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Image: Tourism New Zealand, photo by Tourism Holdings

Explore pretty rural villages, rolling green hills and tranquil oak-studded countryside, then venture below ground for caving adventures such as black-water rafting on an underground river.

First impressions of the Waikato region are of a tranquil rural retreat, and villages tucked amongst the hills invite exploration, whether you’re hunting for antiques or coffee. Hamilton City is known for its gardens and riverside dining. It’s an easy drive southwest to Waitomo, where a cave network invites exploration of a different kind, from adrenaline-pumping black-water rafting to floating silently in an enormous cavern studded with glow-worms.

Download the Waikato & Waitomo section from New Zealand Trade Manual 2013

Waikato & Waitomo (from New Zealand Trade Manual 2013) (1209)


Waitomo Caves The remarkable underground labyrinth of the Waitomo Caves offers an otherworldly landscape of underground rivers and soaring caverns twinkling with glow-worms. Country villages The picturesque rural landscape is dotted with country villages like Cambridge and Tirau that are brimming with enticing little cafés, boutiques and antique stores. World-class gardens The fertile landscape that makes this region one of New Zealand’s most productive farming regions also produces beautiful gardens such as the riverside Hamilton Gardens. Crazy Kiwiana Otorohanga is New Zealand’s Kiwiana Town – the main street is adorned with Kiwi icons – while Billy Black’s Kiwi Culture Show in Waitomo offers an irreverent take on local culture. Raglan The west coast town of Raglan is a little slice of bohemian paradise offering great local art, pubs with live music, laid-back atmosphere and a stunning surf beach. Waikato River New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato flows through the centre of Hamilton – along its banks lie a network of walks.


Hamilton Main regional centre on the banks of the Waikato River. Cambridge Quaint country town known for antiques and racehorses. Raglan Laid-back surf town known for art and craft galleries. Te Awamutu Rural centre and birthplace of the musically talented Finn brothers from Split Enz and Crowded House. Otorohanga Kiwiana town featuring a pretty flower basket-lined main street. Waitomo Village Small village atop an intricate underground cave network. Te Kuiti Main service centre in the King Country region. Tirau Small village boasting numerous cafés and shops. Matamata The set of Hobbiton featured in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit movies.

Getting There and Around

Air Hamilton International Airport, 20 minutes’ drive from the city, has direct flights to Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North and Christchurch with Air NZ. Flights to smaller North Island destinations are available and international flights operate to Australia. Road Hamilton is located on State Highway 1. It is an easy 1-hour, 50-minute drive from Auckland and 1-hour, 35-minute drive from Rotorua. This region is ideal for driving and is well served by shuttles and coaches. Auckland to Hamilton [126 km; 1 hr, 50 min] Hamilton to Waitomo [74 km; 1 hr, 5 min] Hamilton to Rotorua [108 km; 1 hr, 35 min] Hamilton to Taupo [152 km; 2 hr, 10 min] Hamilton to Coromandel [162 km; 2 hr, 20 min] Hamilton to New Plymouth [231 km; 3 hr, 20 min] Rail A daily rail service operates between Auckland and Wellington, and Hamilton City is on the main trunk line.

Making the Sale

  • The Waikato region is within easy reach of Auckland and State Highway 1 passes through, making this a good addition to driving itineraries.
  • Hamilton is a busy small city with a good range of accommodation. It is a very central spot, so may be a base for exploring other parts of the North Island.
  • The Waitomo region is a must for many visitors. There are caving adventures suited to adrenaline-seeking travellers – and ‘soft’ options too.
  • If your clients have seen The Hobbit, they’ll be fascinated to visit the real-life Hobbiton in Matamata!

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