Top 11 Summer Activities in the Waikato

The Mighty Waikato is where you can make the most of summer. There’s so much to see and do, from beautiful beaches and stunning gardens to underground wonders and foodie delights. Here’s a checklist of the top 10 summer things to do in the Waikato:

1. Walking Trails

Although any time of the year is good to explore the Waikato, the region’s walking tracks are a drawcard in the summertime. From short walks, such as to Marokopa Falls, or more challenging trails, like the ones up Mt Te Aroha, there’s plenty of ways to take a hike in the Waikato. Go here to look for an adventure to suit.

Legendary Black Water Rafting Co, Waitomo

2. Underground Wonders

Waitomo Caves make for adventure that’s cool during the warm summer months. Visitors can opt for an easy stroll through the underground passageways or take a boat cruise under galaxies of twinkling glowworms in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Looking for an adrenaline rush? Push the boundaries by heading down into The Lost World, starting with a 100-metre abseil into the depths, or join a black water rafting tour where you will abseil and zipline, weaving through and climbing in the caverns.

3. Animal Encounters

Get up close with native and exotic wildlife in the Waikato. Hamilton Zoo is home to over 600 native and exotic animals including rhino, tigers, lemurs, cheetahs and more. Experience the ultimate alpaca experience with one of Cornerstone Alpaca Farm Tours, where you can meet and feed beautiful alpacas. Ōtorohanga Kiwi House offers year-round viewing of native kiwi in a specially designed nocturnal enclosure. Visit Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari to see native birds - kiwi, takahe, kaka, kererū. Other endangered species making their home here include tiny native bats and tuatara.

4. Head to the beach

Raglan is the Waikato’s great chill-out spot. Give surfing a go or just laze away the day at Ngarunui Beach. The surfing here is five star and the fishing is popular too. Raglan Harbour, also known as Whaingaroa Harbour, is where you can explore in a kayak, checking out limestone rock formations, or stand up paddleboard or take a harbour cruise. At Kawhia's Ocean Beach at low tide you can dig your own natural warm water spa in the sand while enjoying stunning coastline views.

Playground at Hamilton Lake, Hamilton, Waikato, NZ

5. Destination Playgrounds

The Waikato is home to many destination playgrounds These include Hare Puke Park in the Hamilton suburb of Flagstaff. Named playground of the year, it features a scooter track and sensory play area. The kids will also love the playground at Hamilton Lake while adults enjoy coffee at The Verandah next door. The new playground at Innes Common features a basketball court as well as a parkour course if a running, climbing, swinging, jumping challenge is what you’re after. View more playgrounds.

6. Foodie Delights

Nothing beats a bit of indulgence and new taste sensations. The Waikato region ticks the box for a range of foodie experiences. Enjoy a delectable High Tea at Zealong Tea Estate, just north of Hamilton City. Visit award-winning Waikato restaurants or one of the region's many farmers markets for fresh local produce and artisanal food products. You have a sweet tooth? Head for Duck Island Ice Cream in Hamilton East where flavours range from the familiar to the unexpected - salted caramel with cacao crumb, blackberry sage honey, or one called fairy bread sprinkled with those colourful hundreds and thousands little kids love; big kids too. Or pick fresh berries at one of Waikato's pick-your-own fruit locations. At some you’ll also find the reward of a fresh fruit ice cream.

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival Events

7. Events

Hamilton City and the wider Waikato region is set for a jam-packed summer of events. Head to an adrenaline-filled Sevens in Hamilton, watch the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Play-Off Tournament or visit Hamilton Arts Festival - an iconic open-air summer festival. Search events here.

8. Cycle Trails

Explore the Waikato by cycling one of the region's many trails. There’s much to choose from including Te Awa River Ride, The Timber Trail, Hauraki Rail Trail and many more. Mountain bikers will find plenty of action too. Search the cycle tracks and trails in the Waikato here.

9. Inner-City Fun

Hamilton City has a great range of activities to entertain and please visitors. Take a relaxing stroll through the stunning Hamilton Gardens or take a stroll along the banks of the Waikato River and perhaps bring a picnic to enjoy.

Bowling SkyCity, Hamilton

10. Indoor Activities

Just in case the weather is, well, less than summery, there’s plenty of indoor fun too - from ten-pin bowling at SkyCity Hamilton to interactive exhibitions at Waikato Museum. Catch a movie at Hoyts at Te Awa, The Base, burn off some energy on an indoor rock climbing wall or trampoline park, or visit the Classics Museum with over 100 classic cars on display along with all sorts of petrol memorabilia.

11. Lavender fields & Sunflower Farm

Each summer, lavender growers open the gates for visitors to wander the fields of flowers and take photographs of themselves amongst the lavender. Blooms are at their best in the region and totally Instagram-worthy from mid-November until late January and often into February.  Amongst the places to pick your own sunflowers is Taupiri Sunflower Farm where a selfie amongst all the sunniness will be entirely Insta-worthy.