For many, a tour of the HobbitonTM Movie Set is an absolute must. For visitors who like to take a hike - easy or advanced - there are trails that ribbon the nearby Kaimai Ranges where the tallest waterfall in the North Island can be found, the 153-metre high Wairere Falls. Matamata is also one of the points where cyclists can access the Hauraki Rail Trail. Immerse yourself in the rural way of life by staying on a farm in the area - and be sure to sample the fare at local eateries where the emphasis is on seasonal produce accompanied by craft beer or cider.
Hobbiton Movie Set
When moviemaker Sir Peter Jackson needed to find the Shire he turned to the rolling, emerald green hills of the Waikato. Located 16 kms from the rural town of Matamata is Hobbiton Movie Set and a tour of this magical location is a must for many visitors. Wander past the iconic Bag End and intriguing hobbit holes before stopping for a refreshing drink in the Green Dragon. There are daily tours departing from both Matamata and The Shire’s Rest visitor centre, gift shop and eatery at the entrance to Hobbiton Movie Set.
Matamata Heritage trail
The Matamata-Piako Heritage Trail links the towns of Matamata, Te Aroha and Morrinsville, visiting places of historical interest along the way. In Matamata, the 5.3km trail meanders through the town’s parks, gardens and historical sites. Highlights along the way include the Middle-earth themed i-SITE building on the main street.
Hauraki Rail Trail (Te Aroha to Matamata section)
The Te Aroha-Matamata section of the Hauraki Rail Trail wends its way across the Waikato rural landscape, crossing the fertile plains and passing horse studs where many a champion thoroughbred has been raised. En route, cyclists can stop off to explore the Firth Tower Estate and Museum, or detour to views of the beautiful Wairere Falls that, at 153 metres, are the highest in the North Island. The easy gradient of the rail trail makes it perfect for relaxed cycling and family adventures.
The roundtrip to the top of Wairere Falls, at 153 metres the highest in the North Island, takes three to four hours and isn’t for the faint-hearted. While there are spectacular views of the falls from a lookout that is a 45-minute walk from the carpark through groves of nīkau, pūriri and kohekohe trees, the climb onwards to the top of the falls is steep with plenty of steps, plus rocky outcrops and tree roots to negotiate. Once you’re at the top, the reward is the striking sight of the falls plunging down the steep escarpment, part of the Okauia fault line. Views out over the Waikato countryside also make the climb very worthwhile. Along the way there are small wooden bridges crossing the stream, providing plenty of opportunities for a refreshing swim or paddle in the shallows, as well as scenic places to picnic.
Constructed in 1882, the Firth Tower is a stone’s throw from Matamata town centre. The tower sits on lush park-like grounds that are perfect for picnics, weddings and other events. Built by Josiah Clifton Firth as a lookout and fortification, the tower and surrounding buildings house a treasure trove of machinery, furnishings and other memorabilia providing insights into the pioneering past of the region. Take a stroll through the peaceful grounds, or pay a small admission fee to enter the historic building; tours are available.
The Middle-earth themed Matamata i-SITE on the main street was designed by Wellington architect Gavin Urquhart, who was also involved in design work at the Hobbiton Movie Set. With a distinctive Middle-earth exterior, the Matamata i-SITE is the perfect spot to grab an Insta-worthy photo and to stop in for information about visiting the set, 16 kms from town, as well as check out the many other experiences on offer in the area.
From Italian and Middle Eastern to fish and chips and good country-style fare - in Matamata and the surrounding area there are eateries and bars to appeal to all tastes and appetites.
As you would expect in this dairy farming region, there are many places to grab a scoop of ice cream, sorbet or gelato.