Hamilton & Waikato

Captivating attractions can be found around every corner in Hamilton (Kirikiriroa) and the wider Waikato region.

Look up in Waitomo's underground world and you'll see a canopy of glowworms twinkling from the ceiling. Movie magic comes to life in Matamata, where you can walk through an enchanting hobbit village and then feast like you're really in Middle-earth. In the region's biggest city, Hamilton, all signs point to the curated collection of fantasy gardens. After walking between the surreal vegetation, head out on a craft beer trail, lick some of the country's best icecream or visit a sprawling organic tea estate.

Charming sights continue as you venture further south where you'll encounter some of the clearest water in the world and hot water bubbling up between thermal springs and remote black sand beaches. All that plus laid-back surf towns, thundering waterfalls, our largest pest-free sanctuary and the world's unofficial capital of corrugated iron.

See & Do

Float through a twinkling glowworm grotto, drop into a west coast surfing hotspot and explore an eclectic garden world.

Our greatest rock stars

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are one of the main jewels in New Zealand's tourism crown. The ancient subterranean world in the heart of the Waikato region is home to thousands of sparkly glitter bugs as well as all kinds of fun for thrill seekers — abseiling, blackwater rafting, waterfall jumping and even ominous-sounding "tight squeezes". The standard Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour includes a leisurely boat ride to the twinkling beauties overhead. Read more

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are one of New Zealand's most popular attractions. HAMILTON AND WAIKATO TOURISM

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are one of New Zealand's most popular attractions. HAMILTON AND WAIKATO TOURISM

Hamilton Gardens has more than 20 different gardens to explore. BROOK SABIN

Hamilton Gardens has more than 20 different gardens to explore. BROOK SABIN

A slice of 'Alice in Wonderland'

Tucked away in Hamilton is a fantasyland that attracts more than one million people a year. The Hamilton Gardens are magnificent, and best of all, they're free to visit. The park has more than 20 meticulously curated gardens, hugging the edge of the Waikato River near the centre of town. With optical illusions and giant mechanically moving trees, The Surrealist Garden is like something out of Alice in Wonderland. There's the lush tropical garden, an elaborate recreation of Katherine Mansfield's short story 'The Garden Party' and a Concept Garden complete with a Huddleston Airship. Read more

Insider tip: Hamilton Gardens is about to have a significant new addition, with its long-awaited Ancient Egyptian Garden opening on May 10.
Brook Sabin, travel reporter

Journey to Middle-earth

Near Matamata, in the Waikato region, is one of New Zealand's top tourist attractions: the Hobbiton Movie Set. There are 44 hobbit holes to admire in the hobbit village and the tour reveals some incredible details about the filmmaking process — whether you're a Lord of the Rings nut or non-believer. There are also evening banquet tours, private tours, and you can even hire out Hobbiton for events and functions. How about a Middle-earth wedding? Read more

There are 44 hobbit holes to admire. BROOK SABIN

There are 44 hobbit holes to admire. BROOK SABIN

The Te Waihou Walkway is suitable for all fitness levels. BROOK SABIN

The Te Waihou Walkway is suitable for all fitness levels. BROOK SABIN

The clearest water in the North Island

An easy hour’s drive from Hamilton brings you to the clearest, bluest water in the North Island. The Blue Spring is an easygoing three-hour return stroll along the Te Waihou Walkway through wetlands, bush and farmland. The spring is fed from the Mamaku Plateau – it takes 100 years to filter through — and it is so pure that it provides around 70 per cent of New Zealand’s bottled water. Read more

The Te Aroha Mineral Spas offer a romance package, with chocolate and candles. BROOK SABIN

The Te Aroha Mineral Spas offer a romance package, with chocolate and candles. BROOK SABIN

