The Waikato is in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island. It is the fertile basin that straddles the Waikato River, and stretches from Raglan on the rugged west coast to Paeroa in the east. The region is amongst the richest farmland in the world, and is noted chiefly for its dairy farming and its thoroughbred racehorses.
Hamilton is the main centre of the region. Built on the banks of the Waikato River, it was originally a military settlement but is now a service centre for the surrounding region. Hamilton has an abundance of shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, several lovely parks & gardens, an excellent zoo, museum and historic buildings.
Mystery Creek is the location for the national Field Days; this is the largest agricultural show in the southern hemisphere and attracts over 115,000 visitors every June.
Nearby Raglan on the west coast is a surfing Mecca. The town itself is picturesque and has a selection of arts and craft shops and cafes.
Waitomo Caves, to the south of Hamilton, are a popular tourist destination. They offer visitors amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations, a glow worm grotto, and for the more adventurous, abseiling and black water (underground) rafting.
Also south of Hamilton is the picturesque town of Cambridge. It has an abundance of art galleries, and craft & antique shops. The area surrounding the town is the centre of New Zealand’s thoroughbred racehorse industry.
In the east of the region, at the foot of the Kaimai Ranges, is the small town of Te Aroha. The town was originally developed as a spa town in the late nineteenth century. The thermally heated bathhouses are still a feature of the town. The attractive gardens in which they are set are also home to the world’s only hot soda water fountain.
Matamata to the south has become better known to the world in recent times as ‘Hobbiton’. Its green pastures and rolling hills were used during the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it is possible to organise tours of the location.