RTO Highlight - Hamilton & Waikato Tourism

HWT05 Hamilton Gardens Char Bagh 1 website

A warm welcome awaits visitors in the Waikato – a place of natural beauty, powerful history, and out-of-this-world experiences.

The Waikato is conveniently situated in the central North Island, and its metropolitan hub, Hamilton, is the fourth largest city in New Zealand.

With range of activities and attractions - from Middle-earth movie magic, gourmet delights, and world-class surf breaks to underground wonders and some of New Zealand’s most well-loved trails, tracks and experiences dotted throughout its lush scenery - there is something to suit all ages and tastes. 

In the heart of the Waikato countryside, quietly hidden behind green rolling hills, is a place unlike any other – Hobbiton™ Movie Set; the permanent set created for the The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies.

Visitors to Hobbiton Movie Set can take a tour of the permanent set past the 41 Hobbit Holes™, including Bag End, hear all about how the set was created, and behind the scenes stories from filming and even go inside a Hobbit home - designed and crafted by the creative teams behind the film trilogies. Explore the detailed interiors of Bagshot Row for a glimpse into the charming dwellings of Hobbits going about daily life in the Shire. 

An hour south of Hamilton, the mystical world of Waitomo awaits. Millions of years in the making, Waitomo’s visually awe-inspiring cave network draws people looking for adventure and those looking for a sense of wonder. 

Guided tours like those at Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Spellbound take visitors underground to experience the wonders of the caves where myriad glowworms sparkle and stories of exploration are told. Caving options range from easy walking tours exploring limestone cave formations and galaxies of twinkling glowworms to more adventurous like blackwater rafting with the Legendary Blackwater Rafting Co and subterranean ziplining and abseiling at Waitomo Adventures. 

Above ground has just as much to offer with great eateries and short walks including Marokopa Falls and Ruakuri Bush Walk to name a few. 

The rich natural environment of the Waikato is a dream come true for visitors who like to get out into the great outdoors, whether it is to take a gentle stroll, or go hiking or biking. The region is ribboned with trails including Te Awa River Ride and two Great Rides of New Zealand -the Timber Trail and Hauraki Rail Trail. Riverside Adventures offer bike hire (including e-bikes) and shuttles across the Waikato trails. 

Must do walks include the Hakarimata Summit Track near Ngaruawahia- where visitors take on the 1,349 steps to the summit, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari - a unique native wildlife reserve surrounded by the world’s largest pest-proof fence and Wairere Falls, the highest waterfall in the North Island. 

Telling the story of gardens through themed garden collections, the award-winning Hamilton Gardens explores different civilisations, and recreates historically important garden styles from the farthest reaches of the world such as the Italian Renaissance Garden, traditional Māori Te Parapara Garden and Indian Char Bar Garden. 

With its relaxed vibe, superb waves and rugged landscape Raglan is a popular destination for artists, surfers and local weekend holiday makers alike.

Travellers can while away an afternoon browsing amongst the boutique cafes and shops, lazing on the beach or enjoying fish ‘n’ chips fresh from the wharf. Those with water activities in mind can enjoy swimming, kayaking, stand up paddle-boarding or a sunset cruise in the harbour with Raglan Boat Charters, or take a short drive from the town to the beaches that make the area a surfing mecca and has one of the longest left-hand surf breaks in the world. 

Fresh, seasonal, locally grown, artisanal - and irresistibly delicious, the Waikato is a gourmet paradise with a wide array of foodie experiences. From top cafes and restaurants and the numerous farmers' markets to award-winning cheese, ice cream and other dairy products, seasonal asparagus or strawberries and blueberries and locally produced wine and craft beer. 

The Waikato is also host to a number of outstanding annual events like the Hamilton Arts Festival Toi Ora ki Kirikiriroa, the New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays and the spectacular Balloons over Waikato. 

Always far from the ordinary, the Waikato is a magical place to play, relax, connect and explore – a welcoming region where the people keep it real – and experiences become unreal.