A spa was born

The small town of Te Aroha is home to the most complete Victorian and Edwardian hot pool complex in the country. The mineral waters found at the foot of a mountain have been used for hundreds of years and are renowned for their healing properties. The private tubs at Te Aroha Mineral Spas are surprisingly affordable — treat yourself to a $99 romance package which includes chocolates and a drink in a candlelit spa. Read more

Insider tip: Visit Te Aroha Mineral Spas on a Tuesday or Wednesday and pay only $16 for a 30-minute soak.
Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

The world's largest pest-free sanctuary

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a 3400-hectare nature reserve ringed by a 47-kilometre pest-proof fence. The mountain has been a reserve since 1912 and is now, with the inspiring co-operation of local land-owners, iwi and residents, the world's largest pest-free sanctuary: a mainland island showing what our environment was like, pre-people. While tuatara, giant wētās, frogs, bats, and many species of birds are flourishing here, Sanctuary Mountain's kiwi population is deservedly its main source of pride. Read more

At the sanctuary you have a chance to hear and possibly see native birdlife. BROOK SABIN

At the sanctuary you have a chance to hear and possibly see native birdlife. BROOK SABIN

You can’t come to Raglan and not check out the surf. LIZ CARLSON

You can’t come to Raglan and not check out the surf. LIZ CARLSON

The perfect place for a day trip

Raglan is one of those unique towns that straddles the divide between being a tourist hub and a place that beckons locals for a good chill holiday year-round. Well-known as a mecca for surfers and wannabe-surfers, Raglan exudes that beachy, barefoot vibe in spades. There are plenty of surf schools, eco-friendly businesses, amazing coffee, and a buzzing art scene you can only find in a place where people are in touch with the land and sea — making Raglan the perfect place to escape to for a night, or even a day trip. Read more

The best times to be in Waikato

The southern hemisphere's largest agricultural event, a buffet dinner for hobbits and magical hot air balloon festival make for brilliant visitor experiences in Waikato throughout the year. The four-day Fieldays returns in 2022 with exhibitors, heavy machinery and events like tractor pulling. Kawhia Kai showcases a feast of traditional Māori food on the scenic Kawhia foreshore. The Special Olympics National Summer Games will see over 1300 athletes compete in 11 sports across Hamilton. Read more

Pirongia is home to some of the region’s best short walks. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

Pirongia is home to some of the region’s best short walks. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

A tiny town with epic walks

Home to just over a thousand people, Pirongia is where you’ll find some of the best short walks in the region. Stop by one of the town's excellent cafés, grab a coffee and visit the historic visitor centre, which will give you ample ideas for an afternoon exploring. Some of the more popular options include walks in the Pirongia Forest Park, which is home to the largest area of unbroken native bush in the region.

WAIKATO'S NATURAL WONDERS

Waikato River

You can't look past the mighty Waikato – New Zealand’s longest river. At 425km the river meanders, and in places, rushes, through the region offering a variety of leisure options, from kayaking to multi-day cycle rides on its banks. It is also a cultural backbone, with a deep spiritual meaning. The Waikato River is taonga (treasure), and the mauri (life force) of Tainui Waka and Ngāti Tūwharetoa.

Mangapohue Natural Bridge. BROOK SABIN

Mangapohue Natural Bridge. BROOK SABIN

Mangapohue Natural Bridge

Close to Waitomo Village is this wonder of nature – a 17-metre-high limestone arch, which spans the Mangapohue Stream. The bridge is all that is left of an ancient cave system. The 700-metre loop is an easy stroll from the car park over boardwalks and is pushchair and wheelchair accessible, up until the staircase begins beside the arch. If the conditions are right, those going later into the evening are treated to a free glowworm light show.

Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls

One of New Zealand’s most stunning waterfalls is also one of the country’s most accessible. From the car park, the 10-minute track through beautiful native forest to the top of the plunge falls is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. You’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the 55-metre waterfall and surrounding countryside.

