Firth Tower Museum, Matamata. © Alex Wallace

Loved by the locals: East Waikato

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1. Annual rugby tournament, Te Aroha

One of the most popular events on Te Aroha's community calendar is a grassroots rugby match between Waihou and Te Aroha, where the two teams compete for the Dr Dunn Trophy.

The game has been played every year since 1959 in tribute to the local doctor who died in 1949 at the age of 30 after being hit by a train on his way to attend to a woman in labour. The competition is held on Dr Dunn Day at Boyd Park in Te Aroha. 

2. Te Aroha Organic Health Shop & Coffee House

Channel your inner hippy and enjoy a treat like raw banoffee slice, plum crumble or rocky road (with a hearty side of smoothie, of course), at the cutest old house-turned-café you’ll ever see, Te Aroha Organic Health Shop & Coffee House (yes, they do coffee, too).

The shop sells organic fruit and veg, gluten-free goodies, dietary supplements, as well as lotions and potions. The likelihood is you'll go to buy something healthy and come away with at least one sweet treat, but the cabinet food is really too good to resist.

3. Te Aroha Mineral Spas

The town is home to a hot soda water spring and this may not sound like much, but trust me: go and sit in a wooden tub at Te Aroha Mineral Spas and you'll spend the whole time planning a permanent shift to the area so you can indulge in one on a daily basis.

The mineral spas attract a heap of visitors throughout the year, so it certainly pays to book in advance.

If you’re feeling super indulgent, there are several spa packages available that offer massage, manicures or facial treatments.

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4. Sweet Painted Lady Café

Stop in at Sweet Painted Lady Café at 52 Seddon Street in Waharoa (just north of Matamata) to enjoy some home baking and a decent coffee on your way out of town.

Says New Zealand food writer Denise Irvine of the place: 'At Sweet Painted Lady you find homemade baking that's the real deal, fresh but not flashy: flavoursome sandwiches, pies, wraps, sweet and savoury brioche, Chelsea buns, decent coffee. You can grab and go – and lots of customers do – or you can wrestle for one of the handful of tables.'

5. Firth Tower Museum, Matamata

Built in 1882 by Josiah Clifton Firth, the Firth Tower Museum is the perfect place to look out over the countryside and enjoy the splendid Waikato out in front of you. When it was built, it was used as the estate office and as sleeping quarters for single men. There's an exhibition on site explaining its history and the history of the town.

The Firth is a great place to stop for a picnic and it has overnight parking available for motorhomes. 

#firthtower #firthtowermuseum #matamata #history #historical #phonepic #datphotography31

A post shared by Daniel Thornton (@datphotography31) on Mar 4, 2017 at 3:20pm PST

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