From the stunning surf beaches of Raglan to Hamilton's vibrant café scene, Middle-earth movie magic at Hobbiton Movie Set and the world famous Waitomo glowworm caves, there is plenty to do in the Waikato region. Nestled along a beautiful stretch of New Zealand's longest river, Hamilton City is the metropolitan hub of the Waikato region. It also acts as a gateway to three Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail – Nga Haerenga and a plethora of mountain biking trails and networks.
The mighty Waikato River carves a path from Lake Taupo through lush rural farmland and the city before it heads out to meet the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato. It's a spectacular journey and its topography and climate offers something for everyone. Relaxing riverside trails in the city are perfect for families or those looking for a chilled-out ride experience, or tackle the 100km of Waikato River Trails over a few days and discover attractions along the way such as the award winning Hamilton Gardens.
For those looking for some history as well as adventure then you're in striking range of The Timber Trail – a popular Great Ride south of Waitomo Caves that takes you deep into the Pureora Forest Park and deep into the trail's rich heritage. A little less demanding is the Grade 1 (easiest) Hauraki Rail Trail that meanders 77km from Thames to Waihi as it traces the gold-mining era of the region. Keep an eye out for relics in the spectacular Karangahake Gorge or enjoy a dip in Te Aroha's therapeutic hot mineral spas at the southern end of the trail.
For those riders looking for a singletrack experience then don't go past Te Miro Mountain Bike Park. Built by locals, this trail network loops through native bush just 40 minutes' drive from Hamilton and 25 minutes from Cambridge. The park features trails to suit everyone from families to those looking to test their skills in the more technical rooty trails.
Head a little further south and you'll find the beautifully crafted Cougar Mountain Bike Park on the outskirts of Tokoroa. If adventure is your thing then head to Mount Te Aroha and explore the mountain bike trail that carves through the native bush on the flanks of the mountain.
A journey into the Waikato wouldn't be complete without a visit to edgy surf town of Raglan on the West Coast. Indulge in the restaurants and hipster cafés here before a surf at the world-famous trilogy of point breaks. This is also the perfect place to learn to surf. If the waves aren't playing the game then take a lap of Mt Karioi on your bike and explore the local mountain biking trails.
Te Awa – The Great NZ River Ride also winds its way through Hamilton along the banks of the mighty Waikato River – a great option for families looking for shorter, scenic rides.
If you're looking for a central point from which to explore several of the region's tracks and trails then Hamilton makes an ideal base. The city has an abundance of great restaurants and cafés as well as bike-friendly accommodation options.