Kawhia Hot Water Beach

While other hot water beaches may get all the tourist attention, the small beachside town of Kawhai harbours one of the region’s best kept secrets. Those in the know head down to Ocean Beach at low tide, with a spade handy ready to dig for an instant natural hot water spa. Then sit back and enjoy this wild and rugged spot of coastline.

Kawhia Coast. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

Kawhia Coast. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

Marokopa Falls

Often called one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, the 35-metre Marokopa Falls are a must-visit on the way to Waitomo. The walk is an easy 20-minute return through native tawa and nikau forest down to the viewing platform. The lookout is permanently out of action.

Marokopa Falls. BROOK SABIN

Marokopa Falls. BROOK SABIN

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Hidden Gems

Pedal along NZ's next great ride, hop between charming tiny towns and walk through an immersive sculpture park.

Free fun for the entire family

One of the best free things to do in the region is a visit to Waikato Museum, which has a special exhibit offering the closest look at the moon’s surface most of us have ever seen. Running until June 12, it's called “Our Moon: Then Now and Beyond” and features a giant moon suspended in the centre of the room recreated with NASA imagery. Kids can also role-play a rocket launch and learn all about NZ’s space exploration. The wider museum is home to 30,000 items, including a 200-year-old waka. Read more

Get a good look at outer space — in Hamilton. BROOK SABIN

Get a good look at outer space — in Hamilton. BROOK SABIN

An educational journey

Through digital storytelling project, Te Ara Wai Journey, visitors can embark on six self-guided tours of culturally and historically significant sites in Waipā, from lake walks and hill climbs to battle sites and early settlements. Told in both English and Māori, there are 169 short stories featuring historians, military experts, archaeologists and local kaumātua with direct links to historic events. Each journey takes around two hours, but can easily become a half or full day trip with a picnic lunch or café stop or detour along the way. Read more

Hamilton's best creative boutiques and galleries

There are few better ways to feed your spirit than a day spent exploring Hamilton's best boutiques and galleries. Slinging the works and wares of Kiwi artisans, you're sure to stumble upon some inspiration and quality goods. Get your creative fix in the 'Tron by hopping between conscious fashion and homeware stores to traditional and modern galleries. Read more

Te Awa River Ride runs over 60km between Ngāruawāhia and Karāpiro. BROOK SABIN

Te Awa River Ride runs over 60km between Ngāruawāhia and Karāpiro. BROOK SABIN

NZ’s next big cycle trail

One of NZ's newest bike rides weaves along the mighty Waikato River. The full 65km Te Awa Great New Zealand River Ride stretches from Ngāruawāhia to Lake Karāpiro and is expected to open in the second half of this year, but there are spectacular day trips that you can do now. The first section passes a pā site, coffee shops, scenic river stops and a magnificent arch-cable bridge. The middle section, which is still being finished off, navigates the longest concrete path in the country as well as riverside boardwalks. It will connect to the southern leg of the trail. Read more

The corrugated iron selfie stop

Plumb in the middle of the North Island you can walk through a giant metal ewe, ram and sheepdog. Tīrau's sheep building was the start of the corrugated iron craze that now defines the tiny town. The dog came next, with a Visitor Centre, mural and public toilets inside it; and then everyone, including the local church, got in on the act, from the town's welcome sign to shop and business labels. The canoodling ram completes the selfie-worthy trio. Read more

Tīrau is the corrugated iron capital of New Zealand. KELLY HODEL/STUFF

Tīrau is the corrugated iron capital of New Zealand. KELLY HODEL/STUFF

Two young entrepreneurs at the Trash and Treasure Market in Cambridge. BROOK SABIN

Two young entrepreneurs at the Trash and Treasure Market in Cambridge. BROOK SABIN

New Zealand's next big tiny town

Cambridge is a small village with the charm and personality of a resort town. The little town is much more than lakes, rivers, and a picturesque town centre full of great shopping and food. Here you can float through a secret glowworm canyon or roar up rapids of the Waikato River, take a guided breathwork session and then enjoy a balanced breakfast at the local farmers’ market. Read more

