Surf, sand and shellfish are major draw cards of Port Waikato, a small town at the northern end of the Waikato region of New Zealand. Lying at the mouth of the Waikato River – New Zealand’s longest river – Port Waikato is the quintessential West Coast destination. The lack of crowds is part of the town’s appeal and there’s nowhere better if you want to get away from it all.
This little town has plenty of things to see and do, and the area boasts some of the best surf beaches in New Zealand. It’s also the gateway to soft adventure options, caves and great fishing.
Visit the popular surfing spot at Sunset Beach, join the locals fishing for kahawai, netting for flounder or digging for shellfish, laze around on the black-sand beach, take a walk along the coast and dine on a hard-to-beat fresh fish and chip meal from the local takeaway store.
The Nikau Caves, 40 minutes’ drive away in Waikaretu, are a highlight for visitors. The onsite café serves fresh local food, while the 90 minute cave tour boasts amazing cave formations and twinkling glowworms.
Another popular nearby photo opportunity is the limestone rock outcrops that were used as Weathertop Hollow in the Lord of the Rings films, which can be viewed from the roadside.
This small country town boasts a range of collectible stores, a growing café culture and a friendly welcoming community.
One of Tūākau’s top attractions is the Alexandra Redoubt, which overlooks the Waikato River. Named after King Edward VII's bride, the redoubt was built in 1863 by soldiers of the 65th Regiment and the trenches are still clearly visible today.
Pamper yourself with a relaxing river cruise to view the stunning scenery of this part of the Waikato River, with overnight options available, or check out the Tuakau Hotel and La Valla estate, both hidden gems of Tūākau accommodation, each boasting a rich and unique history.
A popular place for travellers to stop, Pokeno used to reside along the main road south. Today visitors are drawn in by the well-known giant (up to) 15 scoop ice-creams on offer, reputed to be the biggest ice creams in New Zealand, with so many tempting flavours it is hard to choose just one.
The town also boasts the likes of Pokeno bacon, 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 is also held every Sunday, and gift stores, cafes and key historical Waikato War sites make Pokeno a great place to stop in the northern Waikato region.
About 30km north of Hamilton in Waikato, New Zealand, Huntly is home to one of New Zealand’s largest power stations. Its two towering chimneys dominate the horizon on the approach to the town in either direction; they’re an iconic testament to Huntly’s mining history. Coal was discovered here in 1842 by a local reverend and underground and open cast mines still run today.
There are many scenic walks close to town including the Hakarimata Walkway, which features kauri trees, streams and waterfalls.
Car racing fans will also love Huntly; the town has its own speedway and the well-known Hampton Downs raceway is a short drive north near Meremere, along with the popular drag racing facility.