If you’re on the lookout for something new to do this year, or next, then look no further than the Mighty Waikato! Encompassing so many amazing experiences and things to do, we’ve pulled together our top highlights which you should add to your bucket list!
The Hamilton Gardens are perhaps one of the most paramount pieces of exhibition in the Waikato, quietly and unassumingly tucked away in the south of Hamilton. Sitting poignantly on the banks of the Waikato River, the site includes enclosed thematic gardens, open lawns, a lake, a nursery and a convention centre. Each garden you walk through hosts a different theme and style, ranging from Grecian to Tudor, to Alice in Wonderland! Travel Adviser Tanya Chaffey from Chaffey & Turner Travel Associates in Tauranga notes that “In the Alice in Wonderland themed garden there is a spot next to the gate and wheelbarrow where you can pose for beautiful pictures and capture the full wonder of the garden behind you!” If you visit on the weekends, you might even be fortunate enough to catch local performers acting out scenes in the various gardens. The most common of these being Tudor-style theatre in the Tudor Garden - definitely an experience you must see!
This experience can be made even better with guided tours of the gardens with local experts. This all-seasons experience allows you to understand the rich and beautiful history behind the gardens, and to understand the different themes and how volunteers care for the garden.
For a touch of natural wilderness, then the Wairere Falls are not to be missed. Featuring lush New Zealand forest, with a gorgeous waterfall - which flows proudly if there has been sufficient rain but is beautiful either way - the falls are one of the natural wonders of the Waikato region. Michelle Sutton from Sutton & Turner Travel Associates in Howick recently visited the falls and notes, “The climb to the top is tough, but very worth it as you’ll find pools to dip in at the top, and the most incredible views across the Hauraki plains!”
Located just a 10-minute drive from Matamata, these falls are the tallest in the North Island and are a sight not to be missed!
Take an adventurous tubing trip
Few things are as exhilarating as water-based activities, and this is something that the Waikato can offer in abundance! Tubing trips allow you to brave the waters and do everything from floating through caves of glow worms, through to jumping off rocks into deep pools. Not for the faint-hearted, these types of adventurous activities are something of a siren-song for Tanya Chaffey from Chaffey & Turner Travel Associates who notes, “I’ve done several tubing trips now, and have LOVED them. Whether it’s jumping off rocks into deep pools in the dark or floating through pitch black caves with just the glow worms twinkling softly above you, these experiences are meditative and therapeutic!” If you’re seeking to get in touch with your wild side and embrace a more daring activity in the near future, then this is the perfect thing to add to your itinerary.
Some of these adventures go through dark and small spaces, and whilst prior caving experience is not usually required, it is recommended that you discuss this with your Travel Adviser prior to booking to ensure you're able to get the most out of your experience!
Te Aroha's Mineral Hot Pools
The rural township of Te Aroha in the Waikato region is a quintessential kiwi town. With rugged, wild adventures aplenty, as well as modest accommodations, family-run eateries and local events including performances from local troupes and pop-up bookshops, you’ll be charmed by the captivating wonder of this town. Nestled subtly at the base of Mount Te Aroha however sits the famed Te Aroha Mineral Springs. Renowned for their healing properties since the 1800s you can soak away all stress and concern in one of the many wooden tubs, or even let an experienced spa therapist massage out all the stress. Michelle Sutton from Sutton & Turner Travel Associates in Howick similarly notes that “Te Aroha is a quaint town with a lot of rich history, particular with its mineral hot pools. The water temperature is ideal, and it is so relaxing to sink into a soothing tub!”
Booking is essential, given the popularity of these springs, and so it is highly recommended that you allow time for it within your itinerary!
Lake Karapiro Twilight Kayak
When it comes to looking at night-time adventures, Michelle Sutton from Sutton & Turner Travel Associates in Howick has had an experience quite unlike any other! “On a recent trip, I had a weekend in Cambridge. We decided to try something different and went out for a night kayak on Lake Karapiro underneath a beautiful clear sky. We kayaked around a bit and sought out glow worms which glowed even more beautifully by night - such an incredible experience.” Setting off from the southern end of Lake Karapiro, crossing over the old submerged Horahora village, you’ll experience a truly magical evening as you float through the serenity of a canyon that has been carved out by the tide over hundreds of years and that is surrounded by the sparkling glow worms. Learn about the history of the region as you paddle along, whilst you enjoy the quiet of twilight and the gentle lap of the water against your kayak.
This must be booked in advance, and needs to be seen to be believed! It is recommended that you bring some warm clothing, and that you be prepared to be dazzled!
Go on an adventure to the Shire!
Not to be forgotten, the Waikato also boasts the fully-established and explorable Hobbiton experience! Get lost in a world of fantasy and fall in love with the meticulous attention to detail on the tiny Hobbit Holes (houses). Capture a shot of you farming, chatting on one of the many bridges or even emerging from one of the houses to check the mail! Plus, most tours finish up at the Green Dragon Pub from the films, with a complimentary beverage to really help you feel part of the set. If you’re looking to go a step further and carve out your own story in middle earth, you can also attend night-time sessions complete with a feast fit for a King (or Queen) to help you really embrace the mysticism, magic and fantasy of this world that lies within reach!
Bookings here are also essential, so we recommend that you speak to your Travel Adviser about adding it on as part of your itinerary!
No matter how you wish to see it - whether on an adventure, soaking up relaxation or even floating through glowing caves - there's so much for you to see and do in the Mighty Waikato. Do something different on your next New Zealand getaway and look to explore more of Beautiful Aotearoa, starting right here.