Waikato is an enchanting pocket of New Zealand where you can walk along black-sand beaches, explore subterranean caves and visit a legendary set from “The Lord of the Rings”. Enjoy art, culture and cuisine in the vibrant capital city of Hamilton and get your pulse racing with adventure activities and nature-based experiences.
Things to do in Waikato
Set on the Waikato River, Hamilton is a gateway to the region. The vibrant city centre is packed with trendy cafes, bars and restaurants. Meet hundreds of exotic animals at Hamilton Zoo and stroll through one of the biggest walk-through aviaries in the country. Be transported to England, Japan, Italy and beyond at Hamilton Gardens, a 50-hectare park that takes design cues from countries around the world. Stroll around the Char Bagh Garden inspired by the Taj Mahal and learn about Māori plants and flowers in the Te Parapara Garden.
Glowworm Cave captures the magic of the Waikato region. After walking past shimmering stalactites and stalagmites, you’ll enter the Cathedral, an enormous limestone cavern with incredible acoustics. Tours end with a boat ride along the underground river. No need for torches – thousands of twinkling glow worms light up the way.
Live out your Middle Earth fantasies with Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tours. It’s one of the few official film sets used in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and is just as amazing in real life. Peer into adorable hobbit houses with grass-covered roofs, flower-filled gardens and circular wooden doors. Wrap up the tour with a drink at the atmospheric Green Dragon Inn.
Hit speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour on a jet boat ride along the Waikato River. Hang tight as the captain pulls off 360-degree spins and thrilling turns. Slow down the pace on the well-marked trail to Wairere Falls. At more than 150 metres tall, it’s one of the most impressive waterfalls on the North Island. Watch as the falls cascade down a rocky cliff and into a natural pool surrounded by lush ferns and moss-covered rocks.
Getting around Waikato
Rental cars offer the freedom to explore Waikato at your own pace. Trains run between Waikato and Auckland in 2.5 hours. Buses can be a good way to get around Waikato and visit local sights and attractions. Hamilton Airport is a gateway to the Waikato region.