Hamilton is home to some of the most popular attractions in New Zealand. Just south of Auckland lies the Waikato region; a land of lush pastures that was chosen to play the Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. There are plenty of underground wonders, black sand surf beaches and rolling green hills. This region is rich in offering nature-based activities and attractions surrounding a vibrant city hub. So, what are Hamilton’s hidden gems? Let’s find out!
1. Waikato, Hamilton
2. Waitomo Caves
4. Te Aroha
The Waikato is an exciting region in Northern New Zealand and home to many attractions such as the Hobbiton Movie set, the surfing beaches in the hub of Raglan and the Waitomo caves – only to name a few!
If you are after a bit of history, we recommend going to Ngaruawahia which is culturally significant for Maori of the Waikato region. It is the home of the Maori King and the magnificent Turangawaewae Marae. Located just north of Hamilton, Ngaruawahia hosts a number of important cultural events throughout the year including the annual regatta: open to the public once per year, it is a parade of traditional war canoes on the Waikato River. The Waikato is quite spread out, each area with its own exciting attraction. Adrenaline junky? Head to Karapiro for kayaking. Explorer? Head to Te Kuiti to ride along the epic Timber Trail cycle track. Ocean lover? Raglan is only 45 minutes
As much as there is to see above ground, below ground is just as exciting. Under the green hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and underground rivers. The name Waitomo is a traditional Maori name, meaning water (wai) hole (tomo). However you choose to explore the caves, you’ll get to experience first hand their beauty and agree they are a wonder of nature. The easiest way to explore the caves is a walking or boat tour. There are more adventure based activities such as black water rafting, abseiling or zip-lining through the darkness. How epic does that sound?
Once you’ve explored the caves, head to the Marokopa Falls and limestone Mangapohue Natural bridge which is a walkway beginning near the Waitomo Museum of Caves leading through farmlands where you can see natural New Zealand at its finest. If you’re a Hobbit fan, the nearby town of Piopio offers guided tours of the Denize Bluffs, a filming location seen on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
If you are a movie fanatic and have seen the film The Hobbit, Matamata is a must see location for you. With more than 44 unique hobbit holes (including Bilbo’s house), you’re able to wander through the heart of the Shire and hear all about how the movie was created. The movie setting is not all Matamata has on offer, you can discover the North Islands highest waterfall, Wairere Falls which spectacularly plunge 153m. The walking track showcases a diverse range of natural scenery and from the lookout you can see entire views over the valley and the Waikato Plains. Being only a 45 minute drive from Hamilton, an early start can give you a good day’s outing in Matamata without having to spend a lot of time on the road.
Te Aroha is a rural town sitting at the base of Mount Te Aroha. The town is home to many great local cafés, shops and artists, and just a short drive from other famous attractions such as Hobbiton. There are many hiking tracks up Mount Te Aroha which begin in the town, taking a total of around 3 hours to reach the summit, there are also trails around the base of the mountain. The town is full of old Edwardian-style buildings and also home to popular natural mineral spas. Head on behind the spa building and with a little patience you’ll find the world’s only natural hot soda water geyser, Mokena Geyser. So what’s the perfect way to enjoy your time in Te Aroha? No other way than to launch yourself onto one of the hiking trails up the mountain then recover with a long soak in a hot mineral pool.
These gems are all suitable for a weekend getaway, better yet, for a road trip to see them all at once. If you’re interested, check out what campervans we have on offer and other campervan travel tips to start planning your road trip away.