Destination Guide: Waikato

The Waikato region’s rolling green hills, bush-clad mountains, and surf beaches are host to amazing attractions for families to enjoy. Whether you’re exploring underground wonders, Middle-earth movie magic, Hamilton city or the mighty Waikato River, there’s plenty on offer.

If you’re looking to take a family holiday, mini-break, or even just a weekend, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to stay, eat and play so you can create wonderful memories with your family.

Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans. 

Fun family experiences

Underground or overground, the Waikato region has something for everyone.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Journey into one of New Zealand’s most famous natural attractions. Discover stunning cave formations as you head underground and marvel at the magical galaxy of glowworm lights. You can also explore Ruakuri and Aranui Caves or those with older kids can go Black Water Rafting for the ultimate Waitomo adventure.

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Hobbiton Movie Set Tours

Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tours

This world-famous attraction is a must-see for movie fans! Your guided tour brings Hobbiton™ to life in the actual movie set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. The evening banquet tour includes dinner at the Green Dragon Inn or book a second breakfast tour and eat like the Hobbits do!

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Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park

Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park

Get acquainted with New Zealand’s amazing birds and reptiles. Enjoy keeper talks throughout the day, walk through the large free-flight aviary, handfeed the birds and see tuatara up close. Kiwi are active during the day in an indoor night time setting, enabling visitors to see these amazing birds as never before.

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Hamilton Zoo

Hamilton Zoo

See over 600 native and exotic animals among the tranquil surroundings for a great family day out. Catch a keeper talk and learn more about the amazing inhabitants. Bring a picnic or grab some tasty treats at The Hungry Morepork Cafe on-site.

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Cornerstone Alpaca Farm Tours

Cornerstone Alpaca Farm Tours

Just outside of Hamilton in Gordonton, come and meet the cuddly alpaca babies at this unique farm attraction. The farm tour will teach you all about alpacas and alpaca farming, with plenty of feeding and photo opportunities.

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Riverside Adventures

Riverside Adventures

Adventure is easy with a guided Waikato River or Hauraki Rail Trail bike tour, or take to the water of Lake Karapiro with a guided kayak tour. For an experience to remember, the twilight kayak glowworm tour takes in the mystical surrounds of the Pokaiwhenua Stream. Bike, e-bike, kayak, and SUP hire are available as well as a shuttle service.

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Free family activities

Even if you’re travelling on a budget, there are still so many experiences you can enjoy with your family.

Parks and playgrounds

Hamilton’s Parana Park is the ideal place for a play and a picnic lunch. The Potter Children’s Garden features multiple paddling pools, playful sculptures and unique play equipment. Hare Puke Playground, Dominion Park Playground and Hamilton Lake Domain are also great for kids. Further afield, Jim Barker Memorial Playground in Otorohanga is a colourful wonderland of exploration!

Hamilton Cycleways & Walkways

Cycle or walk the many established trails and paths by the mighty Waikato River or around Hamilton Lake and explore parks, playgrounds, bridges, gullies, and attractions along the way.

Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato

Telling the story of the Hamilton and Waikato region with changing exhibitions, many aimed at the curiosity of children. Regular free arts and crafts events are held and there are also free activity sheets and challenges for kids to complete as they explore.

Marokopa Falls

The stunning 35m high falls can be found 40 minutes drive west of Waitomo. An easy 20 minute return walk leads to a viewing platform. Don’t miss the short walk to the scenic Mangapohue Natural Bridge 5km before the falls.

Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls

A spectacular 55m high waterfall, just 15 minutes drive south of Raglan. The easy 20 minute return walk through native bush takes you to viewing platforms looking down the plunging falls.

Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.

Ngarunui & Te Kopua Beaches, Raglan

Ngarunui is the iconic black sand beach of Raglan and is popular for surfing, bodyboarding and swimming with lifeguard patrols during summer. Te Kopua has calm estuary waters for swimming, or join the locals by making a splash from the footbridge.