Insider tip: Entry to Taupiri Sunflower Farm is $5 per person with pick-your-own blooms available for $3 a stem. BYO secateurs.
Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

An extreme horse riding adventure

If you’re keen to get the blood pumping, head out to Ruapuke for an “extreme horse adventure” with Wild Coast, which isn’t as scary as it might sound. Rides are tailored to each group, so even if you’ve never straddled a steed before you can feel the wind in your face as you’re carried through native bush – and a few streams – to the beach. Between October and April, you can end your trek with an ocean-side feast of burgers, plus a well-deserved beer or glass of wine. The sunset view will be among the best in the west. Read more

Paddling through the glowworm canyon during sunset. SUPPLIED

Paddling through the glowworm canyon during sunset. SUPPLIED

Glowworms only accessible by kayak

On Lake Karāpiro you can paddle through a bush-clad gorge illuminated by thousands of glowworms. The magical twilight experience is the highlight of Riverside Adventures' guided excursions. The kayak tours set off around sunset paddling over the Horahora Village before heading upstream and through a canyon dripping with greenery. As dusk turns to darkness and the return journey begins, blue-green clusters light up each bank. At times, the glowworms will be just inches from your nose. Read more

The Ruakuri Cave has well-formed paths and is perfect for the whole family. BROOK SABIN

The Ruakuri Cave has well-formed paths and is perfect for the whole family. BROOK SABIN

An unmissable cave walk

While the famous Waitomo Caves are known around the world, just a few kilometres away, you'll find one of the country's best hidden gems. It’s known as Ruakuri Cave and is accessed by a spectacular spiral drum that takes you deep underground. You then walk along the tunnel, before a sliding door opens and leads you to a spectacular subterranean world. The cave system has dramatic formations, glowworms you can walk right up to, underground rivers, hidden waterfalls and it's even wheelchair and pram friendly. Read more

Ruakuri is accessed by a spiral entrance. BROOK SABIN

Ruakuri is accessed by a spiral entrance. BROOK SABIN

The Surrealist Garden makes you feel like you’ve shrunk. BROOK SABIN

The Surrealist Garden makes you feel like you’ve shrunk. BROOK SABIN

A sneak peek at the new Ancient Egyptian Garden. BROOK SABIN

A sneak peek at the new Ancient Egyptian Garden. BROOK SABIN

Te Winika is a 200-year-old war canoe. BROOK SABIN

Te Winika is a 200-year-old war canoe. BROOK SABIN

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Ruakuri is accessed by a spiral entrance. BROOK SABIN

Ruakuri is accessed by a spiral entrance. BROOK SABIN

The Surrealist Garden makes you feel like you’ve shrunk. BROOK SABIN

The Surrealist Garden makes you feel like you’ve shrunk. BROOK SABIN

A sneak peek at the new Ancient Egyptian Garden. BROOK SABIN

A sneak peek at the new Ancient Egyptian Garden. BROOK SABIN

Te Winika is a 200-year-old war canoe. BROOK SABIN

Te Winika is a 200-year-old war canoe. BROOK SABIN

The North Island's most underrated region

Home to waterfalls, riverside trails, a hidden glowworm canyon and one of the most-awarded cheese makers in NZ, South Waikato is the North Island's most underrated region. The Waikato River Trails pass farmland, native bush, pine forest and a series of hydroelectric dams over more than 100km. They’re a more adventurous option than the nearby Hauraki Rail Trail. No first-time trip is complete without a visit to the Blue Spring near Pūtāruru. You can also hike to the top of the North Island’s highest waterfall though a fairytale-like forest. Read more

Waitomo's the Lost World is 100 metres deep.

Waitomo's the Lost World is 100 metres deep.

