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Light Footprint Weekender: 2 day itinerary

Embark on a two-day regenerative and sustainable travel journey through the mighty Waikato. This thoughtfully crafted itinerary seamlessly combines eco-conscious activities and breathtaking sights, all while minimising your environmental footprint. Experience the best of Waikato with ease, knowing you're treading lightly on this beautiful land.

Day 1: Start your day at Hamilton Gardens

Depart Hamilton along State Highway 26 towards Morrinsville.

Take a guided tour or explore at your own pace with an audio tour and discover the gardening styles of different civilisations throughout time - from the grandeur of the Indian Char Bagh Garden and NZ’s only traditional Māori garden, Te Parapara. Hamilton Gardens has 21 themed garden areas with more being developed.

Rather than focusing on plant collections, the emphasis is on different types of garden design. Hamilton Gardens has the unique concept of showcasing the cultural meaning and context of gardens over the past 4,000 years.

Hamilton Gardens is sustainably operated with the following measures in place:

  • Water management
  • Effective energy use and working toward becoming carbon neutral by 2030
  • Food waste from staff goes into the on-site worm farm
  • The on-site plant nursery specialises in locally eco-sourced plants
  • Pest control
  • Qualmark Gold

Visit Zealong Tea Estate

Relax over a cup of the world’s purest tea with stunning views over the only tea plantation in New Zealand. Enjoy the indulgent high tea with a selection of delicious tea-infused nibbles to complement your tasting experience.

Take the time to enjoy high tea and sample delicious local food with menus that change with each season.
Zealong Tea Estate is committed to establishing a sustainable business for future generations:

  • Certified organic
  • Tea packaged in compostable tea bags derived from certified non-
  • GMO sugar cane
  • Qualmark Gold

Stop in at Waikato Museum

Explore historical exhibitions and contemporary art at Waikato Museum and ArtsPost. Waikato Museum maintains strong links with its community and operates a programme of events that provide a platform to showcase the diversity of our multicultural city. Te Winika the waka taua (war canoe) that makes a welcoming statement and is on permanent display. Next door to the museum is ArtsPost showcasing the best local artists in ever-changing exhibitions.

Social, cultural and environmental sustainability initiatives are at the forefront for Waikato Museum and ArtsPost:

  • LED lighting and energy efficient air-conditioning upgrades have reduced energy consumption by 12.1%
  • Eco-friendly cleaning products used throughout the business
  • Recycling resources, including glass, paper/cardboard, and plastics
  • Supporting education programmes for conservation of native species
  • Qualmark Gold

Finish the day at a local restaurant

Palate Restaurant

Enjoy a menu based around locally sourced produce. The Palate team strive to keep the restaurant’s carbon footprint down with thought and action going into sustainable fishing, recycling and awareness of what we need to do ethically to keep our planet green and clean.

The Green

An 8 seater chefs table, over looking the Waikato River, inspired by all things Waikato. The menu changes daily, with the seasons, showcasing Waikato suppliers, growers and artisan producers.

Stay at Novotel Tainui Hamilton

Make yourself at home in 4-star comfort at Novotel Hamilton Tainui hotel in the city centre. Located on the banks of the Waikato River, it's an easy stroll to attractions and activities and a great selection of foodie offerings.

Novotel Tainui is sustainably operated and has the following measures in place:

  • Sustainable food options including food grown in kitchen gardens and sourced locally
  • Planet 21 Gold – an Accor group initiative focussing on sustainable development
  • Eco-designed building including wood sourced from sustainably managed forests and bedspreads and pillowcase made from recycled bottles.
  • Plant for the Planet – Accor encourages guests to reuse towels.
  • Savings made on water and energy are then used to fund tree planting.
  • ETIC Bronze certification for ethical and sustainable hotels
  • EV charging facilities
  • Qualmark Silver

Day 2: Explore Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

Take a guided tour or grab an explore pass and take in the maunga at your own pace.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a mainland ecological ‘island’ surrounded by one of the world's longest pest-proof fences. The maunga offers a safe haven for many of New Zealand’s native bird species as well as giant wētā, geckos, tuatara, kōura and North Island long-tailed bats.

Recognised as a national stronghold for western brown Kiwi, Sanctuary Mountain has seen more than 500 Kiwi introduced in the last five years and more recently the first kākāpō have moved onto the maunga. Kākāpō are amongst the rarest birds in the world, with 201 in existence and Sanctuary Mountain will play a significant role in kākāpō breeding.

As well as being a world-class conservation project, Sanctuary Mountain has:

  • Education programmes to teach guests how to better care for the environment
  • Qualmark Gold

Travel to Waitomo

Visit Waitomo Glowworm Caves & Ruakuri Cave

Visit the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves with their dramatic underground limestone formations, stalagmites, stalactites, rushing subterranean streams and waterfalls, and the sparkling displays of glowworms offer experiences to suit any visitor.

The Glowworm Caves are known as one of New Zealand’s best natural attractions, take a boat ride through the glowworm grotto, marvel at thousands of magical glowworms and become part of over 130 years of cultural and natural history.

Ruakuri Caves offers a captivating blend of the most compelling subterranean experiences, including glowworms. Journey down through the spectacular spiral entrance and get right up close to cave formations.

Waitomo Caves is sustainably operated and has the following measures in place:

  • Limited guests through the caves to ensure health of the caves
  • Eliminating single-use plastics and reducing waste generation
  • Monitored caves to ensure the caves wildlife within the caves are kept in the best condition possible
  • Partnering with DOC in pest eradication, benefiting biodiversity
  • Planting and fencing to exclude livestock, enchancing the Waitomo catchment and its awa

Eco-friendly stays in Waitomo

Orchard Valley Glamping

Every aspect of this space has been well thought out at Orchard Valley Glamping in a bid to keep the footprint on the land as small as possible including:

  • Eco-friendly utilities
  • Solar power

Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park

Nestled in the heart of Waitomo Caves Village, Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park welcomes visitors wishing to explore the spectacular attractions around it – above and below ground and looks after the land with:

  • Native tree plantings on the park’s grounds
  • Predator control
  • Energy efficient heat pumps in all units
  • Dedication to waste minimisation

Kamahi Cottage

Kahmahi Cottage is a self-contained 5-Star B&B. On a hill country farm with a beautiful large country garden. Eco-friendly practices include:

  • Solar panels to produce hot water
  • The cottage was built from locally sourced, untreated renewable timber
  • Seasonal menus include locally grown food and organic fruit from the orchard on the farm
  • Fenced native forest to protect from grazing animals and undertake predator control for rats, weasels, stoats, possums and wild cats

After your stay in Waitomo head back to Hamilton Airport for your flight home, or pop into Otorohanga for fuel for you and your EV before heading home.