Waikato

New Zealand
Shakespeare Lookout showing a beach and a bay or harbour

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.

Popular cities in Waikato

Wairakei showing a hot spring
Wairakei
Known for Dining, Friendly people and Spas
Get close to volcanic wonders and experience the geothermal power of the center of New Zealand's picturesque North Island.

Reasons to visit

  • Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa
  • Craters of the Moon
  • Aratiatia Rapids
Waihi which includes landscape views, tranquil scenes and a small town or village
Waihi
Known for Swimming, Hiking and Biking
Take a scenic train ride, hike through a rugged gorge, learn about gold mining or go for a surf in this little-known place on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula.

Reasons to visit

  • Owharoa Falls
  • Martha Mine
  • Gilmour Reserve
Huka Falls which includes a bridge and rapids as well as a large group of people
Taupo
Known for Lakes, Spas and Family-friendly
Visit a beautiful lakeside town and venture into its surrounding volcanic countryside to see awesome natural wonders and to enjoy thrilling outdoor adventures.

Reasons to visit

  • Taupo Bungy
  • Taupo Museum and Art Gallery
New Zealand
Hamilton
Known for Family-friendly, River view and Gardens
Hamilton has the appeal of a country town and the cultural attractions of a city, and is close to many of New Zealand’s popular attractions on the North Island.

Reasons to visit

  • Hamilton Gardens
Thames which includes a house
Thames
Known for Tours, River view and Historical
Marvel at the beauty of this town’s setting in the Coromandel Peninsula, get your heart pumping on a canyoning trip, step back into gold mining history or buy some local artwork.
Cambridge featuring an administrative building and night scenes
Cambridge
Known for Gardens, Countryside and Tours
A visit to this tree-lined North Island town with its peaceful parks, boutique stores, cafés and scenic lakes is a pleasant day trip from Hamilton.