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From Middle-earth movie magic, urban adventures and underground wonders to animal encounters and great indoor options there is an abundance of family fun to be had in the Waikato with experiences to suit everyone.
The mighty Waikato is full of hidden gems we know you’ll LOVE!
If you’re looking for an exciting and educational experience, start with a trip to Hamilton Zoo where you will find hours of fun exploring and meeting the wide variety of rare and endangered animals from around the world. “Meet the Keeper” sessions run daily and will leave the kids enthralled with trivia.
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari also offers picturesque walking trails through ancient native forest, with a variety of friendly birdlife to spot. The largest inland ecological island in NZ, Sanctuary Mountain is also home to Tuatarua, and boasts a canopy viewing tower for a birds-eye-view of the forest.
In the south of the region, the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park is home to many of New Zealand’s native birds and reptiles, including our national icon the Kiwi and the Tuatara. With one of the best nocturnal kiwi viewing facilities in New Zealand, a sighting of the kiwi is guaranteed.
The idyllic west coast beaches of Raglan and Kawhia are an easy drive from Hamilton. An ideal day out for families, they are great spots to create lifelong memories. Raglan offers plenty of accommodation and dining options as well as fantastic beach activities, why not give surfing a go with Raglan Surfing School or hire a kayak and explore the limestone coast. The final resting place of the Tainui waka, the smaller seaside town of Kawhia is rich with culture and heritage and at low tide you can dig your own hot pool on the Ocean Beach.
Families also have the perfect chance to explore the Waikato River and Lake Karapiro on a special evening kayak tour with Lake District Adventures to spot glowworms. Walkways and cycle tracks hug the riverbanks providing plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors.
Middle-earth Movie Magic
Middle-earth movie magic can be found in the lush green countryside near Matamata, where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies were filmed. Future generations will be inspired on a guided tour of Hobbiton™ Movie Set where you can see the hobbit holes tucked into the hillside and learn about a significant part of New Zealand’s film history.
The Great Outdoors
There are plenty of opportunities for families to explore the natural wonders of the truly diverse region. The Waitomo Caves are a must-do activity; a million years in the making, they are like nowhere else on earth.
Visit Caveworld for an intimate guided tour with glowworms in an untouched underground experience like no other. Families will also enjoy the Troll Cave, a cave tour designed specifically with children in mind, and great for all ages.
Head up north to Raglan for more glowworm adventures for the family. Raglan Rock caters their adventures to a wide variety of abilities and gives you a chance to experience the wild and wonderful west coast of New Zealand.
For active family fun, there are numerous walks and parks to experience as much of the great outdoors as you want and plenty of wide-open spaces in the region where families can simply enjoy being together. Hire bikes and wind through amazing native bush and open farmland on the Waikato River Trails. Hamilton Gardens and the Hamilton Lake are idyllic spots to enjoy a picnic. There are many great playgrounds across the region to keep the kids entertained for hours.
Wet days can sometimes be a challenge with children, but luckily the region has the perfect variety of all-weather destinations.
SkyCity Hamilton provides hours of family entertainment all under one roof, with tenpin bowling, an escape room and cafes and restaurants to refuel afterwards.
In central Hamilton, Waikato Museum makes learning fun. Inquisitive children of all ages will happily spend hours in total absorption in the Exscite interactive science gallery. The changing exhibitions bring the region’s stories to life, with a focus on the regions rich culture and engaging hands-on experiences. While indoor trampoline parks, rock climbing and go karting are also on offer in Hamilton City.
Older children will love taking on one the immersive escape rooms at Escapist, then refuel afterwards in the board game cafe.