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NZ Waikato Information

The Waikato region of New Zealand is on the western side of the North Island. Home to nearly 360,000 people, this diverse region includes a broad stretch of coastline and rolling farmlands. Māori heavily populated this region before the arrival of European settlers. Waikato was the scene of some of the major bloodshed in the land wars of the 1860s between the Māori and the colonizers. The national meeting place (marae) of the Māori is still located in this region.

The main center in the region is Hamilton, which is New Zealandís fourth largest metropolitan area. Initially, the city was little more than a center for the fertile farmlands that surround it, however, it has grown to become a diverse city with a variety of industries. The Waikato River runs through this city that is abundant in cafes and restaurants. Approximately 25,000 students attend the University of Waikato in Hamilton. Spectator sports are very popular in Hamilton, with both Rugby Union matches and cricket tests widely attended. One of the cityís major attractions is the Hamilton Gardens, which is an alternative to traditional botanical gardens. At Hamilton Gardens, trees and other flora are arranged in themed displays.

Outside of Hamilton, one of the regions largest attractions is the Waitomo Caves, a sprawling network of underground limestone caverns. The two areas of interest in the caves are the rock formations (stalactites and stalagmites) and the glow-worms. There are a number of guided tours ranging from very easy to strenuous. The adventurous can try black-water rafting, in which the wonders of the cave are viewed while floating down an underground river. Another more adventuresome option is abseiling, where trained professionals guide visitors in lowering themselves down into the caves by ropes.

The town of Matamata is especially attractive to lovers of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which was shot in New Zealand. Matamata was the location of Hobbiton. Some of the set still remains. Once the set has been explored, there are other sights like hot springs and historic Firth Tower that make the town worthwhile. Horse-lovers may be interested in the thoroughbred racehorse breeding farms in Matamata. The nearby town of Te Aroha offers much in the way of New Zealand adventure sporting. Tandam skydives are easily arranged, as are short courses for those who wish to skydive solo. Paragliding is a popular way to view the region while soaring through the air. The foothills of Mount Te Aroha also offer some excellent mountain biking trails.

Down the coast from Hamilton is the easy-going town of Raglan. With its black sand beaches and excellent left-handed break, it is well known as home to one of New Zealandís best surfing spots. Raglan is a quiet but vibrant place with plenty of restaurants and shops featuring the work of local artisans. Its reputation for surfing has turned that into the local industry, and surfing schools are available for those who wish to learn. In addition to surf-based activities, Raglan has swimming beaches and some good hiking trails.

NZ Waikato references