Hamilton Gardens

An amazing array of themed gardens where kids will love the quirky garden features and surprises at every turn. Your senses will take a trip around the world as you discover beautiful plants and flowers and amazing architecture from Italy, China, India and more.

Kawhia Hot Water Beach

Find a spot at low tide on Kawhia’s Ocean Beach and dig your very own natural hot water spa!

Lake Rotopiko

Between Hamilton and Te Awamutu, this National Wetlands Trust reserve has a self-guided discovery trail with hands-on activities to learn about the wetlands and fun activities such as mudfish scrabble and eels and ladders.

Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Lake Rotopiko adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.

Family friendly eateries

When you need to refuel from your Waikato adventures, there’s amazing family-friendly restaurants and cafes to choose from.

The Verandah Cafe (Hamilton)

More than just a cafe, this is an awesome family destination. Dine in on the fresh handmade food with views over Hamilton Lake, or take something to go and pick a picnic spot in the Domain. There’s also an amazing playground right next door!

Ruakura Berry Shop (Hamilton)

Take the kids for a food experience and pick your own berries before enjoying the most amazing real fruit ice creams and smoothies.

Lone Star Rototuna (Hamilton)

The Lone Star menu has a dinner option for everyone from burgers and burritos to grilled meat and epic desserts. ‘Billy the Kids’ meals include a free drink and free mudslide dessert.


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The Village Cafe (Whatawhata)

The perfect spot to stop on your way to Raglan for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Enjoy great food and great coffee while the kids play on the playground, colour-in, or feed the farm animals. The great kids menu includes a takeaway picnic lunch option.

Fat Kiwi Cafe (Otorohanga)

Sister cafe to The Fat Pigeon down the road, the food in the Kiwiana capital is inspired by kiwi farmhouse hospitality and offers cabinet food as well as an extensive menu with keto and vegan options as well as kids meals.

St Kilda Cafe & Bistro (Cambridge)

Serving contemporary New Zealand bistro fare, there’s a good kids’ menu and they will love the playground, basketball court and cycle track. Relax at the outdoor tables while the kids play.

Raglan Fish

Right on the Raglan harbour, shop for fresh fish and seafood. Dine in or takeaway the freshest fish and chips, whitebait fritters and other seafood meals.

Waitomo Homestead

Stop off on your way to or from the Waitomo attractions for tasty food and great coffee. Indoor or outdoor dining options in the beautiful gardens.

Where to stay

For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.

Novotel Tainui Hamilton

Novotel Tainui Hamilton 

Situated in the heart of Hamilton city centre and an easy stroll to Hamilton Lake or Claudelands Events Centre. Enjoy a buffet breakfast on the terrace adjacent to the Waikato River. Superior Family Rooms sleep up to four in spacious comfort.

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Heartland Ambassador Hotel Hamilton

Heartland Ambassador Hotel Hamilton

Just a short walk away from FMG Stadium and Seddon Park for sporting events, this city centre hotel offers a range of hotel rooms plus motel-style units with kitchenette facilities and lounge/dining areas (sleeping up to six). Enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, children’s pool, hot tub, BBQ facilities, and free WiFi.

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Hamilton City Holiday Park

Hamilton City Holiday Park

Perfectly located for your Waikato holiday, this leafy holiday park has 30 power sites and 30 non-power sites for campervans, caravans or tents, plus two serviced amenity blocks. There are also 20 cabins of various sizes including family units that can sleep up to six with bathrom and kitchenette facilities.

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Kamahi Cottage

Kamahi Cottage

Get off the beaten track and indulge in this 5-star self-contained B&B in a peaceful setting with stunning views and a full gourmet breakfast. Children are welcome at this family-friendly cottage that sleeps up to four. Home comforts are supplied including linen, sound system, TV, bed socks, fresh flowers, and freshly ground coffee. Self-cater or enjoy the optional home-cooked meals.

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