Top 10 things to do in Hamilton and Waikato

Rolling green hills, spectacular limestone caves and black sand surf beaches surround Hamilton’s vibrant city hub.

Explore one of our most exciting cities and discover the 10 best things to do in Hamilton and the surrounding Waikato region. 

1. Dine like a hobbit

Embark on the ultimate evening of Middle‑earth™ magic at Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata with an evening dinner tour. Discover Bag End, the Party Tree, and the Green Dragon Inn™ on a guided tour before enjoying a banquet feast in the Green Dragon dining room. Standard guided tours also run throughout the day.

Book a tour at Hobbiton

2. Admire the twinkling glowworms at Waitomo

Beneath the green farmland of Waitomo lies a subterranean maze of spectacular limestone caverns. Take a guided tour into the heart of the Waitomo Caves and be amazed by the limestone formations and huge cavern before exiting via boat-ride under thousands of twinkling glowworms.

3. Learn to surf at Raglan

West of Hamilton lies Raglan, a beautifully scenic stretch of black sand coastline. Featuring in the 1966 surfing movie Endless Summer, Raglan is a surfing mecca and is home to one of the longest and most consistent left-handers in the world. See what all the fuss is about with a surf lesson from the Raglan Surf School.

Explore Raglan

4. Wander through the Hamilton Gardens

Learn about the Story of Gardens at one of the region’s most visited attractions. Instead of focusing on the variety of plants, the Hamilton Gardens showcase different types of garden design through themed collections. Step into another world in their Fantasy collection or explore different civilisations in their Paradise collection.

5. Experience high tea at Zealong Tea Estate

Visit New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Zealong Tea Estate, and indulge in a delicious high tea experience. Crafted by passionate tea masters, Zealong tea is one of the purest teas in the world and is grown organically in the rich soil of the Waikato region.

6. Visit Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

A haven for a myriad of New Zealand’s most endangered bird species, Sanctuary Mountain is a mainland ‘island’ created by a pest-proof fence. Get up close to takahē, tuatara, giant weta, and kākā amidst the beauty of Mount Maungatautari, an ancient forested volcano.

7. Spend the day at the Waikato Museum and Hamilton Zoo

Soak up the rich arts and culture of the Waikato region at Waikato Museum. Highlights include a majestic war waka (Māori canoe), galleries featuring local artwork and the Waikato WW1 story, ‘For Us They Fell’. If you’re after a day of outdoors and fun, visit the Hamilton Zoo which is home to over 600 native and exotic animals. With New Zealand’s largest walk-through aviary and free zookeeper talks, there’s plenty to see and do with the family.

8. Ride on one of Waikato's cycling trails

The Timber Trail, Waikato River Trails and Hauraki Rail Trail can all be found in the Waikato region. Venture through the centre of the North Island on The Timber Trail, that winds through the Pureora Forest. Try out the Waikato River Trails for an adventurous ride along the mighty Waikato River. Or take a more leisurely ride through New Zealand’s pioneering history on the Hauraki Rail Trail.

Explore more cycling trails

9. Take in the stunning views with a hot air balloon tour

There’s no better way to start your day than going on a hot air balloon flight just as the sun rises. This one-of-a-kind adventure gives you breath-taking views of the Mighty Waikato River, the vast farmlands, and see Hamilton city as it wakes up to a new day. If you're around the region in March, be sure to check out Balloons Over Waikato(opens in new window), an annual festival showcasing the best of hot air balloons.

10. Explore Waikato with Lake District Adventures

Whether you’re after a kayak tour on Lake Karapiro, a guided mountain bike ride along New Zealand’s longest river, or a little bit of both, Lake District Adventures has a range of exciting guided outdoor experiences. With tours offering local knowledge of the region’s history, culture, flora, and fauna, it’s a great way to see what makes Waikato so special.

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