If you’re looking to get the family out for some fresh air or indulge in a sweet treat, these Waikato activities are worth exploring.
1. Village Café + Taitua Arboretum + The Girl on the Swing
The Village Café is a rustic delight in the heart of Whatawhata (15 minutes’ drive west of Hamilton on SH23). Its charming garden environment, large playground and friendly livestock neighbours give kids plenty to explore.
With tummies filled, head to Taitua Arboretum. This magical green space is made up of 20 hectares of mature native and exotic trees and shrubs with a network of trails, boardwalks and ponds to discover. It’s beautiful in every season and littlies love getting up close with the animals that roam the space.
For a special treat, cruise over to The Girl on the Swing in Hamilton’s northern suburb of Chartwell. The cupcakes here might just be the most outrageous you’ve seen. With all sorts of mouthwatering flavours, the kids will be in heaven (but check the opening hours before you go).
2. Bridal Veil Falls + dip at Raglan + stroll through town
If you’re heading to the laid-back town of Raglan, make a detour to Bridal Veil Falls. A 55-metre-high plunge waterfall with an easy 10-minute walk through native forest to the top, you’ll get stunning views of the falls and surrounding countryside. The walk is suitable for pushchairs, but if the kids are feeling active, head down the stairs to the bottom for another perspective.
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Once you get to Raglan, Ngārunui (Ocean Beach) is the main swimming beach. It’s a beautiful spot with an idyllic coastline and rugged landscape. There are also surfing lessons available if you’re feeling adventurous.
The carpark closest to the beach fills up quickly in summer and it’s a bit of a trek down to the sand with little shade, so for younger families, another option is Te Kopua Beach – an estuary across the footbridge from town with calm waters and good picnic spots.
Once you’re all splashed out, take a lazy stroll along the harbour and through the lively town centre, full of boutique shops, art galleries and cafés. The hole-in-the-wall coffee joint, Raglan Roast, on Volcom Lane is a must for grown-ups with its funky barefoot barista vibe and top-notch flat whites.
2. Parana Park + Waikato River + Gourmet in the Gardens
Hamilton’s many walkways along the Waikato River provide the perfect scenic escape without leaving the city. Start at Parana Park on Memorial Drive where you’ll find paddling pools and a water feature, great for a summer splash. The park has been landscaped with plenty of picnic spots and fun kōwhai-themed features. Check out the aviary and impressive viewing platform.
Head south along the river to Hamilton Gardens. The path is pushchair friendly, or you can cycle with older kids, but be careful on the corners.
If you’re out on a summer Sunday, Hamilton Gardens’ Gourmet in the Gardens is a fun way to spend the evening. Here, handpicked food trucks popular with locals offer tasty cuisines from around the world. Bring a picnic rug and enjoy the entertainment. It runs from 4pm – 8pm during most of daylight savings and entry is free.
3. Mt Te Aroha + hot tub soak
For those with an older clan, a hike up Mt Te Aroha is a fantastic way to spend quality family time.
The summit track is three hours one way through native bush to the highest point on the Kaimāī Range. Here, you can enjoy 360-degree views across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty and you even see Mt Ruapehu, Ngāuruhoe and Taranaki on clear days. You’ll need to be feeling energetic though, as it gets steep at times.
Another option is to walk to the Whakapipi lookout (45 minutes one way) which is more achievable for the whole family.
Afterwards, choose a grassy picnic spot in the surrounds of Te Aroha Domain, then reward your hard work with a relaxing soak in Te Aroha Mineral Spas. They’re private rooms with wooden hot tubs and adjustable temperatures. Book in advance though, as spaces are limited. There are also swimming pools next to the spas if you prefer a cooler splash.
5. Tamahere Country Market + Bike Skills Park + Duck Island Ice Cream
Delight your senses with a stroll through the open-air Tamahere Country Market which runs from 8.30am – 1pm on the third Saturday each month. It’s a bustling, popular event made up of 110 sites selling all sorts of local produce and products.
Once you’ve snapped up your local treasures, continue towards Cambridge and stop in at the Avantidrome. There’s a fun bike skills park catering to all ages, that’s set up as a mini roading system with traffic lights and stop signs. You can take your own bikes, trikes or scooters or hire bikes there for adults and kids over the age of 6. Entry is free.
From here, pop into Hamilton for award-winning Duck Island Ice Cream in either Hamilton East or Riverbank Lane in the CBD. Choose from all sorts of crazy and delicious flavours like roasted white chocolate and miso, cinnamon smoked apple pie or fairy bread.