Discover the magic of the Waikato in winter

Year-round experiences make for the perfect winter getaway

Waikato Green Rolling Hills

Waikato Green Rolling Hills

During clear, crisp days, soak in storybook landscapes of rolling hills and lush pastures. Hit up a cycling or hiking trail, relax in some hot pools, and encounter wild coastlines and surftown vibes. 

In the evenings, cosy up beside a roaring fire in luxury accommodation, or indulge in one of many delicious gourmet experiences. 

Whether you’re an adventurer, foodie, shopper, art aficionado or just want some chill time near the beach, there is so much to do and love about the Waikato in winter. 

So what are you waiting for?

Te Toto Gorge, Raglan

Get the blood pumping

Cycling is a wonderful way to explore the Waikato, and will help warm you up on those chillier days.

The Hauraki Rail Trail

Just a short drive from Hamilton is this all-season easy cycling track spanning 197km in total. It takes between three and five days to complete the whole thing, but you can ride a section of the trail over a full or half day.

You’ll pass through a historic railway corridor, gold mining sites, wetlands home to migratory shorebirds, and lush farmland. Its flat, smooth terrain makes it suitable for all ages and abilities.

Te Awa, the Great NZ River Ride

The Te Awa River Ride follows New Zealand’s largest river, the mighty Waikato, for over 60km from Ngaruawahia to Lake Karapiro. Its accessibility and scenery make it a popular activity for visitors to the region, and just like the Hauraki Rail Trail you can break the journey up with stops along the way. 

Pass historic fortified pā sites, the Hamilton Gardens, native bat colonies, quiet country roads, boardwalks and bridges. Tackle the trail in a day or take your time over a long weekend to soak in all the sights along the way. 

The Timber Trail

Another great ride in the region is The Timber Trail. A 85km ride which follows historic logging tramways through the protected Pureora Forest. Its suspension bridges, prolific birdlife and stunning scenery make it an epic adventure.

Te Awa River Ride

Te Awa River Ride

The Timber Trail

The Timber Trail

Visit the Waikato’s artistic mecca

Raglan is a mecca for surfers, artists, creatives – and outdoor adventurers. 

ULO’s Kitchen on Wallis Street serves up good vibes and delicious Japanese-style food. A local favourite, this place has a lively atmosphere, with colourful, quirky decor and delicious bites. 

ULO’s Kitchen is a must-visit.

ULO’s Kitchen is a must-visit.

Raglan’s artistic scene is renowned, so check out some of the boutique shops, galleries and creative spaces while you’re here. Take a stunning piece of local art home from Kanuka Design Gallery or a souvenir of Raglan from Tony Sly Pottery, with locally-produced pottery and accessories that will add a little Waikato into your home.

There are also plenty of outdoor adventures to be had during winter in Raglan. The hour return Te Toto Gorge Track takes you past the remnants of Māori gardens and karaka groves, combining fascinating history with marvellous views of the west coast.

Raglan Surf School

Raglan Surf School

Hit up The Pipiwharauroa Biking Trail, a 18km return mountain biking trail to Te Uku Wind Farm or try Te Ara Kākāriki, Raglan’s new MTB track, with mountain biking trails that offer fun for the whole whānau in beautiful surroundings. The iconic Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls is another must-see Raglan destination, with a wheelchair accessible walking track suitable for families. 

You can’t visit Raglan without paying a visit to the world-class surf beach Manu Bay. Brave the water yourself or watch as local surfers tackle the longest, most accessible and consistent left-hand break in the world. Head to Raglan Surf School for a lesson or board hire.

To make the most of the stunning coastal township and all the offerings, stay for a night or two at the Whale Bay Surf Bach. Perched above the Whale Bay surf break you’ll be treated to the best view of a local favourite surf spot and the famous west coast sunset.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Gourmet delights

There’s something about chilly evenings that make you want to tuck into some delicious, hearty food, and the Waikato won’t disappoint. 

Start your day with Raglan Roast, which is served at cafés around the Waikato, and delivers cups full of locally-brewed, quality, flavoursome coffee.

The region is filled with award-winning restaurants, including Palate in Hamilton, which received two hats in the Cuisine Good Food Awards. Mr Pickles Bar and Eatery’s forever changing menu, cocktails and events have made it well-known in Hamilton’s hospitality scene. 

Alpino in Cambridge, bringing all the warmth, flavour and character of authentic Italian food made from local produce to your belly. 

What the Food in Te Awamutu, is a local favourite. Offering unprocessed vegan goodies that are free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar without sacrificing the taste.  

Enjoy riverside dining at Gothenburg before heading to Wonder Horse for handcrafted cocktails, craft beer and wine. 

Before you leave, make sure you drop by Frank Food for a raw cake or nourishing salad to take with you on the journey home.

Mr Pickles Bar and Eatery

Mr Pickles Bar and Eatery

Tramping tracks


From surreal spring waters to epic peaks with panoramic views and wild coastlines, these incredible hiking trails showcase some of the most beautiful landscapes in the North Island: 

Hamilton Lake: A 4km loop perfect for a quick run or a longer stroll.

Wairere Falls Track: A relatively easy going 3-4hr return track that weaves its way across moss covered rocks and tree roots. There are fantastic views from the platform above the waterfall.

Mt Karioi Track: This steep track near Raglan takes you to the summit of an extinct volcano known as ‘Wahine Moe’ (the sleeping lady). The tough incline is worthwhile for the views of lush farmland, ocean and – on a clear day – Mt Taranaki in the distance. 

Hakarimata Summit Track: The track takes about three hours return and boasts excellent views from the top – once you manage to climb all 1,349 stairs! 

Mt Pirongia: Several challenging tracks lead to the summit of Mt Pirongia. Stay overnight at Pahautea Hut and spend a couple of days exploring the Pirongia Forest Park’s many trails.

Te Aroha Summit Track: On a fine day you’ll be rewarded with 360 degree views across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and out to the volcanic peaks of Mt Taranaki and Mt Ruapehu. Reward yourself afterwards at the Te Aroha Mineral Spas.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari: A mainland ecological island surrounded by one of the world’s longest pest-proof fences.

Hakarimata Ranges

Hakarimata Ranges

Hobbiton Movie Set

Hobbiton Movie Set

Renowned attractions

The Waikato’s biggest and best attractions can be enjoyed all year round. 

The Green Dragon Inn, the end point of tours to the Hobbiton Movie Set, couldn’t be a more perfect winter setting with its warm, intimate atmosphere, comfy armchairs beside roaring fires, and selection of expertly crafted beverages. 

The movie set itself with its gorgeous hobbit holes are the perfect escape from routine, as you’ll feel you’re truly a part of Tolkien’s world, the surrounding green hills a calming antidote to city life for all visitors, even those who have visited before. 

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are another attraction ideal for the winter months, as the experience is entirely underground and the temperature of the caves remains consistent the same all year round. Take a boat ride through a glowworm grotto and marvel at the magical creatures and incredible limestone formations. 

The caves also offer black water rafting experiences, with options to suit different levels of adventure. Simply cruise along in a tube beneath a sky filled with glowworms, or tackle some abseiling, waterfall jumping and underground rapids if you want a little extra adrenaline. Book a night at one of the stunning glamping sites nearby to make the most of your visit.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Visit waikatonz.com to start planning your Waikato winter getaway today


Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens