Ten Best Things to See and Do in the Waikato

The Waikato region, just to the south of Auckland, has many great things to see and do. Don't be tempted to rush through on your way to Rotorua, Lake Taupo or the Bay of Plenty. Here are ten things you shouldn't miss when you're in the district. Officially, the Thames-Coromandel and Taupo districts are part of the Waikato region; however included here are activities only for the main (and less visited) part of the area.

  • 01 of 10

    Climb Mt Te Aroha

    View from the Top of Mt Te Aroha, Waikato
    Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

    Mt Te Aroha is the highest peak in the Kaimai Ranges which separate the Waikato from the Bay of Plenty. The walk starts and ends in Te Aroha town. From the peak the views are amazing, encompassing the Coromandel Ranges, the Bay of Plenty coast (including Mt Maunganui) and as far south as Lake Taupo.

  • 02 of 10
    Kauri Tub, Te Aroha Mineral Spa
    Image Courtesy of Te Aroha Mineral Spa

    After a day's hiking, there is nothing better than a soak at the Te Aroha mineral spa which sits at the base of Mt Te Aroha. There are both public pools and private spas, fed by the soda spring beneath the mountain.

  • 03 of 10

    Visit Hobbiton near Matamata

    Hobbit-house I-Site, Matamata
    Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

    The original Hobbiton movie set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies is located on farmland near the small town of Matamata. Visit here to take in the atmosphere of the original Hobbiton and Middle Earth. Daily tours are available, including from Auckland

  • 04 of 10

    Go Surfing at Raglan

    Ragland, Waikato
    Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

    Raglan is on the wild west coast of the North Island, just thirty minutes west of Hamilton. It is rated one of the best surf beaches in New Zealand and has the longest left-hand break in the world.

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  • 05 of 10

    Walk or Cycle the Waikato River Trails

    Waikato River Trail
    Image Courtesy of Waikato River Trail

    The Waikato River Trails is part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail, Nga Haerenga, which is a network of trails throughout the country. This trail extends nearly 100 kilometers along the banks of the Waikato River. It begins near Lake Karapiro to the south of Cambridge and ends near the Atiamuri Dam. The trail is broken into sections, of varying difficulty.

  • 06 of 10

    Walk in the Hamilton Gardens

    Hamilton Gardens, Waikato
    Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

    The Hamilton Gardens are made up of a collection of smaller gardens and are a world class place to visit. They are on the southern part of Hamilton City, on the banks of the Waikato River. Entry is free.

  • 07 of 10

    Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail

    Hauraki Rail Trail
    Image Courtesy of Hauraki Rail Trail

    Also part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail, Nga Haerenga, this follows an old railway line and is an easy yet lovely ride. Several sections pass through the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty regions (including the beginning and the end) but there is a section near Te Aroha in the Waikato.

  • 08 of 10

    Boat or Waterski on Lake Karapiro

    Boating on Lake Karapiro
    Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

    Lake Karapiro is a part of the Waikato River which became widened into a 'lake' with the construction of one of the many dams along the river. It is popular with all sorts of water sports and is regarded as one of New Zealand's best rowing venues. The lake is situated just south of Cambridge, to the south of Hamilton.

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  • 09 of 10

    Explore the Waitomo Caves

    The Waitomo Caves in New Zealand.
    Stefan Schurr stockphotography / Getty Images

    The Waitomo caves are world famous for their glowworms and magnificent galleries of stalactites, stalagmites, and other limestone formations. One of the best ways to see the caves is on an organized tour, which includes a boat ride underneath the glowworms themselves.

  • 10 of 10
    Image Courtesy of New Zealand Tourism

    This is the largest collection of reptiles and native birds in New Zealand. It is also one of the best places to see the elusive kiwi bird. It's a short fifteen minute drive north of the Waitomo Caves.

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