a lovely harbour.
Further south, there’s the unspoilt coastal settlement of Kawhia to explore, the final resting place of the great ocean-going canoe, Tainui. While the peaceful waters of Kawhia’s harbour provide safe swimming and fishing, there’s the hot spring bubbling out of the sand to lure you to Kawhia’s wilder Ocean Beach.
The Waikato area offers stunning, scenic trails, to hike or mountain bike. Tramp in Pureora Forest Park and see buried forest, left by the eruption that formed Lake Taupo. Or walk in Maungatautari Ecological Reserve and watch endangered native bird species flit about. In the South Waikato, wander beside the stunningly clear waters of the Waihou Stream to see the famous Blue Spring. For tremendous views, there’s Mount Pirongia to traverse, or Mount Te Aroha to hike or mountain bike, with the historic mineral hot pools in the township below to ease your weary muscles afterwards.
Where to stay
What to do
- Climb to the summit of Mt Pirongia
- Explore the Paradise Collection at Hamilton Gardens
- Soak in Te Aroha’s pretty thermal pools
- Bike the Waikato River Trails
- Drift beneath the sparkling glowworms in Waitomo Caves
- Go surfing in Raglan
- Watch native birds from the canopy tower at Maungatautari
- Dig your own hot pool at low tide on Kawhia’s Ocean Beach
- www.hamiltonwaikato.com - Hamilton Waikato Tourism site
- Department of Conservation - Waikato region walking tracks
- NZ Cycle Trail - Waikato River Trails