One of the richest agricultural and pastoral areas of the world, the Waikato is home to New Zealand’s famous dairy and thoroughbred horse racing industries and base for many agri-businesses and research institutes. The area was named after New Zealand’s longest river. The Waikato River winds 425 kilometres from Lake Taupo on the Central Plateau to the Tasman Sea.
The region’s largest city is Hamilton, with a population of over 141,000, New Zealand’s fourth largest city. It lies about an hour and a half’s drive south of Auckland. Before European settlement, the Waikato was heavily populated by Maori. Today, Hamilton is diverse, home to over 80 ethnic groups. It is also a relatively ‘young city’ with around half its residents under 30 years old.
The Waikato District offers a relaxed and peaceful environment. The rural tranquillity and views of farmland and bush are making it increasingly popular for lifestyle living. In contrast, Hamilton City is vibrant and diverse; there is a lively social scene with many cafes, bars and restaurants.
Within the Region:
- Waikato River. At 425km in length, the Waikato is the longest river in New Zealand. It begins on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, draining into Lake Taupo and exiting at the north-east. After flowing through a series of hydro electric dams and passing through Cambridge, Hamilton, Ngaruawahia and Huntly, the river ends as it enters the Tasman Sea at Waikato Heads. Great kayaking, boating, rowing and trout fishing spots, particularly on its picturesque hydro lakes such as Lake Karapiro, home of the 2010 World Rowing Championships. Along its banks, scenic walking and cycling tracks have been developed and have proved to be a popular way to enjoy the tranquility of the river.
- Hobbiton Movie Set. As featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
- Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. Sited on the banks of the Waikato River in Hamilton's south end cultural precinct. With 13 galleries dedicated to the collection of the history, culture and river. Public art plays an important role in the development of a city and in the last few years Hamilton has both acquired and been gifted significant works.
- Cycle Trails. With three of the NZ Great Rides based in the region, along with a variety of mountain bike tracks, there are plenty of cycling options to choose from.
- The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway. Walk the Te Waihou Walkway and explore the famous Blue Spring, which supplies around 70% of New Zealand's bottled water.
- Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari (Maungatautari Ecological Reserve). Many native bird species are being released and nurtured in the mountain predator free environment.
- Mangapohue Natural Bridge. Follow the boardwalk as it weaves its way through the impressive limestone gorge bringing you underneath the stunning natural bridge.
- Waitomo Caves. Under the green hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and underground rivers. The area's name comes from the Maori words wai (water) and tomo (hole).
- Balloons over Waikato. New Zealand's premier hot air balloon festival. A five-day icon event attracting balloonists from all over NZ and around the world.
- The Gallagher Great Rowing Race. Held annually each September, the Gallagher Great Race pits home town favourites from Waikato University against teams from a world-class international university (previously Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Washington, Melbourne and Sydney Universities) in action-packed races on the Waikato River.
- Raglan. A mecca for surfers.
- World-class international sports stadiums and event facilities. FMG Stadium Waikato, Seddon Park and Porritt Stadium