1. Visitors
  2. Things to do
  3. Itineraries
  4. Te Aroha to Cambridge

From Te Aroha to Cambridge: 2-3 days road trip

Starting from Hamilton, this itinerary takes in the towns on the eastern side of the Waikato region. Known for over 100 years as a spa town, Te Aroha welcomes visitors with beautifully preserved and restored historic buildings and rejuvenating natural hot springs. Matamata, where hobbit holes are found and movie magic happens is next, followed by Cambridge, home to some of New Zealand’s top thoroughbred horse champions as well as a number of contemporary artists and artisans.

Day 1: Hamilton to Te Aroha via Morrinsville

Depart Hamilton along State Highway 26 towards Morrinsville.

Morrinsville, just 30 minutes away, is renowned for the 60 life-size cow sculptures lining the streets, as well as the Morrinsville Art Gallery featuring New Zealand contemporary artists.

In Morrinsville

  • Follow the Heritage Trail with a map from the information centre. The walk showcases 21 sites including the historic Nottingham Castle Hotel.
  • Discover creative Morrinsville by following the arts trail or visiting Morrinsville Gallery
  • Visit Morrinsville Museum with its focus on the pioneering and farming past.
  • Follow the 'Herd of Cows?' Morrinsville Street Art Trail, a collection of 60 life-size cow sculptures.
  • Stroll along one - or more - of the delightful short walks in the town’s parks or beside the river.

Drive on to Te Aroha (15-20 minutes), an Edwardian spa town at the base of Mt Te Aroha, well known for its hot pools and biking and hiking tracks.

In Te Aroha

  • Picnic in the lovely Te Aroha Hot Springs Domain.
    See the Mokena Geyser, the only hot soda water geyser in the world.
  • Soak in Te Aroha mineral spa pools with a choice of luxurious private baths or spas.
  • Follow the heritage trail to see the historic buildings and monuments.
  • Take a walk on one of the many excellent hiking tracks, or ride a bike along the Hauraki Rail Trail.

Overnight in or around Te Aroha

Day 2: Te Aroha to Matamata

Head south to Matamata (35 minutes).

Matamata is well known for the Lord of the Rings and HobbitonTM Movie Set, award-winning cheese and geothermal springs.

In Matamata

  • Visit the Firth Tower Estate and Museum, one of New Zealand’s largest farming museums set in lovely gardens with shady trees and wide lawns providing great picnic spots.
  • Go bush to see the Wairere Falls, at 153 metres the second highest in the North Island – allow two hours one-way to complete the first and second lookouts with wonderful views of the falls and the Waikato basin.
  • For an intriguing insight into the creative genius of filmmaker Peter Jackson, take a tour of Hobbiton Movie Set about 15 minutes south of Matamata town.

Stay overnight at a farm stay or accommodation in town

Day 3: Matamata to Cambridge via Karapiro

Head to Cambridge (40 minutes). 

Known as ‘The Town of Trees’, Cambridge offers visitors some old English charm, delightful eateries and antique shops promising must-have treasures. A stroll through the town will introduce you to the many people and horses that have put the place on the map with plaques and mosaics celebrating their wins. Included are the 13 local horses that have won the sought-after Melbourne Cup. Speaking of sporting legends, this is also New Zealand’s home of cycling and the hallowed waters of Lake Karapiro nearby is where many Olympic gold athletes have trained.

In Cambridge and surrounds

  • Shop for antiques, art, crafts and homewares.
    Take your pick from the welcoming cafés and restaurants. Several, like Alpino and Paddock, offer street-side dining in the sun.
  • Follow the walk of fame paying tribute to the town’s many sporting heroes - human and equine.
  • Learn about the town’s history with a visit to Cambridge Museum in the old courthouse building.
  • For quality greenstone carvings and jewellery pop into Cambridge Shell and Jade.
  • Take a spin on the Waikato River with Camjet Cambridge.
  • For fine art and gifts visit Heritage Gallery or, a short drive out of town, there’s Inspirit Gallery.
  • For an easy walk or even a picnic in beautiful surroundings, head for Maungakawa Scenic Reserve. Once the site of a TB sanatorium for returned servicemen, the reserve has regenerating native forest, rhododendrons, bluebells and snowdrops and great views.
  • Visit picturesque Lake Karapiro, home to Rowing New Zealand – you can take to the water yourself in a kayak, check out the hydroelectric Karapiro Power Station and the dam that was built in the 1940s and remains in service today.

Stay overnight in Cambridge or drive back to Hamilton (approx 20 mins up SH1)