Waikato Region of New Zealand

The Waikato Region is a stunning region located in the upper North Island of New Zealand, named after the magnificent Waikato River that flows through its heart! It has a diverse landscape, from the rugged black-sand beaches of the west coast, the volcanic and geothermal wonders around Lake Taupo, and stretching up to the golden and sunny Coromandel Peninsula. Waikato offers a range of attractions and activities for visitors, including the famous Hobbiton Movie Set and the dramatic Waitomo Caves.

Infographic showing popular destinations in the Waikato Region of New Zealand

An Overview of the Waikato Region of New Zealand

Waikato Location:The Waikato Region is located in the Upper North Island of New Zealand
Bordering Regions:The Waikato Region is bordered by Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatū-Whanganui and Taranaki.
Region Size (km2):23,901.09 km2
Population:522,600 as of June 2023
Main Cities and Towns:Hamilton, Cambridge, Waitomo, Matamata and Te Aroha
Most Popular Tourist Destinations:Hobbiton
Waitomo Caves
Hamilton Gardens
The Coromandel Peninsula

Highlights of the Waikato Region

Places to Visit in Waikato


Hamilton City, Waikato Region of New Zealand

Hamilton is the centre of the Waikato Region of New Zealand, nestled along the banks of the mighty Waikato River! The city is the 4th largest in New Zealand and has a diverse and vibrant culture, rich history and a thriving arts and entertainment scene. It is home to the beautiful Hamilton Gardens, which showcase different styles, and are truly spectacular to visit!

Hobbiton Movie Set

Hobbiton, Waikato Region of New Zealand

One of the most popular attractions in the Waikato region is the Hobbiton Movie Set, from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films! This incredible set is located in Matamata, about an hour’s drive from Hamilton, and makes for an awesome day out. The movie set was built on a sheep farm and features 44 hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Party Tree, and other iconic locations from the movies! You can join a guided tour and marvel at the incredible scenery and atmosphere of Middle Earth.

The Coromandel Peninsula

Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato Region of New Zealand

The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the most popular destinations in the Waikato Region for locals and visitors alike! This stunning district is famous for its numerous golden beaches and dense native forests and is an awesome summer holiday destination.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, Waikato Region of New Zealand

One of the iconic landmarks of the Coromandel Peninsula is Cathedral Cove – a stunning beach with a natural arch and dramatic rock formations along the coastline. It is accessible by a cliff walk from Hahei Beach, or by water by boat or kayak, and is a must-visit spot in the Coromandel Peninsula!

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach, Waikato Region of New Zealand

Hot Water Beach is a unique beach on the Coromandel Peninsula, where visitors can dig their own natural hot pools in the sand – so make sure to bring a shovel! The beach has two underground hot springs that heat the water to as high as 64 degrees Celsius! The best time to visit Hot Water Beach is two hours on either side of low tide, when the hot water is exposed.


Raglan, Waikato Region of New Zealand

Raglan is a charming coastal town on the west coast of the North Island, and is famous for its incredible surf and laid-back vibe! The town has a thriving arts and crafts scene, and is filled with galleries, cafes, and shops selling local and handmade products.  Raglan is also a great base for exploring the nearby natural attractions, such as Bridal Veil Falls, Mount Karioi, and the Te Uku Wind Farm.

Karangahake Gorge

Karangahake Gorge, Waikato Region of New Zealand

Karangahake Gorge is a historic and scenic area in the Waikato region, where the Ohinemuri and Waitawheta rivers cut through the magnificent Coromandel Range. The gorge was once a centre of gold mining activity, and you can explore the remnants of the mining industry, such as tunnels, bridges, batteries, and machinery found along the banks of the gorge. Karangahake Gorge also has a network of popular walking and cycling tracks, offering views of the river, the cliffs, and the native forest.


Taupo, Waikato Region of New Zealand

Taupo is a popular tourist town nestled on the northern shores of Lake Taupo, the largest freshwater lake in Australasia and the crater of a massive volcanic eruption! This town is a hub of adventure and outdoor activities, as well as having some fantastic shopping and dining options. It is close to many geothermal attractions, such as the magnificent Huka Falls, Craters of the Moon, and Orakei Korako. Taupo is nearby to the incredible Tongariro National Park and Mt Ruapehu, and is a great place to stay if you want to hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls, Waikato Region of New Zealand

Only a short drive from Taupo is the incredible Huka Falls! This is an 11-meter high waterfall on the roaring Waikato River, as it heads towards Lake Taupo. The waterfall is one of the most visited natural attractions in New Zealand, due to the water flow of 300,000 litres per second, or the equivalent of 12 Olympic swimming pools! You can see the powerful display of water blasting over the falls from the Huka Falls Walk, or join a jet boat or river cruise for a thrilling and memorable experience!

Geothermal Wonders

Geothermal wonders, Waikato Region of New Zealand

The landscape around Taupo and Rotorua is known for its incredible natural geothermal activity, which you can see at several natural attractions in the Waikato region! You can wander around the Craters of the Moon geothermal park and see the incredible steaming vents, bubbling mud pools, and colourful soils caused by the geothermal activity. For a more relaxing experience, head into the forest and find the hidden Kerosene Creek hot spring, where you can soak in the natural warm waters and enjoy the sounds of the waterfall as it bubbles over the rocks.

Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves, Waikato Region of New Zealand

The Waitomo Caves is a complex of limestone caves in the Waikato region, famous for its glowworms, dramatic stalactites and stalagmites! The caves are a natural wonder and a cultural treasure, as they have been explored and inhabited by the Maori people for centuries. Visitors can experience the caves in different ways, such as walking, boat riding, black water rafting, or abseiling. The highlight of the caves is the Glowworm Grotto, where thousands of tiny glowworms illuminate the dark cave ceiling!

Airports in the Waikato Region

Hamilton Airport

Taupo Airport

Coromandel Airport

Raglan Airfield