From rolling green hills to underground caves, this region of New Zealand is so lush and lovely it has attracted the attention of Hollywood movie producers.
Waikato lies just south of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island and boasts a landscape that ranges from rolling green hills to black-sand beaches and almost everything else in between. Soak in geothermal hot springs, explore underground caves and discover pleasant gardens, cute local wildlife and charming towns.
Take a guided tour around the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, which was used as the location for The Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Dig your own hot-water pool at the beach at Kawhia, where geothermally heated water bubbles up through the sand. Hot water slides can be found at Waingaro Hot Springs, while soothing mineral-water spas feature at Te Aroha.
Hear stories of Maori culture at the Waikato Museum, then take a stroll along the waterfront of the Waikato River to Hamilton Gardens. This collection of manicured gardens tells the story of gardens and garden design through the ages, each area themed around a different era. Enjoy a tea ceremony at Zealong, overlooking the country’s first oolong tea plantation on the outskirts of the city of Hamilton.
Go surfing in the town of Raglan, whose beautiful beaches are home to one of the longest left-hand breaks in the world. Take a boat ride into the underground caves of Waitomo to see the thousands of glowworms that reside there, or go black-water rafting through the cave network itself. Bush hikes will lead you to some of the region's many waterfalls, such as Bridal Veil Falls and Wairere Falls.
Visit the Otorohanga Kiwi House to see New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi, in its natural habitat. Take the children to SKYCITY Hamilton to enjoy a bowling alley, hundreds of arcade games and a selection of bars and restaurants.
Fly into Auckland Airport and then take a connecting flight to Hamilton, or ride one of the local long-distance buses. Rent a car to explore the beaches and towns at leisure.
With its cycling trails and walking routes, Waikato is filled with nature-based activities for all ages.