Hamilton & Waitomo

An Underground World

On the surface, Waikato is a lush, green pastoral land. The rolling hills and woodlands inspired Peter Jackson to build his version of the shire among the verdant hills for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Below the surface, vast wonders have been carved into the native limestone by millions of years of water. Home to vast underground caverns, huge sink holes and underground rivers, the green and pleasant land attracts adventure seekers of all ages.

Situated right in the heart of the North Island, Hamilton, the main city of the Waikato region, is a fast-growing hub full of cool cafes and hot nightlife. The city straddles the Waikato River, the longest in New Zealand, and is home to kayaks and boat tours on a sunny day. Each March, the riverside town of Ngaruawahia hosts a spectacular regatta which includes a public parade of traditional war canoes.

The small, sleepy village of Waitomo is where the real adventure lies, home to a series of underground caverns full of Glow worms and spectacular limestone sculptures. The caves offer all sorts of adventure experiences, including black-river rafting, underground abseiling and many other spelunking delights.

The region is also packed with volcanic hot pools, a hot-water beach and hot-water slides.

Insiders' Tips

  • Waingaro Hot Springs: Just near Ngaruawahia has New Zealand’s longest open hot-water slides.
  • The Woodlyn Park Motel, Waitomo: This Motel has an odd collection of buildings; you can spend the night in a ship, a plane, a train or your very own Hobbit Hole.
  • The Waitakaruru Arboretum and Sculpture Park: Features between 60–90 sculptures along a 2km nature trail.
  • Watch a Rugby Game: Rugby is a religion in these parts, and if you are travelling through, the region on a winter weekend it won't be hard to find a game.
  • Hot Water Beach: Head to the end of Ocean Beach, Kawhia at low tide and find your own bubbling hotspring in the ocean!
  • Kiwiana: Otorohanga is the capital of Kiwiana i.e. all things Kiwi. Follow the Kiwiana walk through the undercover walkway.

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