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Pirongia Sunset | © ItravelNZ/Flickr
Pirongia Sunset | © ItravelNZ/Flickr

20 Must-Visit Attractions in Waikato, New Zealand

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 7 September 2017

The upper North Island region of Waikato was named after the longest river in New Zealand. The area is surrounded by rural landscapes, lush forests, as well as natural and man-made attractions. From urban must-sees to active must-dos, here are 20 places in the region that everyone should visit.


If you’re a die-hard Tolkien fan, the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata needs no introduction. A quick drive from Auckland or Hamilton is all it takes to access this wonderful recreation of Middle Earth.

Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Caves have everything one could ask for – adventurous activities like caving, canyoning and rafting, as well as a relaxed underground cruise along its famous glowworm-lit caverns.

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves | © Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr

Hamilton Gardens

The Hamilton Gardens’ unique concept – which is closer to a garden-based history exhibit than a botanic garden in the strictest of terms – entices nature lovers of all kinds to delve into its magnificent public parkland.

Hamilton Gardens | © Louis Tan/Flickr

Bridal Veil Falls

The Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls are located near the town of Raglan. An easy walk up a well-formed track will give you a glimpse of these majestic falls in all their 55-metre glory.

Bridal Veil Fall, New Zealand | © Holgi/Pixabay

Wairere Stream

The Wairere Stream near Matamata is surrounded by small wooden bridges, wondrous native trees, cascades and an impressive waterfall. As such, the area is quite popular among nature-loving hikers too.

Wairere Stream | © russellstreet/Flickr

The Blue Springs at Te Waihou Walkway

In recent years, Te Waihou Walkway has seen a surge in popularity because of the beautiful bright blue coloured springs that run alongside it.

Te Waihou Walkway view of Putaruru’s Blue Spring | © cool_spark/Flickr

The Waikato River

The Waikato River runs through 425 kilometres (264 miles) of the North Island, rising in the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu and emptying into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato just south of Auckland.

Waikato River | © russellstreet/Flickr

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo lies right in the midst of Waikato River, and is New Zealand’s largest lake by surface. It sits in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano, and is a quite a travel hot-spot in the warmer months.

Lake Karapiro

Lake Karapiro is an artificial reservoir on the Waikato River. Located just 30 kilometres (19 miles) south-east of Hamilton, the lake is highly regarded as one of New Zealand’s best rowing competition venues.

Lake Karapiro | © Floyd Wilde/Flickr

Ngarunui Beach, Raglan

Raglan is a town that’s famous for its coastal treasures. Ngarunui, with its rugged shorelines and turbulent waves, is a picturesque beach that is particularly attractive to surfers.

Raglan Ngarunui Beach | © Florian Bugiel/Flickr

Kawhia’s Hot Water Beach

The town of Kawhia’s best kept secret: a largely-secluded beach with its own, natural, hot water spa. Start with a dip in the cool Pacific Ocean, and finish things off by digging a hole in the sand to enjoy the reinvigorating warm waters.

Te Puia Springs, Kawhia | © ItravelNZ/Flickr

Otorohanga Kiwi House

As its name suggests, Otorohanga Kiwi House is a must-visit for anyone wanting to see New Zealand’s most famous native bird, as well as a number of other avian species, from up close.

Otorohanga Kiwi House | © ItravelNZ/Flickr 

Hamilton Zoo

While we’re on the topic of wildlife, Hamilton Zoo is another regional gem that all animal lovers should have on their radar.

Kereru (New Zealand Wood Pidgeon) at the Hamilton Zoo | © russellstreet/Flickr

Tirau’s Corrugated Iron Buildings

On the prowl for something unique and quirky? The town of Tirau is known for having a gigantic castle, along with a cool collection of corrugated iron buildings.

Giant Corrugated Iron Sheep, Tirau | © Tony Hisgett/Flickr

Arapuni Swing Bridge

The Arapuni Swing Bridge stretches across a bush-lined gorge as it connects to the Arapuni Dam. It was built in the 1920s and is currently one of the main highlights of the Waikato River Trails.

Arapuni Swing Bridge | © russellstreet/Flickr

Pirongia Forest Park

Pirongia Forest Park is the largest forested area close to Hamilton. Along with comprising a large variety of plants and animal species, the area is also home to the Kaniwhaniwha Caves, as well as its namesake Mt Pirongia.

Pirongia Sunset | © ItravelNZ/Flickr


The Waikato region has plenty of history to share. Ongarue, for instance, is renowned for its largely unchanged tramway and spiral.


Maungatautari is an eroded andesitic volcano near the Waikato town of Cambridge. It is also the site of one of New Zealand’s most significant ecological restoration projects.

Maungatautari, New Zealand | © Michael Coghlan/Flickr

Mangapohue Natural Bridge

While we’re on the subject of natural wonders, the remarkable rocky formations that carved the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, in Waitomo, are bound to amaze all passing travellers.

Mangapohue Natural Bridge | © ItravelNZ/Flickr

The Kaimai Range

And we finish things off with the luscious Kaimai Range, which is part of the forested area that divides the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions.

Kaimai Range | © ItravelNZ/Flickr