Autumn is the perfect time to explore the Hamilton and Waikato region
From beautiful gardens and underground wonders, to Middle-earth movie magic, gourmet delights and much more – check out the must do autumn activities in Hamilton & Waikato.
Immerse yourself in the colours of autumn with a stroll around the Hamilton Gardens. Telling the story of gardens through time, the award-winning Hamilton Gardens is wrapped in autumnal colours at this time of year, providing an even more picturesque scene as you stroll through the likes of the Italian Renaissance garden, Chinese Scholar garden, Te Parapara garden and Indian Char Bar garden just to name a few. The Hamilton Gardens also offers an abundance of great picnic spots. Bring your own, or order a gourmet picnic from the Hamilton Gardens Café, which comes complete with a picnic blanket, so you can pick your favourite spot and enjoy. Those with children can also take advantage of the free kid’s activity sheet available from the information centre.
If the Shire is at the heart of Middle- earth, then the Hamilton and Waikato region is at the heart of the Shire. When scouting around for settings for his epic three movie adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Kiwi director Peter Jackson found
just what he was looking for in the green rolling paddocks, rugged limestone outcrops and underground caverns of the Hamilton & Waikato region.
Visitors to Hobbiton Movie Set today can take a tour of the permanent set, past over 44 Hobbit Holes, including Bag End, hear all about how the set was created, and behind the scenes stories from filming, before ending the tour with a refreshing southfarthing beverage from The Green Dragon Inn, also on set. The magic of the set will engross everyone from avid fans to those who have never seen the films or read the books.
Further south, near Piopio, Hairy Feet Waitomo also offers Middle-earth tours, with a tour through the filming location for the Trollshaw Forest as seen in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Millions of years in the making, the Waitomo Caves is a must visit NZ attraction year-round. Those with a sense of adventure will enjoy the abseiling, ziplining and black water rafting tours on offer, whilst easy walking tours and boat rides under a galaxy of glowworms are perfect for young families or those looking for a gentler trip. Highlights of the Waitomo area include the 100m abseil into the Lost World Cave with Waitomo Adventures and the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Above ground has just as much to offer with great short walks including the Marokopa Falls and Mangapohue Natural Bridge, farm shows, classic kiwi BBQ dining and more.
The Hamilton and Waikato region holds its own when it comes to its foodie delights, which is no surprise with the variety of fresh local produce on hand. Check out the farmer’s market on every weekend for everything from honey and garden greens to fresh baking, fish and more, all locally sourced. For a gourmet experience the region boasts some top award winning cafes and restaurants from the likes of Victoria St Bistro and Palate to Skycity Hamilton’s City Co-Op space, which has everything from Spanish tapas to burgers. While you’re here be sure to seek out the hidden foodie gems such as Restaurant on Alma at Novotel Tainui Hamilton, local coffee roasters like Rocket Coffee or Raglan Roast or NZ’s only tea plantation, Zealong Tea Estate, which offers high-tea and a tea ceremony experience at their onsite café.
With three of the NZ Great rides in the Waikato, there is plenty of opportunity to work off the gourmet treats. The Timber Trail offers 85km of off road trails through the Pureora Forest Park following a historic logging tramway, crossing several impressive swing bridges along the way; The Waikato River Trails follows the mighty Waikato River for 100km, taking in swing bridges and hydro dams; The Hauraki Rail trail provides an easier ride taking in the gold mining history of the area; whilst the wide flat Te Awa River ride is perfect for groups and those with young children. Serious mountain bikers are also catered for with parks such as Te Miro, Cougar Mountain Bike Park, Hamilton Mountain Bike Park and Raglan’s new Te Ara Kakariki Trail all on offer.
Autumn is also perfect for making the most of the great outdoors – before the winter weather sets in. Take a stroll through Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, NZ’s only inland ecological reserve, and you’ll likely spot some cheeky Kaka at the impressive canopy viewing tower. For those with a bit of patience, check out the wetlands at Sanctuary Mountain and you might just spot the elusive Tuatara basking in the sunshine. If you are looking for a challenge, join the locals taking on the stairs on the way up the Hakarimata Summit Track – the view from the top is worth it. Impressive waterfalls are also abound with the likes of Wairere Falls near Matamata or Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan, while the Te Waihou Walkway and Blue Spring is also not to be missed.
Hamilton City provides the perfect base for exploring the region, with a variety of accommodation options available including Ibis Tainui Hamilton, Sudima Hamilton, Ventura Inn and many more. Plus, with Hamilton Airport offering direct daily flights to and from most major NZ cities, flying to Hamilton is a convenient and easy option.
For great things to see and do in Hamilton & Waikato this autumn and beyond, visit www.hamiltonwaikato.com