Things to do in Waikato

Waikato, a region in the North Island of New Zealand, is a land woven with rich cultural history and stunning natural landscapes. It stretches from the rugged west coast to the Coromandel Peninsula on the east, encompassing a diverse range of environments including lush forests, vibrant cities, and rolling farmland. The region is named after the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, which flows through its heart, providing vital resources and shaping the land throughout centuries.

The area is steeped in Māori heritage, with numerous marae (meeting grounds) and historical sites that offer insight into New Zealand’s indigenous culture. In addition to its cultural significance, Waikato is also known for its agricultural prowess, being one of the country’s leading dairy farming regions. This combination of natural beauty, rich history, and economic importance makes Waikato a unique and fascinating part of New Zealand to explore.

Don't miss...

  • Hobbiton Movie Set: Discover the enchanting village where scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed. Nestled in the rolling hills near Matamata, this magical location offers guided tours that take you behind the scenes of one of the most famous film sets in the world.
  • Waitomo Glowworm Caves: Experience an underground adventure as you glide through these ancient caves illuminated by thousands of glowworms. The Waitomo region offers various cave experiences including boat rides under starry worm-lit ceilings and thrilling black water rafting.
  • Hamilton Gardens: Explore an award-winning public garden that tells the story of gardens through themed collections. From traditional Maori gardens to Italian Renaissance settings, it’s a place where you can see how gardens have evolved across different civilizations.
  • Raglan: Known for its world-class surfing beaches like Manu Bay and Whale Bay, Raglan is not just a surfer’s paradise but also a great spot for those looking to enjoy beautiful black sand beaches or vibrant arts scene.
  • The Coromandel Peninsula: With its stunning beaches such as Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach where you can dig your own hot pool in the sand at low tide, this area offers breathtaking coastal walks and plenty of opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and snorkeling.
  • Skyline Rotorua: While technically just outside Waikato in Rotorua, this attraction is worth visiting for its gondola rides offering spectacular views over Lake Rotorua and geothermal areas. It also features a luge track for an exciting downhill ride.
  • Te Awa River Ride: Enjoy cycling or walking along this riverside path that runs alongside the mighty Waikato River. It connects Ngaruawahia in the north to Lake Karapiro in the south offering scenic views and picnic spots along its route.
  • Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari: This ecological island protected by a pest-proof fence offers visitors a chance to experience New Zealand’s native forest as it once was. Guided walks provide insights into conservation efforts while encountering native birds like kiwi.
  • The Classics Museum: A must-visit for car enthusiasts featuring a large collection of classic cars alongside themed diners that transport visitors back in time. Located in Hamilton, it’s perfect for those interested in automotive history.
  • Wairere Falls: Standing at 153 meters high near Matamata, these are the highest waterfalls in North Island offering challenging hikes up to viewing platforms where you can enjoy panoramic views over Waikato countryside.
  • Zealong Tea Estate: Visit New Zealand’s only commercial tea plantation near Hamilton to learn about tea production from field to cup. Enjoy high tea ceremonies or guided tours around their beautifully landscaped gardens.