From caves to waterfalls, mountain top vistas, riverside strolls and urban walkways, we've rounded up 10 unique walks in the Waikato region.
1. Piripiri Cave Walk, Waitomo
This magical walk (29km west of Waitomo on Te Anga Rd) offers the chance to view one of the incredible caves in Waitomo, free of charge. Take a short walk through native bush and past limestone outcrops, then follow the path down a small staircase to the cave entrance. There is a platform at the bottom of the cave that allows you to take in the view and observe the fragile ecosystems inside. Be sure to take a torch!
2. Mount Karioi Summit Track, Raglan
Mount Karioi is an extinct volcano in the heart of the Raglan landscape. On a clear day you can see Mt Taranaki, Pureora, Maungamangero, Te Aroha, Pirongia and Maungatautari from the summit. Karioi is said to be the oldest and westernmost of the Alexandra lineament of volcanoes. It is a bit of a steep climb at times and takes roughly 3.5 hours from the car park to the summit (one way).
3. Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton
Taitua Arboretum, in between Hamilton and Whatawhata is a magical green space is made up of 20 hectares of mature native and exotic trees and shrubs with trails, birds and ponds to discover. Linked by a network of meandering walking paths, with great views and wonderful wildlife, the arboretum is ideal for a family outing. Dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a lead at all times.
4. Mount Te Aroha, East Waikato
The summit track to Mount Te Aroha 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. You’ll need to be feeling energetic, as it gets steep at times. Another easier option is to walk to the Whakapipi lookout (45 minutes one way). Afterwards, reward your hard work with a relaxing soak in Te Aroha Mineral Spas. Book in advance to secure your private wooden hot tub.
5. Ed Hillary Walkway, Ōtorohanga
Ōtorohanga is made hugely more colourful with the presence of 26 exhibits and seven large posters in the town centre. These artworks are a quirky and informative display about all things to do with Kiwi culture. There are a range of themes in the exhibits: one is devoted to Colin Meads, one to Kiwi slang, buzzy bees, pavlova, the vote for women and sheep. There are murals, corrugated-iron Kiwi sculptures and a whole arcade of Kiwiana Display Modules in the Ed Hillary Walkway in the centre of town.
6. Hamilton Walks
The Hamilton path network runs north and south along the Waikato River and as you make your way along it, you’ll come across popular parks throughout the city. These pathways showcase the unique beauty of the river in the middle of the city. The river path is a popular stretch for runners and each year the Round the Bridges event utilises its pathways, offering 2km, 6km and 12km running races.
7. Bridal Veil Falls, Raglan
To get to the Bridal Veil Falls, or Waireinga in Māori, is an easy and enjoyable 10-minute walk through native bush. There you'll find the powerful 55m-high plunge waterfall surrounded by 540 acres of Waireinga Scenic Reserve and forest that is dominated by tawa trees. If you’re up for it, about 400m past the Bridal Veil car park is the beginning of the 6km Pipiwharauroa Way walking and cycling track.
8. Te Waihou Walkway, South Waikato
About 9km from Putāruru is Te Waihou, a popular 4.7km scenic walk that takes you through farmland and along lovely streams that are the source of the well-known Blue Spring.The spring is fed from the Mamaku Plateau and its water takes about 100 years to filter through, making it memorably brilliant and clear. The water is of such high quality that it supplies 60% of New Zealand’s bottled water.
9. Te Awa River Ride
This 70km trail takes you through all kinds of landscapes both rural and urban from Ngāuruwāhia in the north through to Karapiro in the south, all next to the mighty Waikato River. It’s easy riding or walking along 3m-wide concrete paths, which are mostly flat apart from a few short, steep bits.
10. Marokopa Falls, Waitomo
About 31km west of Waitomo on Te Anga Road, a 10-minute bushwalk will take you to a viewing platform of the Marokopa Falls – described as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. When rain hits the area (as it often does), the 30m-high falls are a sight to behold as they cascade over the greywacke bluff. The best place to see the falls is from the platform at the end of a short track through nīkau and tawa forest.