BEACHES AND HARBOURS
Visitors from all over the world visit the Waikato to experience the district’s stunning West Coast beaches and harbours. Pounding surf, rugged scenery, vast, unspoilt black-sand beaches and large harbours are major draw cards for those seeking unique experiences at the sea.
Karioitahi Beach is located west of Waiuku in the north of the Waikato district. Karioitahi's rugged and windswept beach is used for surfing, fishing, horse riding, off-road motorcycling and, most notably, paragliding.
PORT WAIKATO SUNSET BEACH
At the south end of Port Waikato township is Sunset Beach, a surfer’s gem with picturesque black sand and striking rock formations. Port Waikato is well-known for its whitebait fishing at the mouth of the Waikato River. In summer, the beach is patrolled by voluntary lifeguards.
RAGLAN (WHAINGAROA) AND RAGLAN HARBOUR
Raglan Harbour, which shares its name with the small town on its western shore, is a 40 minute drive from Hamilton city and is a major drawcard for visitors from around the world. It was formed in the remote past by the drowning of a valley system of which the two major arms, Waingaro and Waitetuna, meander among mud banks and cliffs for more than 16 kilometres. The port, which shelters small fishing boats, is small because the harbour entrance is guarded by a sand bar. At least 3-4 times a year, Orca (killer whales) visit the harbour, chasing prey and delighting onlookers.
MANU BAY, RAGLAN
Manu Bay is a world-renowned surfing spot and attracts some of the world’s best surfers. Major surfing events are held at Manu Bay each year, attracting large international crowds. The bay has a boat ramp, providing access to some of New Zealand’s best deep sea fishing spots, including sport fish such as marlin.
WAINUI RESERVE AND NGARUNUI BEACH
Wainui Reserve is a large, publicly-owned reserve above Raglan's stunning Ngaranui Beach. It offers spectacular views of the West Coast, from Auckland in the north to Taranaki in the south. The reserve hosts music events in a natural amphitheatre, and subject to council agreement, hosts a number of weddings each year. Ngarunui Beach is the Waikato’s most popular beach and is patrolled by voluntary lifeguards each summer.
WHALE BAY, RAGLAN
Whale Bay is famous for its surf break and experienced riders brave the rocks to enjoy one of the fastest left-hand breaks in the world. There is a large grassed area suited for picnicking where visitors can take in the stunning seascape. The beach is not suitable for swimming.
Aotea Harbour is one of several large tidal estuaries on Waikato’s west coast and is just 27km south of Raglan. The small harbour is a tranquil oasis, tucked in from the Tasman Sea and close to the small, picturesque settlement of Kawhia. In summer Kawhia has an influx of visitors, attracted by safe beaches for swimming, kayaking, fishing, or windsurfing as well as the abundant bird life.
At 425 kilometres long, the Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest river. It starts its journey in the central North Island volcanic zone 2797 metres above sea level and flows into Lake Taupo in the central North Island. From there it passes north through eight hydro-electric dams, the lowlands between Cambridge and Mercer and ends its journey into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato on the west coast.
It gives its name to the Waikato Region that surrounds the Waikato Plains. The present course of the river was largely formed about 17,000 years ago. Contributing factors were climate warming, forest being reestablished in the river headwaters and the deepening, rather than widening, of the existing river channel. The channel was gradually eroded as far up river as Piarere, leaving the old Hinuera channel high and dry. The remains of the old river path can be clearly seen at Hinuera where the cliffs mark the ancient river edges. The river's main tributary is the Waipa River, which has its confluence with the Waikato at Ngaruawahia.
Recreational activities on the river include jet skiing, fishing (including for kahawai, trevally and whitebait in the river mouth), waka ama (māori competitive canoeing), kayaking, jet boating and water skiing, river cruises, swimming and a host of other water activities.
The Waipa River starts at Pekepeke in the Rangitoto Range in the southern King Country and joins the Waikato River at Ngaruawahia. At 115km long it is the Waikato River’s largest tributary. In the headwaters upstream of Otorohanga the river can be very clear during low flow conditions. This section of the river flows through rough farmland and patches of native bush. In this clearer part of the river there can be very good fly fishing for trout, but you'll need to ask the land owners permission to access the river.
Waikato District is rich in waterways, lakes and wetlands including the internationally recognised Whangamarino Wetland with its floodplains and peat domes. Whangamarino is home to fernbirds/mātātā, black mudfish/waikaka, rare orchids, bladderworts and a range of native fish species.
Maintaining the wetlands is of paramount importance, as they have a vital function in supporting a diverse range of plants and animals, and are home to many rare and threatened species. These wetlands offer a wonderful visitor experience and can be viewed by car, on foot or from a boat.
The Department of Conservation manages all New Zealand's conservation land and waters, including recreational opportunities in these areas. Visit the Department of Conservation website here.
Click here to see a map of the wetlands in our area.
Whangamarino Wetland, situated near Te Kauwhata in the heart of the district, offers fantastic scenery and historic locations. The Department of Conservation describes Whangamarino Wetland as a 7000ha mosaic of floodplains and peat domes around the Whangamarino and Maramarua Rivers. It is home to fernbirds/mātātā, black mudfish/waikaka, rare orchids, bladderworts and a range of native fish species.
It is also the national stronghold for Australasian bittern/matuku with 20 per cent of New Zealand’s bittern population estimated to be living here. Whangamarino is a listed Ramsar site (international Convention on Wetlands – an inter-governmental treaty on wetlands conservation). Whangamarino is part of a substantial and effective flood control scheme on the lower Waikato River. Activities include fishing, hunting and walks. For further information visit the Department of Conservation website.
Covers 34 square kilometres and is the district’s largest lake. The lake is used for fishing and game bird hunting. There are a couple of boat ramps with good parking facilities. See Fish and Game Access Maps.
Waikato’s second largest lake, covering 14 square kilometres. It is an important habitat for waterfowl, waders and native fish. There are two picnic areas and a boat launching area. See Fish and Game Access Maps.
Opuatia Swamp Wildlife Management Reserve
Opuatia Swamp is a 78 hectare floodplain of the Opuatia Stream before it flows into the Waikato River. This is a good quality wetland habitat and is home to Australasian Bittern, North Island Fernbird and Spotless Crake. See Fish and Game Access Maps.