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  3. Otorohanga
Prepare to be entertained, amused and fascinated in Ōtorohanga, New Zealand’s self-made 'kiwiana' town.

Destination Ōtorohanga

Ōtorohanga is located 45 minutes south of Hamilton on the way to the Waitomo Caves region and at just about every turn this town celebrates the national identity of New Zealand with displays of icons, heroes and traditions – and colourful hanging baskets of flowers along the main street.

Sir Edmund Hillary Walkway

For Kiwiana buffs, on the main street there is the Sir Edmund Hillary Walkway where many things synonymous with the Kiwi lifestyle are on display, from A to Z – from the All Blacks and the haka to the vote for women (New Zealand gave women the vote in 1893, the first country in the world to do so) and Weet-Bix, a favourite breakfast cereal for many.

Elsewhere in town there is a veritable streetscape of specially commissioned Kiwiana murals and sculptures, including giant kiwis fabricated from a variety of materials such as the ubiquitous New Zealand building material, corrugated iron.

Ōtorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park

No visit to Ōtorohanga would be complete without checking out the iconic kiwi, the flightless nocturnal bird that is intrinsically New Zealand.

Set in park-like surroundings, the world-famous Ōtorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park gives you a chance to see kiwis in innovatively designed nocturnal enclosures. It’s dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand's native wildlife incubating and raising kiwi chicks for release into the wild.

Many other native birds such as tūī, ruru (morepork), kea and kākāriki (parakeet) are housed in a walk-through aviary where a natural rainforest habitat has been recreated for them. Also exhibited are insects such as the giant wétā and reptiles including the rare tuatara.

Ōtorohanga Museum & Waka House

A collection of the town’s pioneering buildings includes a museum as well as the specially constructed Waka House alongside where a partially completed waka dating back 150-plus years is on display. The canoe, nearly 12 metres in length, still has some tree roots at the stern end while the bow has been shaped.

Jim Barker Memorial Playground

Even the town’s public toilets are a light-hearted tribute to New Zealand’s popular culture, while the Jim Barker Memorial Playground at the southern edge of town also incorporates Kiwiana, much to the delight of visiting families.

Ōtorohanga Stopbank Pathway

Kiwiana and kiwis aside, the Ōtorohanga Stopbank Pathway that runs along the Waipa River is a great walking and cycling track with the elevation providing views of the river as well as nearby parks, sports grounds and the lake. Storyboards and works of art along the way provide interesting insights.

Shopping and Dining

Eateries also beckon, including O Café on the main street as well as the Fat Kiwi Café on Te Kanawa Street. Two local bakeries have both savoury and sweet treats, while the local coffee roaster Origin Coffee can be found in the old railway station on Wahanui Street – the house special being a white rhino, a white chocolate mochaccino. Check out dining options on Ōtorohanga here.

This vibrant town is the gateway to the Waitomo district with its glow worm caves, black water rafting, abseiling while above ground amongst the attractions are walkways and cycling trails through countryside that features dramatic limestone outcrops some of which have ‘starred’ in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie. There are waterfalls too, including the Marokopa Falls, said to be the most beautiful in New Zealand. There’s boutique-style accommodation on offer here too, both in town and rurally where some of the farming families welcome visitors.