HAMILTON - WAIKATO
Just south of Auckland lies the Hamilton-Waikato region; a land of lush pastures that was chosen to play The Shire in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.
Well-known for its underground wonders, black sand surf beaches and rolling green hills, the Hamilton - Waikato region of New Zealand offers a wealth of nature-based activities and attractions surrounding a vibrant city hub.
If you’re a Tolkien fan, drive east to Matamata and visit Hobbiton Movie Set, the amazing Hobbit-sized village created for the movies.
For a magical underground experience, drive south to Waitomo Caves, where the natural beauty of stalactites and stalagmites lit by the blue light of glowworms will take your breath away; or for those seeking more of an adrenalin rush, black water rafting and abseiling are not to be missed.
Known for its scenic diversity, the Hamilton & Waikato region offers a myriad of options for those keen on walking, hiking and cycling, from casual strolls along the Waikato River to overnight bush excursions and winding mountain biking tracks. A popular spot is Maungatautari Ecological Reserve, which allows walkers to experience the New Zealand forest as it was hundreds of years ago, thanks to the special predator-free environment.
The city of Hamilton boasts stunning gardens, plentiful shopping and a popular nightlife and restaurant scene including award-winning eateries and exciting entertainment. With abundant accommodation, Hamilton is the perfect base for exploring the wider region.
Surrounded by water and bush and watched over by the majestic Mount Karioi Raglan offers a breathtaking view from every corner. Raglan is the region’s great chill out spot. The town was judged to be “New Zealand’s Best Looking Town” by Lonely Planet guidebooks. Drawn by its relaxed vibe, superb waves and rugged landscape Raglan is a popular destination for artists, surfers and local weekend holidaymakers alike. Raglan’s bohemian atmosphere and idyllic coastal setting makes it the perfect spot to while away an afternoon browsing amongst the boutique cafes and shops, lazing on the beach or kayaking on the harbour. While those with more adventurous activities in mind can take a short drive from the town to the beaches that make the area a surfing mecca, including Manu Bay which has one of the longest left-hand breaks in the world.
The harbour provides a tranquil spot for kayaking, stand up paddle-boarding or a harbour cruise or if it’s the wild untamed nature of the west coast you’re after there is plenty of that on offer too, either on foot, on horseback or on a fishing boat. While inland, Bridal Veil Falls, which plunges 55m, is an inspiring sight when you take the walk to the pools below.
With all this natural beauty, it’s no wonder that artisans and creative people flock to the area. This creativity is on show in the town’s galleries, studios and markets, and buying a souvenir usually also means buying something distinctively local and all the more memorable.