The finer things in life: 2-3 days

Starting from Hamilton this itinerary takes in the towns on the eastern side of the region. Stop in at the ever-popular sculpture park on your way to historic Te Aroha. Known for over 100 years as a Spa Town, Te Aroha is filled with beautifully preserved and restored historic buildings and rejuvenating natural hot springs. Matamata, where hobbit holes are found and movie magic happens is next, followed by Cambridge, home to some of New Zealand’s top thoroughbred champions as well as a number of contemporary artists and artisans.

Leg 1: Hamilton to Te Aroha via Morrinsville


Te aroha mineral spa, Te Aroha, Waikato, NZ

Depart Hamilton along State Highway 26 towards Morrinsville, a service town for the local farming community (30 mins)

  • Follow the Heritage Trail with a map from the information centre. The walk showcases 21 sites including the historic Nottingham Castle Hotel.
  • Discover the creativity in the town by following the arts trail or visiting Wallace Gallery
  • Visit Morrin Museum, Lorne St (open 1.30-4pm Sun, Mon, Tue), with a focus on the pioneering and farming past.
  • Follow the 'Herd of Cows?' Morrinsville Street Art Trail, a collection of 42 life-size cow sculptured showcasing the history and heritage of Morrinsville

Drive on to Te Aroha (15-20 mins), an Edwardian spa town at the base of Mt Te Aroha well known for its hot pools and biking and hiking tracks

  • Picnic in the lovely Te Aroha Hot Springs Domain.
  • See the Mokena Geyser (the world’s only hot soda water geyser).
  • Soak in mineral spa pools, with a choice of luxurious private baths or spas.
  • Follow the Heritage trail around the historic buildings and monuments.
  • Take one of the many excellent hiking tracks or ride along the Hauraki Rail Trail

Overnight in or around Te Aroha

Leg 2: Te Aroha to Matamata


Bag End, Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata, NZ

Head south to Matamata (35 mins), well known for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours, award-winning cheese and geothermal springs.

Options include:

  • Visit the Firth Tower Estate and Museum, an eccentric building set amidst lovely gardens (closed Tue, Wed)
  • Go bush and see the Wairere Falls – allowing two hours to complete the first and second lookouts with wonderful views of the 153 metre-high falls as well as of the Waikato basin
  • Tour the Hobbiton Movie Set for an insight into the genius of Peter Jackson, about 15 minutes south of town

Stay overnight at a farm stay or accommodation in town

Leg 3: Matamata to Cambridge via Karapiro


Cambridge Town Hall, Cambridge, NZ

Head to Cambridge (40 mins). Known as “The Town of Trees” Cambridge offers visitors some old English charm with all the modern creature comforts.

Options include:

  • Shopping for the antiques, art and craft – there are several outlets in and around the town centre
  • Take your pick from the fine cafes and restaurants with some street side dining in the sun
  • Follow the sporting walk of fame, as it pays tribute to the town’s many Olympians
  • Learn about the town’s history with a visit to the museum in the old courthouse building near the Waikato River (open seven days).
  • Just a short drive away is Inspirit Gallery which sells fine art and sculptures, and Mystery Creek Wines with the leading Woodbox restaurant.
  • Take the short drive up Maungakawa, which was once the site of a TB sanatorium and is the perfect setting for a picnic
  • Visit picturesque Lake Karapiro – home of the World Rowing Championships 2010 (15 mins from Cambridge)
  • Take in the stunning views of Lake Karapiro on a kaying adventure
  • Get your adrenalin pumping with a fast paced jetboat ride on the Waikato River

Stay overnight in Cambridge or drive back to Hamilton (approx 20 mins up SH1)