Waikato Wonders

The stunning Waikato region is home to a fabulous array of family activities to keep all ages happy and entertained these summer holidays.

Hobbiton Movie Set
Discover the most picturesque private farmland near Matamata, where you can visit the Hobbiton Movie Set which was rebuilt for the filming of The Hobbit Trilogy. Gain a first-hand insight into filming and the way things looked when shooting was in full swing and get up close with over 17 hobbit holes from the film including Bag End, Samwise Gamgee’s house and more. Knowledgeable tour guides provide a fascinating insight into how the movie set was created and what went on during the filming of both trilogies. 

Waitakaruru Arboretum and Sculpture Park
This 17.5-hectare arboretum sits on a hillside providing panoramic views over the fertile Waikato valley. The site contains intimate tree-enclosed spaces and interesting landforms including towering cliffs, rocks, a stream, many ponds, and small waterfalls. Along the 2 km nature trail you will discover more than 100 sculptures and installations. This art-in-nature experience aims to inspire imaginations, nourish curious minds, and provide for creative learning in an accessible wilderness environment. 

Mangapohue Natural Bridge
A short drive from Waitomo Village towards Marokopa is the Mangapohue Natural Bridge. The natural bridge is a 17-metre high limestone arch; the remains of an ancient cave system. Take a leisurely 5-minute stroll to the base of the natural bridge, or continue along the track for a 20-minute loop walk that takes in superb views of the natural bridge and gorge, stalactite-like formations, farmland and 25 million-year-old fossilised oysters that are exposed in the limestone outcrops. This easy walk is perfect for a weekend outing with family and friends.

Caving in Waitomo
Millions of years in the making, the world-famous caves in Waitomo provide a playground unlike any other that have been enthralling visitors since 1889. Rising from the sea about 30 million years ago, the subterranean wonders include stalagmites, stalactites and underground waterfalls. There are plenty of options on offer for the whole family, from gentle boat rides under galaxies of twinkling glowworms and walking tours of awe-inspiring limestone formations to a blood-pumping range of adventure activities. You can even do your bit for ‘cave troll’ conservation!

Bridal Veil Falls
A short drive from Raglan, the spectacular 55-metre high Bridal Veil Falls, also known as the Wairēinga Falls is a popular Waikato waterfall. An easy 10-minute walk through native bush, following the Pakoka River most of the way brings you to two viewing platforms at the top of the falls, both providing stunning vistas and ample photo opportunities of the plunging white falls flanked by grey rock and green bush. Looking down to the base of the waterfall, you will see soft sandstone rocks, worn away by the water to form a large amphitheatre.

Hamilton Gardens
Explore the magical and mysterious world of Hamilton Gardens. Fifty years ago, the site was a rubbish dump, and today it’s an award-winning attraction with a unique concept of telling the story of gardens throughout time. Boasting over 20 individually themed gardens, families will love to step into the new Alice in Wonderland-type garden, the Surrealist Garden with everything five times the standard scale. Let the children explore the garden-themed playground, with a treehouse and plenty of spaces to hide.

Hamilton Zoo
Home to over 600 native and exotic animals and set amidst 25 hectares of lush and tranquil surroundings, Hamilton Zoo is the destination for a memorable day out. As well as being home to many native and exotic animals, Hamilton Zoo boasts the largest free-flight aviary in New Zealand dedicated to native birds and plants. Get to know the animals during free daily “Meet the Keeper” talks. Hamilton Zoo is committed to inspiring conservation action through participation in various projects and contributing to breeding programmes for endangered species.

Bowl and Social
Located in the heart of Hamilton, SkyCity is the premier entertainment destination in the heart of the Waikato! With a world-class bowling alley and X-Golf simulator, there are activities to keep the whole family entertained for hours. Bowl and Social is Hamilton’s only Tenpin bowling alley with world-class bowling technology, TimeZone games and a brand new kitchen and bar serving up in-lane dining! With a range of dining and entertainment outlets, including EATBurger – voted the Waikato’s best burger – and The Local Taphouse, there is something for all tastebuds.

Waikato Museum
The Waikato region has a rich history, and there’s no better place to delve into it than at the Waikato Museum. You’ll find interesting exhibitions telling the stories of history, culture and science along with interactive and educational exhibits for children of all ages. Highlights include Exscite, an interactive gallery for kids that aims to foster a learning experience in an exciting and engaging environment. Te Whare Waka o Te Winika exhibition can also be found here which tells the story of Tainui and the King movement and includes the spectacular Te Winika – a 200-year-old Māori war canoe.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is the largest ecological island on mainland New Zealand. A haven for native wildlife and plants such as kiwi, kokako (wattlebird), tuatara and more, Maungatautari also provides great walking and hiking tracks. For a truly unique experience, guided night-time walks will open up another world – spot glowworms, weta and listen for the calls of the kiwi.

Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway
The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway contains water so pure it provides over 60 per cent of New Zealand’s bottled water. Follow the Waihou river on a track that heads through wetlands, pastoral land and features sights of small waterfalls, native bush and of course the famous Blue Spring, with glimpses of trout in the crystal clear waters. The Blue Spring walk takes about one and a half hours each way, starting from Whites Road (State Highway 28), near Putaruru. There is also a shorter walk, 15 minutes each way, to the Blue Spring, accessed from nearby Leslie Road.

For more information or other great ideas for a family break in the Waikato visit waikatonz.com