A labyrinth of underground activity

It's easy to think that Waitomo is just one cave. There are 300 known caves in the area and endless adventures, both underground and above. The “Lost World” cave is a prehistoric sinkhole 100 metres down where visitors can abseil and zipline into the pitch black abyss. Waitomo Adventures has been running adrenaline experiences here for more than 30 years, from half- to full-day epics. They also have blackwater rafting and caving expeditions for thrill seekers and a troll cave for kids. Read more

The sculpture park in a derelict quarry

Take an old quarry, fill it with more than 20,000 trees and shrubs and what do you get? The Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum, one of the Waikato’s best-kept secrets. Thanks to a massive ecological restoration project, which began in 1991, today a 2km trail winds through trees and shrubs, past ponds, cliffs and an outdoor sculpture park containing more than 100 installations. There are also kid's play areas and if you time it right, musical performances.

View active kiwi throughout the day. TOM LEE/STUFF

View active kiwi throughout the day. TOM LEE/STUFF

The best place to spot a kiwi

Ōtorohanga's Kiwi House and Native Bird Park guarantees visitors will see a kiwi. The wildlife sanctuary has hatched more than 150 chicks since 1971, raising kiwi for release into the wild. The on-site nocturnal house is about bringing that experience to life for visitors, helping people fall in love with the kiwi and learn how to take action to support them. Wander around the native bird park and enjoy keeper talks. Read more

Eat & Drink

Follow a craft beer trail through Waikato, sample weird and wonderful icecream flavours and feast like a hobbit.

Lick the country's best icecream

At Hamilton’s Duck Island Ice Cream, cookies and cream is the closest you’ll get to any of the Kiwi icecream staples. The scoop shop, which launched in an old underwear factory in 2015, specialises in weird but absolutely wonderful creations. Here, flavours like roasted white chocolate miso sit next to honeycomb smoked almond, and the icy black sticky rice can be scooped on top of the best-selling fairy bread. The company’s pastel-pink parlours scoop as many as 25 intriguing flavours (of around 40) at any one time. Read more

Duck Island scoop shops have as many as 25 intriguing flavours at any one time. BROOK SABIN

Duck Island scoop shops have as many as 25 intriguing flavours at any one time. BROOK SABIN

Insider tip: Head to Original Pokeno Ice Creams, where single cones are just $2 and you'll find the country's biggest icecream —a massive 15 scoops.
Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

Eat the world's greatest hobbit feast

The Green Dragon Inn is a sprawling tavern where hobbits go to feast. The Banquet at Hobbiton brings together what is probably the biggest feast you'll ever see. It's so extravagant, you feel like someone is going to appear with a clapperboard and call 'action'. The long wooden candlelit tables are covered in elaborate dishes; from slow-cooked lamb shanks to bubbling pans of sausages, salmon steaks and roast chickens doused in gravy. Hobbiton's hobbit feast includes dinner and dessert, and in true hobbit fashion seconds are encouraged. Read more

The hobbit feast includes dinner and dessert. BROOK SABIN

The hobbit feast includes dinner and dessert. BROOK SABIN

Riverside dining at its finest

There are several great spots that overlook the Waikato River. Palate is the go-to if you’re looking for something in the fine dining category. If it’s sharing plates you’re after you can’t go past Mr Pickles — sit outside on a fine evening and people watch while sharing plates of their clever creative food like beetroot carpaccio or their legendary beef cheek croquettes. A bit further along is Gothenburg which is a wonderful place for a drink with a view outside. Read more

NZ's only commercial tea estate

Waikato's Zealong Tea Estate grows and hand-harvests over 1.2 million bushes to produce three types of tea: green, oolong and black. The whole process takes place onsite and is totally organic. In the Retail Boutique, you can sample and select from a range of teas to find the one that’s perfect for you, all with expert guidance. There’s more to enjoy outside. The neatness of the tea plantations is continued into the manicured gardens surrounding the Tea House. A wander is a lovely way to relax before or after your seasonal high tea or lunch. Read more

