Top 11 Summer Activities in the Waikato
Although any time of the year is good to explore the Waikato, the region’s walking tracks are a drawcard in the summertime. From short walks, such as to Marokopa Falls, or more challenging trails, like the ones up Mt Te Aroha, there’s plenty of ways to take a hike in the Waikato. Go here to look for an adventure to suit.
Waitomo Caves make for adventure that’s cool during the warm summer months. Visitors can opt for an easy stroll through the underground passageways or take a boat cruise under galaxies of twinkling glowworms in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Looking for an adrenaline rush? Push the boundaries by heading down into The Lost World, starting with a 100-metre abseil into the depths, or join a black water rafting tour where you will abseil and zipline, weaving through and climbing in the caverns.
Get up close with native and exotic wildlife in the Waikato. Hamilton Zoo is home to over 600 native and exotic animals including rhino, tigers, lemurs, cheetahs and more. Experience the ultimate alpaca experience with one of Cornerstone Alpaca Farm Tours, where you can meet and feed beautiful alpacas. Ōtorohanga Kiwi House offers year-round viewing of native kiwi in a specially designed nocturnal enclosure. Visit Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari to see native birds - kiwi, takahe, kaka, kererū. Other endangered species making their home here include tiny native bats and tuatara.
Head to the beach
Raglan is the Waikato’s great chill-out spot. Give surfing a go or just laze away the day at Ngarunui Beach. The surfing here is five star and the fishing is popular too. Raglan Harbour, also known as Whaingaroa Harbour, is where you can explore in a kayak (you can rent a kayak from Raglan Kayak & Paddleboard), checking out limestone rock formations, or stand up paddleboard or take a harbour cruise. At Kawhia's Ocean Beach at low tide you can dig your own natural warm water spa in the sand while enjoying stunning coastline views.
The Waikato is home to many destination playgrounds These include Hare Puke Park in the Hamilton suburb of Flagstaff. Named playground of the year, it features a scooter track and sensory play area. The kids will also love the playground at Hamilton Lake while adults enjoy coffee at The Verandah next door. The new playground at Innes Common features a basketball court as well as a parkour course if a running, climbing, swinging, jumping challenge is what you’re after. View more playgrounds.
Nothing beats a bit of indulgence and new taste sensations. The Waikato region ticks the box for a range of foodie experiences. Enjoy a delectable High Tea at Zealong Tea Estate, just north of Hamilton City. Visit award-winning Waikato restaurants or one of the region's many farmers markets for fresh local produce and artisanal food products. You have a sweet tooth? Head for Duck Island Ice Cream in Hamilton East where flavours range from the familiar to the unexpected - salted caramel with cacao crumb, blackberry sage honey, or one called fairy bread sprinkled with those colourful hundreds and thousands little kids love; big kids too. Or pick fresh berries at one of Waikato's pick-your-own fruit locations. At some you’ll also find the reward of a fresh fruit ice cream.
Hamilton City and the wider Waikato region are set for a jam-packed summer of events. You can head to Gourmet in the Gardens on Sunday evenings, where food trucks offer dinner and live music, or enjoy the Soundsplash music festival and Summer Concert Tour. You can also visit the Hamilton Arts Festival - an iconic open-air summer festival. Search events here.
Just in case the weather is, well, less than summery, there’s plenty of indoor fun too - from ten-pin bowling at SkyCity Hamilton to interactive exhibitions at Waikato Museum. Catch a movie at Hoyts at Te Awa, The Base, burn off some energy on an indoor rock climbing wall or trampoline park, or visit the Classics Museum with over 100 classic cars on display along with all sorts of petrol memorabilia.
Lavender fields & Sunflower Farm
Each summer, lavender growers open the gates for visitors to wander the fields of flowers and take photographs of themselves amongst the lavender. Blooms are at their best in the region and totally Instagram-worthy from mid-November until late January and often into February.
Amongst the places to pick your own sunflowers is Taupiri Sunflower Farm where a selfie amongst all the sunniness will be entirely Insta-worthy.