Central to the region’s water activities is the Waikato River, as it makes its way from the mountains to the sea. The longest river in New Zealand, it has carved a distinctive path through the region geologically and historically, being important to both Maori and European settlement in the area. Visitors and locals alike enjoy its waters for boating, waterskiing, cruising and kayaking. The west coast also provides a variety of on the water activities, with everything from surfing to a hot water beach.
Kayaking in fact is good wherever you go in the region, from the Waikato River and its many hydro lakes to the tranquil Raglan Harbour. Several companies offer guided and self-guided packages, including the delightful option of a night kayak to see glowworms.
Raglan comes into its own with surfing. One of New Zealand’s premier surfing spots, Raglan’s Manu Bay is said to have one of the longest left-hand breaks in the world. Coupled with the town’s laid-back vibe, Raglan is popular with global surfing fans including musicians Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. Lessons are available at the surf school or try varying it with a stand up paddleboarding lesson. Or have a go at the adventurous sport of kiteboarding, with the Raglan harbour providing a great place to learn.
Then again, maybe you’re looking to experience the region’s water from a drier perspective. Cruise operators in Hamilton, Raglan and Kawhia can provide you a range of river and harbour options, often including a meal and insights in to the area’s culture and history.
After a day of aquatic adventure you might be looking for somewhere to relax and revive tired muscles. The region has a myriad of natural hot springs and pools to choose from including the mineral spa at Te Aroha and the natural hot water beach in Kawhia, where you can dig your own spa in the sand.
Fishing is one of New Zealand’s great pastimes, and the Hamilton & Waikato is a great base to enjoy it. On the Waikato River and its hydro lakes, the trout are plentiful and trolling behind a boat is a good bet. Or flick a line from the banks of one of the many clear streams in the region. There’s a good chance you’ll pull out a brown or rainbow trout – and a one hundred per cent chance you’ll have a blissfully meditative time trying to do it.
Maybe less tranquil, but no less absorbing and rewarding, is surfcasting on the wild west coast – as long as you keep your wits about you and play it safe. Then again, you may want to drag a line behind a kayak on Raglan harbour or keep it as simple as fishing from the wharf. The possibilities are almost limitless, from floundering at Kawhia and coarse fishing in the shallower lakes of north Waikato right through to chartering a spot on a fishing boat that will take you on to the Tasman Sea.