Summer in Waikato is the perfect time to get off the beaten track and check out some of the region’s hidden gems, whether looking for adventures for the whole family, a more challenging hike for yourself, or simply the opportunity to meander through stunning scenery.
The somewhat untouched nature of Kawhia provides the perfect destination to escape to and is home to one of the region’s best kept secrets, Kawhia Hot Water Beach. Head to the end of Ocean Beach Road at low tide, clamber over the sand dunes and down onto the beach. Keep an eye out for the hot water bubbling to the surface and once you find the perfect spot, start digging for an instant natural hot water spa, with stunning views to match.
Another hidden gem of the region is the Omaru Falls Walk, near Waitomo. This gentle 30 minute walk takes in bush surrounds, home to native ferns and rimu, and crosses farmland before reaching the stunning Omaru waterfall. Remember to take a picnic and stop for a bite to eat beside the river with a small terraced waterfall or continue up the track to the lookout point which provides great views of the 45m falls.
Head out to the beachside town of Raglan and check out Te Toto Gorge. The historically significant site, just south of Raglan, not only boasts stunning and uninterrupted views of the rugged West Coast, it also provides an insight into traditional Māori gardens. This great short Waikato walk includes remnants of garden plots, stonewalls and karaka groves which date back as far as the 1700 and 1800s. From the carpark, a short track leads to a viewing platform which provides spectacular views of the coastline, gorge and amphitheatre where the Māori gardens once thrived.
Take the whole family and explore the Nikau Walk at the base of Mt Pirongia. Follow a stream through beautiful native forest, with opportunities for swimming and picnicking along the way. Branch off to the Kaniwhaniwha Caves Walk which offers the excitement of entering two small caves. You can walk through the main 20m cave which has a short hands-and-knees crawl, and the smaller cave which is tight and narrow. Don’t forget to take a torch!
Up for a challenge?
Discover a track full of native wildlife with a hike up a bush-clad extinct volcano to the summit of Kakepuku. Climb the mountain along a shared mountain biking track for part of the way before continuing along the mountain ridge through remnants of original forest in the ancient volcano’s crater before reaching the summit at 449m. A viewing lookout tower at the top provides spectacular views over the Waikato region, with panels offering historical and geological information on Kakepuku Mountain and the surrounding area.
Just 10 minutes drive from Matamata, Wairere Falls is the highest waterfall in the North Island and a popular walking track in Waikato. Small wooden bridges take you across the stream at several points, affording lovely views of little cascades and providing opportunities to cool tired feet in the refreshing water.
The sight from the viewing platform is spectacular – water plunges 153 metres over the falls. Those looking for a challenge can trek to another lookout at the top of the falls, from where there is a breathtaking view back over the valley and Waikato plains beyond.
For more information on these and even more great activities and attractions check out www.hamiltonwaikato.com
Omaru Falls Walk
Location: Clearly signposted on Omaru Road off SH4 south of Te Kuiti
Time: 1 hour return
Distance: 1.7 km return
Te Toto Gorge
Location: Carpark located south of
Raglan along Wainui Road. Note: After Whale Bay the road is called Whaanga Road.
Time: 30 minutes one way
Nikau Walk and Kaniwhaniwha Caves
Location: Limeworks Loop Road, Te Pahua
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes return
Distance: 7 km return
Location: Kakepuku Mountain Road, Te Awamutu
Time: 2 – 3 hours return
Track Entrance: The Wairere Falls walk starts at the car park on Goodwin Road, off Old Te Aroha Road.
Time: 45 minutes one way to the viewing platform, 2 – 3 hours return to the top of the falls.