Zealong Tea Estate
Nestled among the rolling green fields of the Waikato region is the Zealong Tea Estate, New Zealand’s only tea plantation.
If you’re a tea lover, you’ll love the Discover Tea experience the plantation offers. Learn how tea is made and all about its history during the 90-minute tour, and be treated to a traditional tea ceremony.
Visitors can also enjoy lunch or high tea at the Camellia Tea House with stunning views overlooking the tea estate.
Hear the roar of car engines and you’ll know you’ve arrived at Hampton Downs. Just 45 minutes’ drive north of Hamilton, this world-class motorsport venue has three tracks that regularly rev into action; the schedule here is packed with exciting events popular with locals and visitors - offering everything from now-famous go-karts, V8 supercar racing to the on-track muscle car U-drive experiences and everything in between.
Screeching tyres, the smell of oil and cheering crowds make this place a thrilling paradise for the petrol heads among us. With the Meremere Dragway just minutes up the road, and the popular Huntly Speedway also in the North Waikato, there is something for all the motor-sport enthusiasts.
For cheese lovers, Mercer is a must-stop along the Hamilton-Auckland journey. A visit to its cheese shop is one of the best things to do in North Waikato if you’re looking for culinary experiences. People in the know make regular stops here, drawn by the award-winning goodies made by Dutch immigrant Albert Alferink at Mercer Cheese.
Local favourites include Gouda, Edam, herb and goat cheese, and the renowned walnut soft cheese. Albert perfected cheese-making in the 1980s and the mouth-watering flavours of his products make Mercer Cheese a must-visit attraction.
Hākarimata Ranges Walks
The Hākarimata Scenic Reserve, near Ngāruawāhia, 10km northwest of Hamilton in the North Waikato region, is a great place to see New Zealand’s majestic kauri trees and find stunning views of the region. Nestled in the Hākarimata Ranges, the reserve boasts some of the best Waikato walks.
Wander along the Hākarimata Kauri Loop Track to a grove filled with the majestic native trees, accompanied by tui and kereru that chirp merrily overhead; take on the Hākarimata summit track, a three-hour walk to the top of the ranges or opt for the waterworks track, a 60-minute, 1km return walk to an old dam, built in 1922.
Also worth a look is the 30-minute Hākarimata Rail Trail, an easy 1.5km walking and cycling track suitable for buggies and wheelchairs that follows the route of the former Ngāruawāhia/Glen Massey railway.
For more information on Hākarimata Walks click here.
Take a tour through the 1km-long Nikau Caves and you’ll have mostly glowworms for company.
The Nikau Caves, on a private farm in the heart of North Waikato, New Zealand, is filled with stalactites, stalagmites and glowworms that twinkle like stars in the night sky.
Nikau Cave has been open to visitors for 14 years and offers a 90-minute guided tour where you learn all about the background behind Nikau Cave’s delicate formations as you walk through streams and clamber over boulders. The soft adventure tour also incorporates a 10m crawl through one section of the cave. Visitors can also enjoy a hot drink and a snack or meal at the adjacent café, which overlooks rocky limestone outcrops.
Situated only 50km southeast of Auckland city, in the northern Waikato region, the town of Pokeno is renowned for its bacon and huge ice creams. Pokeno is reputed to have the biggest ice creams in New Zealand – 15 scoops treats are up for grabs for those who think they can manage them, although sharing with a friend is a good option.
Nearby Pokeno Bacon sells handmade pork goods using only local pigs. The popular store specialises in a range of traditional products from handmade hams and bacon to tasty sausages. The Pokeno Country Market held each Sunday is also a popular North Waikato event.