Sit down for tea in Zealong's peaceful garden. BROOK SABIN

Sit down for tea in Zealong's peaceful garden. BROOK SABIN

Insider tip: There’s new accommodation available on Zealong's estate, featuring eight rooms, an outdoor swimming pool and outdoor deck with views across the tea plantation.
Pamela Wade, travel writer

The Shack is a failsafe brunch spot. BRYDIE THOMPSON

The Shack is a failsafe brunch spot. BRYDIE THOMPSON

Three of Raglan's best eateries

A day cruising through this laid-back surf town should begin or end at one of these top local spots. George’s Beach Club on Bow Street is the place to while away an afternoon or, when the sun goes down, to nibble on a wood-fired pizza with a beer. From its sunny corner, The Shack will win you over with its clever, fresh take on local ingredients, and a few blocks from where the surf comes in is ISO Cafe & Bistro, where you can drop in for brunch or dinner. If you’re around when the sun dips, crayfish ravioli and a grilled beef burger should fill any gaps. Read more

For a proper caffeine hit

We all know there’s nothing worse than bad coffee on a good holiday but you don’t need to worry about that here. Rocket is Hamilton’s original coffee roaster and you can get a great brew straight from the roastery in Barton Street. Another local favourite is Cafe Kopi located in the ever-popular Riverbank Lane. If you’re a fan of Raglan Roast they have two outposts in the surf town and their Brown Lightning Bros roastery in Te Rapa. Read more

Those in the know head to The Chilli House. BROOK SABIN

Those in the know head to The Chilli House. BROOK SABIN

Sichuan in the city

If you're a Hamilton local, and love food, chances are you've been to The Chilli House. But for out-of-towners, it's one of the region's best foodie secrets. The restaurant serves authentic Sichuan cuisine, mixing hot, sweet, sour and salty all in one. The restaurant has a vast menu, with highlights including handmade dumplings and dan dan noodles, which is dish of spicy sauce, meat and delicious noodles. There is also a restaurant in Cambridge for those who can't make it into Central Hamilton.

TOP TAPROOMS IN WAIKATO

Good George Brewing

After humble beginnings in Frankton's former Church of St George, Hamilton pioneering craft brewery now has seven taprooms across the Waikato. Now known as the Good George Dining Hall, the original high-ceilinged ecclesiastical space is ideal for weekend drinks – try the Fog City Hazy IPA with a wood-fired pizza – or adjourn to Matamata's Good Merchant after visiting Hobbiton, or George's Beach Club after bushwalking and beaches around Raglan.

Good George Brewing. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

Good George Brewing. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

Bootleg Brewery

Surrounded by the faded industrial vibe of the abandoned Matangi dairy factory, Bootleg's taproom on the rural outskirts of Hamilton may well be one of New Zealand's coolest craft breweries. Standout brews include the Apehanger IPA and Munich Helles lager, and there's always a diverse array of seasonal and small-batch beers available on tap. Bootleg's recent Fresh Hop saison was made with hops strictly sourced from local Matangi farmers, while their Far Lap Imperial IPA is one of 2022's hoppiest brews.

Craft

Fifteen rotating beer taps are the focus at Craft, often pouring local Waikato brews from Hamilton-based Brewaucracy or the Raglan Brewing Co. It's also one of the only places in the country you'll find craft beers from Swedish craft brewers like Beerbliotek, Omnipollo and Poppels. Craft's shared plates menu is a definite cut-above most other bars. Try the sambal-fried chicken with satay sauce or the snapper sashimi.

Workshop Brewing

Every good surf town needs a craft brewery, and in Raglan, Workshop Brewing ticks all the boxes. Beers like their Raglan pale ale and Chop Hop American pale ale are available at local eateries including Orca, Ulo's Kitchen and The Shack, and also on tap and in cans from their Park Drive taproom. More challenging seasonal beers brewed under the Alchemists Archive sub-brand include Starchy & Husk, a stonking 9% Imperial Stout made with cacao bean husks from Raglan Chocolate.

