Mighty Waikato’s best restaurants, hikes and bike trails
Between the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula and the picturesque slopes of Mount Ruapehu, there is an exceptionally generous and beautiful region. Here in Mighty Waikato, you’ll find lush native forests, endless green hills, and some of New Zealand’s finest local produce.
It is an adventurer’s paradise with thousands of miles of walking and cycling trails winding through beautiful natural landscapes, and three of New Zealand’s Great Rides. When you’re hungry for this whole adventure, you’re in luck – Waikato is a foodie’s paradise, home to incredible produce, restaurants, bars, cafes, and artisans.
Waikato for foodies
Zealong tea estate
Zealong, located in the hills just north of Hamilton, is New Zealand’s only tea business. For the full experience, book a tour and learn about the history of tea in New Zealand, walk around the tea plantation, learn how tea is processed, and enjoy a traditional tea ceremony.
Then, take in views of the plantation while enjoying a menu of seasonal local produce or luxurious high tea at the on-site restaurant.
For cold beer straight from the tank and hearty pub meals, there’s no better place than Old St George’s Church in Frankton, Hamilton – now home to the Good George Brewery. If you don’t know the folks at Good George yet, you’ll be happy to find out that they make really, really, really good beer and cider.
You can sit under the brew tanks outside in the garden bar or take a seat inside and settle in for a pint and delicious meals. Not only is the beer great, these guys also recently won gold at the NZ Gin Awards for their gin.
Hamilton Farmers Market
If you want to get your hands on fresh produce straight from the green pastures of Waikato, head to the Hamilton Farmers Market.
This weekly Sunday event is home to over 60 stalls selling fresh vegetables, artisanal products, coffee, baked goods, chocolate, kombucha, fresh Jersey milk and just about anything you could possibly want to eat or eat. to drink. Come in, shop, chat with the makers and producers, and stay awhile to enjoy the live music.
Duck Ice Cream
Duck Island Ice Cream started as a dessert menu item at local Hamilton restaurant Chim Choo Ree in 2015, and has grown into one of New Zealand’s most beloved (and delicious) ice cream brands.
They only use fresh, seasonal ingredients and offer a huge range of interesting flavors, from burnt banana with ginger to fairy bread and honeycomb to maple and smoked almonds. Try a fresh spoon from the spring at their Gray Street and Riverbank Lane stores in Hamilton.
Walking and hiking adventures
Maungatautar mountain shrineI
Mainland New Zealand’s largest ecological ‘island’, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a haven for native wildlife and plants such as kiwi, kokako (wattlebird) and tuatara. A predator-proof fence surrounds 3,400 hectares of Mount Maungatautari, helping to ward off mammal predators so that populations of native birds, trees and ferns can thrive unhindered.
There are also some great walking and hiking trails to explore, including five walks in the southern enclosure with incredible birding opportunities, guided walks offering loads of information on native plants and many species. local birdlife and nighttime tours that allow visitors to see curtains of glowworms, native crayfish (koura) and listen to the call of the kiwi.
Nature and Gluttony
Do you like hiking and nature? Do you like food? Combine the two with Nature and Nosh, tours that combine hiking adventures in beautiful places with the best food and wine experiences in the region.
Our pick is the ‘Heart of the North’ tour, which will take you through the less traveled areas of Waikato, from old growth forests and limestone cliffs to blueberry farms and vineyards.
Blue Springs at Te Waihou Walkway
Over 100 years, water has filtered over and through the land from the Mamaku Plateau to the Blue Springs. The water is so pure and clear that it is blue. Discover the Blue Spring and the beautiful Waihou River on an easy 1.5-hour hike on the Te Waihou Bridge.
For a full day of bush adventure, try the Hakarimata Walkway, a 12 km long trail through towering kauri and tōtara trees. If you’ve got the legs, try the summit trail, which takes you 374 meters above sea level, up an infamous, incredibly steep staircase. Trust us, the view is worth it.
Great rides and fearless trails
The best way to explore the vast landscapes of Waikato is on two wheels, cycling through one of the area’s beautiful biking trails. Whether it’s meandering along the Waikato River and exploring historic railways, experiencing New Zealand’s Great Rides, and visiting intriguing historical sites.
Te Awa – The great ride on the NZ river
This 70 km trail connects Ngāruawāhia and Horahora giving you a taste of the real Waikato, from historic Maori sites and rural landscapes to vineyards and cafes. Follow the wide, smooth path along the banks of the Waikato River to Hamilton Gardens.
Waikato River Trails
Over 100 km of cycle paths wind along the banks of New Zealand’s longest river, through the best of hearts in the region. The scenic ride includes five lakes, five hydroelectric dams, bridges suspended over the water and countless small villages.
Do it all or choose sections for a shorter 11.5 to 36 km day hike.
The wood trail
Pureora Forest Park stretches 85 km of unspoiled natural beauty that was once home to one of the most active logging operations in the country. The Timber Trail comprises 85 km of the old Ellis & Burnand Ongarue tram, which operated between 1922 and 1958 and included more than 42 bridges.
Discover the lush native bush, cycle along the hanging bridges, and learn about the region’s colorful history up close.
Hauraki Rail Trail
Considered New Zealand’s easiest Great Ride, this 197km trail follows the historic Coromandel Peninsula rail lines through quaint towns like Thames, Waihi, and Matamata. The trail is mostly flat and is best tackled over 4-5 days so you have time to stop and see its highlights – from the Hobbiton Movie Set to the spectacular Hauraki Gorge.
Whether you’re looking for adventure, world-class biking trails, or delicious Kiwi Kai, the Waikato has it all. Click here to learn more and start planning your next trip.
Find new things to do in New Zealand here
Please travel safely and see the advice at https://covid19.govt.nz/ for alert level requirements in the region you are visiting.