Hamilton is the fourth most popular city in New Zealand and set in the Waikato region. Hamilton is the perfect base to explore the surrounds that Waikato has to offer. Waikato has some of the top walking trails to explore, from casual strolls along the river to overnight bush excursions and winding mountain tracks; this region has a variety of great walking trails to suit everyone.
It is also home to the famous Hobbiton Movie Set, a significant location used for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film series. A must see attraction even if you haven't seen the film it is one of the top attractions in New Zealand and has stunning views everywhere you turn.
Let's look deeper into some of the best things to do in and around Hamilton...
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Discover an ancient world 30 million years in the making and explore Mother Nature’s light display as you glide silently through the wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto. The glowworm is unique to New Zealand, making the Waitomo Glowworm Caves an absolute must-see. See thousands of these tiny creatures as they radiate their unmistakable luminescent light in a subterranean world.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves tours are made up of two levels. The upper being dry and decorated with stunning, delicate cave formations and the lower level consisting of stream passages, glowworms and the Cathedral, the tallest chamber in the cave.
A magical place for the whole family to experience.
The Hobbiton Movie Set
Step into the enchanting village of Hobbiton Movie Set. Where you begin to drive through the picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges.
You then start your experience at Bag End, where Frodo and Bilbo’s adventures began. Get lost among the hobbit holes and visit The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and The Party Tree. While listening to spell-binding tales of how Hobbiton came to life.
We loved learning about Hobbiton and seeing all the small hobbit holes.
Walking trails in the Waikato Region.
As I mentioned above Waikato has some of the top walking trails to explore. Here are some of the favourites:
Blue Spring (Te Waihou) - This spring is fed from the Mamaku Plateau where the water takes up to 100 years to filter through, resulting in water so pure and clean that it produces a beautiful blue colour while being virtually clear. It also supplies 70% of New Zealands bottled water.
Time: 1 hr 30 min one way – 3 hr return when walking from the Whites Road carpark. A much shorter option is from the Leslie Road carpark.
Track conditions: The walkway ranges from easy walking to a few steeper areas with some steps and boardwalks.
Waireinga / Bridal Veil Falls Raglan - The Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls walk is an easy 10 minute walk through native bush, following the Pakoka River for most of the way, to two viewing platforms at the top, both provide stunning views and photo opportunities of the plunging white falls flanked by grey rock and green bush.
Time: 10 minutes to the top lookout
Track conditions: The first section of track to the top lookout is accessible for assisted wheelchairs and buggies. A steep set of steps leads down to the bottom of the falls. From here there is another magnificent view, directly across the pool and up at the falls.
Hakarimata Waterworks Track & Summit Track - The native forest and birdlife of the Hakarimata Range provides the perfect setting for a day out in one of the Waikato region’s most beautiful landscapes. If you’re looking for a short walk, try the Waterworks Track, in the middle section of the Hakarimata Scenic Reserve. The streamside walk passes through attractive bush on the way to an old dam – perfect for family picnics. Once you’re done, you can return back down the track or venture up to the summit, 374 metres above sea level, on the Hakarimata Summit Track, which includes the infamous staircase, a popular challenge.
Time: 1 hour return for the Waterworks track
3 hours return for the Summit track
Mt Te Aroha Whakapipi Lookout & Summit Track - The Summit Track starts at the Mokena Geyser in Te Aroha Domain and quickly ascends to the Whakapipi Lookout. The lookout provides panoramic views over the Hauraki Plains. Further up the track to the summit there are 360 degree views.
Time: 45 minutes one way to the Whakapipi Lookout,
3 hours one way to the summit
Hamilton Lake Domain - An easy 3.8km trail situated in the heart of Hamilton City. The Hamilton Lake walkway includes varied natural lakeside vegetation, grassed parklands perfect for a picnic, a boardwalk section, playgrounds and a café. The walkway is mostly flat making it suitable for pushchairs and is also a popular dog walking spot.
Mt Pirongia Forest Park - The green slopes of Mt Pirongia can be found 25km south of Hamilton. With a range of easy to more challenging options, the Pirongia walks provide a rejuvenating experience amongst lush native forest and clear mountain streams.
The Mangakara Nature Walk on Mt Pirongia is an enjoyable one hour circuit through native forest. Perfect for children, the easy track meanders through ancient forest past large rimu, kahikatea, tawa, pukatea and kohekohe trees and crosses over the Mangakara stream before looping back around.
For superb views across the Waikato, one option suitable for family groups with moderate fitness is the Ruapane Lookout walk. The walk can be done via the Tirohanga Track a 2 hour round trip or the Ruapane Track a longer route which is 3 hours all round and includes stairs, some steep sections and a short climb up a rocky outcrop near the top.
Another easy walk is the Pirongia Kaniwhaniwha Caves Walk, which branches from the Nikau walk. This offers the excitement of entering two small caves - the main 20m cave which you can walk through except for a short crawl section, and the smaller cave which is tight and narrow. Don't forget to take a torch. The walk is 2hr 30 minutes return.
If challenge is what you are after Mt Pirongia Forest Park offers some fantastic options with a full day bush walk to the Mt Pirongia Summit or over night track options.