Bootleg Brewery. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

Bootleg Brewery. HAMILTON & WAIKATO TOURISM

Hopnotic Brewery

Operating from their rustic Woolshed Bar taproom in Tamahere southeast of Hamilton, Hopnotic do a fine line in authentic beer styles. Their Munich Fog wheat beer channels a German-style hefeweizen while Czech Black is dark pilsner, a beer popular in Prague, but rarely brewed in New Zealand. For fans of traditional pilsners, Hopnotic's Czech Dream is an authentic and tasty version of brews like Budvar or Pilsner Urquell.

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Stay

Sleep in an eco-friendly earth dome, shack up for the night in a one-bedroom treehouse or book into a wellness retreat for the week.

Waitomo's hidden glamping escape

Wai Dome O is a new glamping escape just a few minutes' drive from the Waitomo Caves. The tent is on a hill on a remote farm, and as dawn breaks, you might be lucky enough to wake above the clouds, as the valley fills with fog. The new adults-only retreat is the brainchild of Katie Dimond, who has an extensive background in tourism – so decided to create an escape on her family farm. The solar-powered dome is ideally positioned to explore a few of the region's other lesser-known gems. Read more

Wai Dome O has an incredible view. BROOK SABIN

Wai Dome O has an incredible view. BROOK SABIN

The wellness retreat for Kiwi women

Resolution Retreats is located in the unlikeliest of wellness destinations – a sprawling rural property in Karāpiro. The retreat was started in 2012 by former chartered accountant Joelene Ranby, who saw the need for a live-in retreat in New Zealand specialising in women’s health. There are several programmes on offer, from three-day “fresh starts” to three-week “life changers”. The retreats provide an opportunity to un-complicate wellness by going back to basics, with workshops including meal planning, nutrition and gut health. The retreat is a safe little bubble to try new things, free from judgement. Read more

The treehouse is 12kms from Raglan township. SUPPLIED

The treehouse is 12kms from Raglan township. SUPPLIED

Sleep between the branches

Raglan Treehouse is a one-bedroom escape about 20 minutes on unsealed roads out of Raglan. From its pine tree location, the treehouse has amazing views over native bush and the ocean. It is one of three quirky houses the couple have on the property, with the LoveBus and LoveNest also available. The treehouse is located 12 kilometres from Raglan and four kilometres from Whale Bay. Read more

An adults-only hobbit hideaway

Underhill Valley may look like the famed Hobbiton movie set, but this hideout is so much more. It's a fairytale adults-only grotto, that's a little like a tiny candle-lit underground medieval castle. It is tucked away down a little farm road, and its exact location is a secret – for all but those who choose to stay. An idyllic pond is the centrepiece, framed by a huge willow which hangs lazily over an enchanting wooden bridge. The cave is made of elaborate stonework, native timbers, and handcrafted iron fittings. Outside on the neighbouring mound, there's another candlelit bathroom cave, while another hosts an outdoor bath. Read more

Underhill is made of two underground caves. BROOK SABIN

Underhill is made of two underground caves. BROOK SABIN

Waikato's pint-sized escape

Nestled high in a valley on a sprawling farm is Puna Tiny Home, where the focus is all about enjoying simple pleasures. The perfectly appointed cabin, with a mezzanine bedroom, overlooks native bush and the Waipuna Valley. When staying here, the idea is to switch off from the digital world. When you do need to stretch your legs, follow a steep one-hour walk to the top of the farm, where you get 360-degree views of Waikato and even out to Coromandel on a clear day. Read more

A contemporary CBD stay

Hamilton's four-and-a-half star Novotel Tainui is arguably the finest hotel in the city. The hotel in the heart of the city first opened in 1999, and now boasts 217 rooms and suites. It backs on to the Waikato River walkway on Alma St, making it a short walk to shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants along the city’s main drag. Tainui’s newest wing is a contemporary and sleek new edition made up of 40 executive rooms that are designed for the traveller who wants more out of their hotel stay, with plenty to ‘ooh and aah’ over. Read more

Bush glamping with glowworms

For a more affordable glamping option in Waitomo, the family-run Te Tiro is home to a Lotus Belle tent, complete with a stunning view and outdoor bath. The fifth-generation family farm has 660 acres of protected native bush and is run by cave guide Angus Stubbs and his wife Rachel, both of whom have spent a good chunk of their lives exploring underground. After dark, Angus will run a tour down to the property's own glowworm grotto, just a few hundred metres from the tent.

