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7 Reasons to Experience the Magic of the Mighty Waikato

Famous for its rolling hills and lush countryside, the Waikato region is a jewel in the crown of the North Island.

Whatever you’re into, you’ll find heaps to explore here, from world-famous gardens in the beautiful city of Hamilton, to incredible outdoor adventures, adrenaline-packed experiences and some of NZ’s best surfing.

Here are seven of our favourite reasons to visit magical Waikato.

1.   Hobbiton Movie Set

A view over the Hobbiton™️ Movie Set is seen through the circular door of a hobbit hole as morning mist envelops green rolling hills in the near distance
Hobbiton™️ Movie Set, Waikato.

Take a journey to Middle Earth to explore the world’s largest and most iconic movie set at Hobbiton. This 12-acre marvel was used to film both The Lord of the Rings and movie trilogies, and today you can take an incredible guided tour of its rolling valleys to see what Hobbit life is like at Bilbo’s place at Bag End, then cap off your tour with an ale by the fire or in the beer garden at the legendary Green Dragon Inn… or feast like a Hobbit with one of their delicious dining experiences.

2.   Waitomo Glowworm Caves

a man standing at the front of a small boat points to the roof of a cave illuminated by the glow of thousands of glow worms as guests watch on
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waikato.

Leave the bright lights of the city behind and wonder at a totally unique natural light show in the subterranean wonderland at Waitomo. The caves here are home to thousands of tiny glowworms, found only in New Zealand. Inside, you can bask in the amazing blue glow of the glowworm grotto as you take a magical boat ride down the river, with storytelling provided by your expert local guide. Truly unmissable. For the more adventurous, black water rafting, abseiling and ziplining are also on offer in this underground playground.

3.   Raglan

Two people are seen in silhouette as they stand on a green pasture in front of a view of the ocean and black sand beaches of Raglan, New Zealand
Raglan, Waikato.

Aotearoa’s coolest beach town is home to one of the longest left-hand surf breaks in the world. Raglan is beloved for its laid-back vibe, artistic community, and great cafes and bars to explore in town. And there’s plenty of walks and adventures to get into in the beautiful green countryside that surrounds this idyllic place. Perhaps New Zealand’s best kept secret, a visit to Raglan is one that will live long in your memory.

4.   Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

Ranger Craig holds a native Kiwi in his hands at Sanctuary Mountain, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain, Waikato.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is both a remarkable achievement and an unblemished paradise—at 3400 hectares, it’s the largest fenced nature sanctuary in New Zealand. With its 47km long pest-proof fence keeping out predators, the sanctuary is home to a wide variety of native flora and fauna, including Kiwi and Tuatara that thrive in this special place. With over 400 dedicated volunteers helping to preserve the environment on the maunga (mountain), this is a happy place for any nature lover. Various guided tours of the forest and wetlands are available.

5.   Hamilton Gardens

An ornate and immaculately kept garden with box hedges and white walls in the Italian Renaissance Garden at Hamilton Gardens, Waikato, New Zealand
Hamilton Gardens, Waikato.

Likened to a living museum, a breathtaking selection of themed gardens wow more than a million visitors each year at Hamilton Gardens. With more than 25 immaculately crafted gardens to explore, it’s little wonder this award-winning collection is known by garden lovers all over the globe. Take a journey through time and take in gardens inspired by cultures from Italy to India, England to Japan and beyond, or marvel at the new Surrealist Garden where things are five times their normal size. We recommend allowing a few hours for your visit to NZ’s most stunning gardens.

6.   Waikato River

A man and a woman stand on a balcony overlooking the Waikato River as evening sun touches the riverbanks on either side of the river
Waikato River, Waikato.

The mighty Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest, flowing from Mount Ruapehu, through Lake Taupō to the legendary Huka Falls and out to the sea at Port Waikato. So, where will your river adventure take you? Kayaking under a glowworm galaxy on one of the river’s hydro lakes? Family-friendly jetboat rides near Cambridge? Or perhaps cycling across suspension bridges and boardwalks on the Waikato River Trails? The choice is yours.

7.   A city escape in Hamilton

Two women walk along a decked promenade next to the Waikato River in central Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Hamilton, Waikato.

Explore cosmopolitan Hamilton at your own pace, and soak up the history and vibrant culture of the beating heart of the central North Island. Take a river cruise and enjoy lunch by the waterfront, explore the city’s laneways and micro-breweries or indulge in the signature high tea at Zealong Tea Estate, where you’ll find gourmet treats served with traditional teas, and incredible views over the green pastures of Waikato.

Book your trip to the Mighty Waikato today and see why this is the place where magic runs deep.

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