Escape, unwind, and explore NZ like never before!
Tucked away on the south bank of the Waikato River where it empties into the Tasman Sea, Port Waikato is a sleepy seaside retreat. Dappled with hillocks, farmlands, and sand dunes, sleepy paradise is here. Although popular for swimming, surfing, fishing, and boating, this uncharted and untouched beach town offers plenty to see and do, you’ll find some true NZ gems! From natural and manmade marvels to a thriving NZ local art scene, the Waikato region has its authentic heart at the Port!
Amazingly, this picturesque town is only an hour’s drive from Auckland City. So, it is perfect for weekend getaways. Are you ready to soak up the sun (plus the fun)?! Plan your North Island road trip by taking in Waikato’s best-kept secrets by including these local attractions. We’d be remiss to mention that the best attraction of all is taking in the bright night stars from your cabin or tent at the Port Waikato Holiday Park!
Nikau Glowworm Cave
Find one of New Zealand’s most magnificent natural limestone caves, the Nikau Caves, just a short 20-30-minute drive from the Port Waikato Holiday Park. Quite unmissable, a trip to this subterranean cave takes you on a visual safari. You’ll be dazzled by the exquisite stalactite and stalagmite formations. Gaze up at thousands of sparkling, star-like glowworms close enough to touch!
Amazingly, one kilometre in length, you’ll notice the cave remains entirely in its natural state with no concrete paths or electric lights. Moreover, your family or group can walk along the stream bed, clamber through rocks, and even crawl through, experiencing an adventure like no other. There is also an on-site cafe where you can grab refreshments after your caving adventure! Grab a bite before heading on to the next Waikato local attraction.
Mapped by the Auckland Speleological Society, you’ll find the Nikau Cave promises a surreal experience for whānau and adventure junkies alike. Remember to book – simply visit the Nikau Cave website for more details.
The Cobourne Reserve
Located right on the banks of the Waikato River, the Cobourne Reserve is a beautiful 3-acre garden. Surprisingly, it’s maintained entirely by enthusiastic locals! Originally this land was gifted to the district by the Cobourne family in 1983 to be used as a recreational reserve. But now you’ll find the magnificently landscaped garden terraces are full of young and mature trees, flowering cuttings, and plants.
The wooden picnic tables and sheltered alcoves make this a great spot for a day outing. It’s good to know it’s a short bush walk to get to the public toilets. Of course, any voluntary donations you can make to the gardening club are appreciated! While you’re at the Reserve, take a photo of the iconic Tuakau Bridge – the beloved sweeping gateway to Port Waikato!
Remember, if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find some beautiful native birds who call the Reserve home. From Tuis to Pukekos, the dawn chorus is stunning.
Situated about half an hour from Port Waikato, the Pokeno Market is a weekly country market held in the heart of Pokeno Village every Sunday from 8 am till well into the afternoon. The last few years have seen the market expand with 70 or more stalls on most weeks!
You’ll find stalls offering a diverse assortment of goods – milk, yoghurt, cream, jams and preserves, soaps, flowers, plants, art and craft objects, fresh fruit and vegetables, Māori-designed flax flowers, jewellery, hot food & drinks, and even the opportunity to try a traditional Māori Hāngi.
Fortunately, there is adequate space for parking within walking distance of the market – even for campervans. While you are here, drop by the popular Pokeno Village shops, including Pokeno Bacon Co., and two locally famous ice cream outlets.
All in all, the Pokeno Market is well worth a visit to take home some good bargains. If you aren’t much of a shopper, this is still a nice spot to hang around on a lazy Sunday morning.
Road to Raglan
Take a kiwi roadtrip to the south along the coast towards Raglan to explore the scenic NZ countryside. Marked by rolling hills and lush pastures, this is real-deal New Zealand. As you whizz past the stunning scenery, you will encounter mesmerising limestone outcrops on the route.
Journey along and you will come across Limestone Downs. Here, you’ll find the setting for ‘Weathertop Hollow’ in ‘The Lord of The Rings’. Although the exact location in ‘Weathertop Hollow’ is located on private farmland, a view of the limestone formations and surrounding hills can be seen from the roadside down Waikaretu Road. Continue further down this road and you will reach the entrance of the Nikau Glowworm Cave.
Hobbiton Movie Set
Only 2hrs drive, near Matamata, in the heart of the incredibly lovely Waikato countryside, lies a gem of a place. The Hobbiton Movie Set is unmissable. The world’s only permanent movie set was created for the ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy here. And, you probably know, ‘The Hobbit’ film trilogy is one of the most loved NZ tourist attractions.
A true treat for all movie aficionados, this picturesque recreation of Middle Earth is situated on private farmland. It features the hobbit holes, mill, the iconic Green Dragon Inn, and other structures built for the films. So, go on a guided tour for some fascinating insights into the details that went into creating this magical set! Did you know you can book a Hobbit-style banquet while you are there? Irrespective of whether you’re planning breakfast or lunch – it’s best to book this popular local Waikato attraction.
Local Port Waikato Art Studios
Port Waikato has its own vibrant local art scene with resident artists making and displaying their original creations. From sculptures to paintings, you can browse some amazing NZ art works from the convenience of home studios such as Black Bach Ceramics.
If you are an admirer of art, do pay a visit to one of the private local art studios that dot the town. Make sure to check for visiting times to ensure that you can take a peek.
During the Art @ The Port events over Easter and Labour Weekend you’ll also find culinary attractions from local Artisan Bakers, Coffee, Whitebait and mussel Fritters, local honey and fresh sourdough bread as some of the favourite bites on sale.
Art Trails are lots of fun and a great time to check out our local artists creations. Check for dates for our next Port Waikato Art Trail.