One of Solscape's earth domes used for accomodation. DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

One of Solscape's earth domes used for accomodation. DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

Eco-friendly earth domes

Raglan isn’t short on eco-friendly accommodation options, but Solscape, a budget-friendly retreat at the foot of Mt Karioi with views across Manu Bay, is surely its most famous. If you’re happy to share a kitchen and bathroom, you can choose from quirky accommodation options such as a recycled railway caboose, earth dome, or forest “glampsite”. If you’d prefer your privacy, opt for a bach, the summer studio or converted railway carriage. Read more

Orchard Valley is a short drive from Waitomo. DANE & STACEY

Orchard Valley is a short drive from Waitomo. DANE & STACEY

Not your average safari tent

If a bit of luxury is your thing, but you also love the experience of camping, Orchard Valley Glamping is definitely the place for your next stay. The safari-style tent offers the best of both worlds in one package. The site is tucked away on a secluded hillside just outside of Ōtorohanga, nestled next to some kiwifruit orchards and overlooking a heart-shaped pond. Regardless of where you are on the site, there's always incredible views across the countryside — plus it's only a 12-minute drive from Waitomo. Read more

Luxury by the lake

Lake Karāpiro is home to one of the country's best luxury retreats you've probably never heard of. Oar and Paddle has a state-of-the-art villa known as the Oarhouse Chalet, overlooking the lake. The centrepiece is a large lounge with huge glass windows, stone fireplace and plush couches. The chalet is so well-designed, that you won't want to leave.

Te Tiro Accommodation is set on 1600 acres. BROOK SABIN

Te Tiro Accommodation is set on 1600 acres. BROOK SABIN

Orchard Valley Glamping has a separate kitchen, bathroom and private hot tub. DANE & STACEY

Orchard Valley Glamping has a separate kitchen, bathroom and private hot tub. DANE & STACEY

Oar and Paddle offers secluded luxury accommodation. BROOK SABIN

Oar and Paddle offers secluded luxury accommodation. BROOK SABIN

Soak with a view at Wai Dome O. BROOK SABIN

Soak with a view at Wai Dome O. BROOK SABIN

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Te Tiro Accommodation is set on 1600 acres. BROOK SABIN

Te Tiro Accommodation is set on 1600 acres. BROOK SABIN

Orchard Valley Glamping has a separate kitchen, bathroom and private hot tub. DANE & STACEY

Orchard Valley Glamping has a separate kitchen, bathroom and private hot tub. DANE & STACEY

Oar and Paddle offers secluded luxury accommodation. BROOK SABIN

Oar and Paddle offers secluded luxury accommodation. BROOK SABIN

Soak with a view at Wai Dome O. BROOK SABIN

Soak with a view at Wai Dome O. BROOK SABIN

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Visuals: Brook Sabin

Words: Brook Sabin, Stephen Heard, Siobhan Downes, Juliette Sivertsen, Lorna Thornber, Alan Granville, Pamela Wade, Sharon Stephenson, Brett Atkinson, Alexia Santamaria, Liz Carlson, Dane & Stacey, Neat Places, Kirsty Lawrence, Alexia Santamaria, Debbie Griffiths, Stacey Oliver, Kate Monahan-Riddell, Clarissa Hirst.

Editors: Stephen Heard, Trupti Biradar

Stuff Travel's Go To Guides are created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand