Make the most of the school holidays and explore your own backyard with your kids.
From an adventure on two wheels with some stunning scenery, to wildlife experiences and indoor fun – the region has plenty of great half and full day activities to treat the family to. Check out this list with some ideal suggestions to suit everyone and get planning.
Take a trip to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari
If the kids like to escape into nature, look no further than a visit to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari near Te Awamutu. The ancient forest and its many native inhabitants are protected by the world’s longest predator proof fence that runs the perimeter of the mountain. Choose from a guided tour of the wetlands or forest, a combination of both, or a self-guided wander along the meandering paths to the sound of the birds overhead.
Wet days can sometimes be a challenge, but luckily Waikato Museum is the perfect all-weather destination. Inquisitive children of all ages will happily spend hours in Exscite, an exhibition jam-packed with interactive, science-based activities that make learning fun. Keep the family entertained with other current exhibitions such as The Life and Times of Scarface Claw, Inventors and Innovations: Waikato Bright Sparks, Museum Master and I Spy challenges.
Adventures on two wheels
Grab the bikes and head long to the Gallagher Bike Skills Park at Avantidrome near Cambridge. Complete with a series of bike tracks and areas to suit different ages and abilities of bike riders, there is a mini-road set up with traffic lights, a section that allows kids to practise steering, balancing and going up and down hills and an off-road track for more experienced riders.
Balance bikes, trikes and scooters are all acceptable here as well as regular bikes.
If you are looking for even more of an adventure, the Waikato region has hundreds of kilometres of trails to discover – from mountain bike parks to gentle rides alongside the Waikato River.
Marvel at natural wonders
Get outdoors and marvel at the region’s natural wonders. A short drive from the famous Waitomo Caves is the Mangapohue Natural Bridge. This easy 20-minute loop walk is perfect for an outing with the family. Follow the boardwalk as it weaves its way through the impressive limestone gorge bringing you underneath the stunning 17m high limestone arch; the remains of an ancient cave system.
The walk takes in superb views of the natural bridge and gorge, stalactite-like formations, farmland and 25-million-year-old fossilised oysters that are exposed in the limestone outcrops – bound to fascinate young explorers!
Explore Hamilton Zoo
Hours of fun can be had exploring and meeting the wide variety of rare and endangered animals from around the world at Hamilton Zoo. “Meet the Zookeeper” talks run daily and will leave the kids enthralled, while animal lovers can go behind-the-scenes with a Face2Face encounter where you can learn more about the zoo’s incredible creatures.
There is also a great café on-site where you can pre-order a picnic pack for your zoo visit to keep the family fuelled throughout the day.
Play to your heart’s content
Sit back and relax as the kids play on one of the many playgrounds in Hamilton City. Hamilton is lucky enough to be home to eight destination playgrounds including Hamilton Lake Domain, Parana Park and the new Hare Puke Park. Invoke a sense of adventure with a diverse range of play equipment suitable for children of all ages.
The Great Outdoors – Waiorongomai Valley
Experience the great outdoors and discover Waiorongomai Valley. Waiorongomai Valley in Te Aroha is a significant gold mining area in the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park which offers numerous walking trails that take in key historic gold mining sites.
The Lower Loop Track is an interesting walk for the whole family, taking in several significant sites around the goldfields and provides great insight into Te Aroha’s gold rush. Add on a visit to the famous Mokena Geyser and Te Aroha Domain foot pools.
Take a walk to the Blue Spring
Get your walking shoes on and visit the stunning Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway. An easy walk for children of all ages, there is a short 30-minute return walk accessed from Leslie Road or approximately one and a half hours’ walk each way starting from Whites Road (State Highway 28) near Putaruru.
With this great short walk so close to Tirau, why not make a day of it and check out the corrugated iron creations, stop for a bite to eat, or pop into the boutique galleries and gift stores on the way.
Explore an enchanting world of secret-themed gardens
Head along to the gardens and collect a copy of the Hamilton Gardens Discovery Trail sheet to see where the bees, hens and woodland creatures are hiding.
Within every garden there is a magical story that provides a portal through different civilisations and to the farthest reaches of the world.
Children can explore a lush tropical garden, mystical ancient Chinese garden, play shadow bingo or count the number of fairies on wooden carvings filled with curious woodland critters.
You can even top the day off with a visit to the magical garden themed playground!
Visit NZ’s Kiwana Capital
The self-proclaimed Kiwiana capital of NZ, Otorohanga, proudly celebrates all things kiwi; from No 8 wire to the pavlova and the iconic buzzy bee.
Take the children out for the day and for an insight into all things Kiwiana follow the Ed Hillary Walkway through the covered walkway gallery which explores the history and quirky side of kiwi culture.
For more information on great things to see and do with the family in the Waikato region, visit www.waikatonz.com