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The region gets its name from the Waikato River; waikato is a Māori word meaning flowing water and this area is home to the Waikato iwi (tribe). With coasts on the western and north-eastern sides of the North Island, the region stretches from Lake Taupo and northern King Country in the south, north to the Coromandel Peninsula. It is bounded by Auckland in the north, Bay of Plenty in the east, Hawke's Bay in the south-east, and Manawatu-Wanganui and Taranaki in the south.
The landscapes you will come across in the Waikato will forever linger in your memory. There’s pure tranquillity above ground and the most astonishing adventures below, Waikato is the first region south of Greater Auckland. Above ground the view is dominated by the lifeforce of the region, the Waikato River, and the surrounding rolling lush, green farmland. The main centre is Hamilton, a city that serves the flourishing farming and university community. From the deck of a classic paddle steamer you can view the mighty Waikato, at 425km the longest river in New Zealand. Absorb one of the region’s best experiences aboard the steamer with a wonderful commentary on local landmarks, the history of the region and riverbank life. Hamilton is famous for its themed gardens and the local zoo, which has the largest free flight aviary in the Southern Hemisphere. Te Aroha is renowned for its relaxing hot mineral pools and Cambridge for its antiques arts and crafts. In the Waitomo area, south of Hamilton, there's a natural wonderland to explore. Massive underground caverns are adorned with glistening stalactites and stalagmites, formations that have been millions of years in the making. You can glide through the darkness on a water barge and admire the wonders of nature where the glow-worms overhead sparkle like an eerie underground sky. For a change of pace visit the West Coast beach town of Raglan, which is known throughout the international surfing community for its amazing left-hand break. There are many New Zealand musicians and artists here who find it irresistible and love the laidback lifestyle. The region’s natural attractions are crowned by New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo, a mecca for holidaymakers, boating enthusiasts and trout fishermen.