Waikato is not the first name that comes to mind when talking about New Zealand. However, this region is home to a few must-sees, as well as little gems forgotten by tourists which will give a unique touch to your journey.
The Coromandel peninsula is one of the very popular regions among international tourists. But not only, as Aucklanders also love to spend the summer there, in their holiday home, or go camping by the sea. The coastline is gorgeous, from rocky escarpments to fine sand beaches, it is a perfect spot for swimming and enjoying water activities. Make sure however that you avoid the high season peak, as hotels and B&B book out a lot in advance for this time.
Beyond the must-sees – Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach only to mention a few – we recommend that you explore the western and central part of the peninsula. The Pinnacles hike offers a gorgeous immersion and close to Coromandel Town, you can discover Barry Brickell’s art. Barry was a passionate pottery artist, who built over the years a complete railway so he could go collect the clay from this property. The train is now open to the public and retraces his life and passion. The train also takes you through this endemic forest, that has been restored thanks to the benefits of this activity. Further south, in Waihi, you will find a gold mine, still in activity today, and immerse yourself in the region's rich mining heritage.
Farther west, if you are into off-the-beaten-track adventures, you will be delighted by Raglan. This surfers’ town also attracted artists who fled the city, and offers a lively and relaxed atmosphere, in a remarkable natural setting. Make sure you don’t miss the superb Manu Bay surf spot, and the Ruapuke black sand beach. This gorgeous beach seems like being cut off from the outside world, and is only accessible by a breath-taking panoramic road. A 30 minutes’ drive down South, you can admire the Bridal Veil Falls, which is 55 meters high and surrounded by beautiful native flora.
A little further south along the West Coast, you will reach Kawhia, known for its hot springs gushing out straight from the beach. This place will offer a unique experience, far from the hundreds of tourists in Hot Water Beach.
The Waikato is also home to excellent cycling trails, with in particular the Timber Trail, a two-day adventure that takes you through a native forest and the history of early pioneers’ logging. Along the country's longest river, you can also take the Waikato River trail, a beautiful immersion in unspoiled nature away from the crowds.
Finally, we cannot talk about Waikato without mentioning the famous Waitomo Caves, these caves are known for their impressive numbers of glow worms. These caves being very touristy and involving quite a detour, we prefer suggesting instead the Te Anau caves in the South Island which are much less crowded, or a night kayaking activity in the Tauranga region, to observe glow worms differently. However, if you are around, we can suggest that you discover a more confidential cave in a small group, with one of our Waitomo partners. You will be able to witness a moa’s skeleton, this bird is an extinct endemic species of ostrich, a truly unique experience!
Waikato is a vast and varied region, and has plenty of assets to offer. To discover all its beauty, an interesting option is to opt for staying several nights in a hub, a central location that will allow you to discover around. For instance, the small town of Matamata, where Hobbiton is located – one of the Lord of the Rings’ movie set – will be an excellent choice and will offer the opportunity for a beautiful immersion in the backcountry. The typical and perfectly located Cambridge will also be a lovely hub spot.
We had a brilliant time on the Routeburn and the organisation with the huts and transport went like clockwork. Many thanks for all of your support and...
Steve Williams, UK
Although my brother and I know we wanted to Journey across NZ, we didn't know exactly where to start. We had 5 weeks and we wanted to see as much as...
Nicholas James Foley, USA
OUAT organised a great trip on the Hollyford Track. The lodges were wonderful with the most decisions food. The guides really knowledgeable and friendly....
Susie and Alice Hoddell, UK