Free Attractions

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The diverse Waikato region provides an abundance of free activities and attractions so you can experience the wonders and hidden gems of the region on any budget.

Hamilton Gardens - Hamilton

World renowned and absolutely stunning, Hamilton Gardens’ collection of gardens explores the history, context, design and meaning of gardens. Some offer insights into different civilisations, from English gardens to Italian renaissance, Japanese, Indian, English and ancient Egypt, to name just a few.

Then there are fantasy gardens like the Surrealist Garden where the strange biomorphic topiary trees are known as the ‘trons’, and the productive gardens collection that includes the Te Parapara Māori garden showcasing traditional practices, materials and ceremonies relating to food production and storage.

Hot water beach - Kawhia

One of the region’s best kept secrets Kawhia’s hot water beach provides hours of free fun. Head to the end of Ocean Beach road at low tide, climb over the sand dunes down onto the beach, then keep an eye out for the hot water bubbling to the surface, once you find your spot start digging to create your very own natural hot water spa right there in the sand.

Kiwiana Walk - Otorohanga

Ōtorohanga proudly celebrates all things Kiwiana, from gumboots, the buzzy bee children’s toy and marmite to pavlova, school milk and no. 8 wire with the Sir Edmund Hillary Walkway in the centre of town being the best place to see and learn about all things Kiwi.

Mokena Geyser – Te Aroha

For more natural warm spring water, head for Te Aroha where there is the Mokena Geyser, the only natural soda water geyser in the world. The geyser produces 28,000 litres of 75-85°C soda water every day with the mineral-infused water having been a drawcard for visitors to the region since the late 1880. Mokena Geyser erupts approximately every 40 minutes and is one of the great free attractions in the Waikato region.

Walkways – throughout the region

The Waikato region's long rolling landscapes and native bush clad mountains provide for an unlimited number or walking and hiking tracks of all levels. Highlights include:

  • The Kauri Loop walk - this two-hour walk takes you to a towering stand of these ancient forest giants and though a grove of younger kauri trees, as well as rimu and nikau, and other native trees.  
  • Plus many more

Lake Rotoroa/Hamilton Lake – Hamilton

Lake Rotoroa/Hamilton Lake is a major – and scenic – focal point in the city. There are easy trails attracting walkers and joggers, a fitness circuit, playgrounds for the children and parkland with great picnic spots.

Waikato River - throughout the region

The longest awa in New Zealand, the mighty Waikato River rises on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu and 425 kms later empties into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato on the region’s western coastline.

It has spiritual meaning for Waikato Māori who regard it as a source of their mana, or pride, and provides a popular playground for a range of activities including rowing, kayaking, boating, swimming and fishing.

Alongside the mighty Waikato River there are parks and gardens, plus walking, running and cycling tracks including the 65 km Te Awa River Ride that follows the awa between Ngāruawāhia and Lake Karapiro, and is one of the most accessible and scenic in New Zealand.

Cycle Trails – throughout the region

From short rides that even the kids will enjoy to hurtling down mountain bike tracks to meandering along the banks of the mighty Waikato River or longer multi-day adventures, the Waikato is ribboned with cycling trails. The region’s tracks and trails make for experiences that are memorable for the right reasons, no matter your fitness and skill level. Find cycle trails here

Museums & Art Galleries – throughout the region

Many of the museums and art galleries throughout the Waikato offer free admission providing everyone with the chance to dip into the region’s culture and history as well as art collections.

Waterfalls – throughout the region

Completely free of charge and spectacular, the many waterfalls of the Waikato attract admirers never mind the season. From the spectacular 55m high Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan to magnificent Wairere Falls near Matamata or the Marokopa Falls just outside Waitomo. Most are readily accessed with well sign posted tracks to viewing platforms.

Balloons Over Waikato - Hamilton

The five-day Balloons Over Waikato makes for a (free) sight to see every year as the colourful balloons cruise across the skies above Hamilton City and the surrounding areas. The balloons take flight from 7 o’clock each morning of the festival while the Nightglow event makes for an especially spectacular after-dark sight.

Herd of Cows? - Morrinsville

The life-size cow sculptures displayed throughout Morrinsville celebrate its proud dairy farming heritage as well as its passion for the arts. A cow trail map from Morrinsville isite information centre will help you to find them all. For more art check out the Morrinsville Art Gallery, which is also complimentary.

Raglan Beaches

The beaches around the Raglan area on the Waikato’s west coast are a drawcard, never mind the season, with admirers including surfers around the world who appreciate the super long left-hand breaks to be experienced at Manu Bay. With a welcoming harbour and many coves, Raglan’s beaches offer some great swimming and fishing spots. Then there’s the peaceful pleasure of beach combing and admiring the coastal and ocean vistas, especially at sunset.

Te Ara Wai Journeys - Waipa

The stories of the Waipā, once known only to a few, are being heard and appreciated thanks to Te Ara Wai Journeys, the free self-guided tour of culturally significant sites throughout the district. You can access rich audiovisual stories from local experts online via the website or on your mobile phone as you visit six zones of historical and cultural significance. At each stop along the way, you can watch a selection of short video and audio interviews with local experts giving different perspectives on what happened at each site.

Street Art - throughout the region

The streets of Hamilton and many of the city’s public spaces, including walkways along the mighty Waikato River, are a visual feast of quirky murals and eye-catching sculptures, many of them telling local stories. The street art has been created by an eclectic mix of local artists, as well as big names of the New Zealand and international art scene. Whether you are a passionate art aficionado, or simply enjoy seeing something different, the installations are worthy of exploration.

Playgrounds - throughout the region

Throughout the Waikato there are those special fun places that come at no cost and are a welcome sight for parents and children, especially when there’s energy to burn. The region’s playgrounds are a mecca for families whether the attraction is the usual swings, slides, sandpits, or equipment like climbing modules and trampolines, or a skateboard park. Many also feature separate junior and advanced play areas to ensure everyone’s enjoyment.

FMG Stadium Waikato History Wall - Hamilton

For insights into the Waikato’s rich 100-plus year rugby history, there is nothing better than strolling along the History Wall bordering the FMG Waikato Stadium. The panels commemorate the rugby roots of the stadium which, as well as rugby games, today also hosts a variety of other sporting, business and entertainment events.

Matamata isite - Matamata

As well as providing a goldmine of information about what to see and do in the area, the Matamata isite is instant confirmation that this is where Middle-earth movie magic is to be found. The Middle-earth themed building is a taste of what is to come up the road at Hobbiton Movie Set where the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed.