Waikato is somewhere in the middle of New Zealand North Island and South of Auckland. The largest lake in New Zealand, approximately the size of Singapore Island, is also located here!
Honestly, I don’t know where is the exact boundary line that divides the various regions. From a layman point of view, these are all found in Waikato.
Once you drive down south of Auckland, you will definitely pass Waikato, unless you decide to fly to Rotorua, Palmerston North, or Wellington. Most people who travel to North Island are likely to come to this region. Why?
Top 10 Must See / Must do in New Zealand Waikato:
10) See the biggest lake in New Zealand – Lake Taupo. Always stop by for viewing no matter how many times I passed this route.
9) And while you are at Taupo, you might want to try some extreme sports. Not my cup of tea, but my friends who went skydiving there said it was awesome.
8 ) Visit Hobbiton at Matamata. As Hobbiton is located on private land, the only way to visit is to go for their guided tour. Unfortunately, I never manage to make it to the Shire out of my 5-7 times passing Matamata.
7) Hamilton Gardens is absolutely gorgeous! Seen the Paradise garden collection over 10 times and still loving it!
6) Check out Kiwiana town Otorohanga. Only been there once, coz I was sorta kiwi-nised by the time I heard of the place. Kiwiana means items and icons from New Zealand’s cultural heritage.
5) Check out Tirau corrugated iron art all over town. You probably won’t miss the giant dog, big sheep and toy castle.
4) Drive along State Highway 1 Desert Road and you will see Rangipo desert. A little hard to imagine a ‘green’ place like New Zealand actually has a desert. It’s also here when I experienced driving through the clouds!
3) Try the Tongariro Alpine crossing. The tagline ‘It’s challenge, an adventure, an unforgettable experience’ is true. Nope, I didn’t do it, but everyone I knew did it said the same thing.
2) See / Go on Mount Ruapehu – an active volcano. I stopped by State Highway 1 to view the 3 mountain peaks many times, went for a ski trip up Mount Ruapehu to Whakapapa (pronounced as Fa-ka-pa-pa), and even drove up during summer. It is gorgeous, from every angle, in every season.
* Be careful. It erupted about 3 times during my 3-year stay there.
1) Waitomo Caves is a must visit! New Zealand’s most famous caves and native glowworms – 2 in one! In my honest opinion, caving is too cold! *brrr* Tried it once, and probably never do it again. The glowworms are interesting – it is like pitch black inside with glowing stars!
For those who drink beer, you might want to try Waikato Draught. I probably drank more Waikato Draught than any other beer in summer 2006. Well, in 2005, this beer won a Gold Medal and Best in Class in the New Zealand Draught beer category at the BrewNZ awards. No offense, but it tastes like normal beer.
There are probably 101 things to see and do in Waikato. These are just my personal recommendations. What is ‘unforgettable’ for me might not apply to you.