The South Waikato is rich in natural beauty and culture and there are a wide range of ways to enjoy our scenery, landscape and people.
Waikato River Trails
The Waikato River Trails meander 100km alongside the Waikato River, winding their way along a path that encompasses the magic and beauty of native bush, exotic forest, historic landmarks, interesting rock formations and geological delights, grassed farmland, open reserve, boardwalks through significant wetland, and expansive lake and river views. The trails can be accessed from several locations/towns. For more information visit the Waikato River Trails website.
The New Zealand Timber Museum
A unique look back at New Zealand history - the NZ Timber Museum is located just south of Putāruru on State Highway 1.
The museum offers an opportunity to see and touch the history of New Zealand's timber industry in attractive rural surroundings.
Book Launch at the Putaruru Timber Museum
- Taupo Totara Timber Co Ltd office
- Tuck and Watkins sawmill
- Extensive collection of models - Lichfield Lands House
- From Tree Stump to Customer
- Bush cookhouse replica
- Tools of the trade
- Arapuni Church
- Conference Centre
Guided tours are offered with expert, knowledgeable staff.
The museum was established in 1927 to celebrate, record and preserve the history of the timber industry, particularly in the South Waikato District. A small but passionate and dedicated group, the Timber Museum Society, supported by local industry and council developed and managed the site until 2007; when the site was handed over to the Timber Museum of New Zealand Trust.
The Timber Museum website can be accessed here.
Towering 240 metres over the river is Mt Pohaturoa (520m), which features prominently in both Arawa and Ngati Raukawa tradition. The rock, which served as a lookout post during inter-tribal conflicts, was the scene of many a prolonged siege. One such siege took place several centuries ago when invading Ngati Raukawa forced Ngati Kahupungapunga (possibly a surviving Moa hunter tribe) to retreat to this, their final stronghold. Lack of food finally forced the defenders to abandon their refuge and only five escaped with their lives. The cause of the conflict is said to have been the murder of a Ngati Raukawa woman who had been given in marriage to a chief of Ngati Kahupungapunga. Early paintings show the rock and its surrounds as almost completely devoid of cover. The pine trees date from 1927 and have been a source of controversy as an unwarranted intrusion upon the tapu (sanctity) of the rock. The rock overlooks a lake formed by the Atiamuri hydro-electric power station. Mt Pohutaroa can be viewed from State Highway 1, close to the Atiamuri bridge.
The Rock of Refuge of Hatupatu (Hatupatu's Rock)
Hatupatu was a legendary member of the Arawa tribe of Rotorua. Once, when he was returning to his parent's house after exploring the forested areas around Atiamuri and Mokai, he found he was being pursued by Karungaituku, a mysterious bird-woman. While trying to outrun her, he came upon a huge rock. Repeating a karakia he ordered it to open for him. "Te kohatu nei- e matiti matata". The rock immediately split open and Hatupatu leapt inside it to hide until Karungaituku had gone. This rock, Te kohatu-o-Hatupatu, stands at the roadside near Atiamuri, about 26km south of Tokoroa, on State Highway 1.
Lake Whakamaru runs east-west and lies downstream of Lake Atiamuri. It is part of the Waikato River system. It was formed in 1956 when it was dammed for hydro-electricity generation. It is probably the shallowest of all the hydro-electric lakes on the Waikato River system and so warms up during the summer. The South Waikato District Council maintains the Whakamaru Reserve at the southern end of the lake; this is a popular freedom camping spot during summer. There is excellent access to the river for fishing and recreation along the northern bank as State Highway 30 follows the lake for almost its entire length. The road crosses over the dam itself and the small side road provides access to a reasonable section of the southern bank. There are a number of good boat ramps on the lake.
The Lake Whakamaru Christian Camp is idyllic and picturesque, set on the mighty Waikato River and have been established since 1962, proudly serving campers for over 40 years! The camp has outstanding service, great food and warm, clean accommodation. Our awesome activities for young and old are fun, exciting and perfect for school groups, church groups, rowing clubs, any water based club, family events, conferences, retreats, clubs, outdoor education and more! Only 11 kilometres from State Highway One, their central location is ideal for those visiting from the North or the South. Access their website here.
Lake Maraetai is one of several artificial lakes formed as part of a hydroelectricity scheme on the Waikato River; located close to the town of Mangakino. It is a relatively small lake, covering only 4.4 km², but it is 75 metres deep at some points; and a power generation plant at its northern end.
Tokoroa Golf Club
The Tokoroa Golf Club is located on State Highway 1, 10kms south of Tokoroa. It provides an enjoyable 18 hole golf course (par 72 for men and 73 for women) at a reasonable price ($15 for affiliated golfers, $20 for non-affiliated). It featured a practice putting green and is pumisce based and quick drying which makes it playable all year round. The course is grassed and well maintained with numerous trees growing to maturity and thoughtfully placed for best effect. The Club house is open daily during daylight hours. Catering and bar service on most days. Full changing and shower facilities. The golf shop hires out golf equipment like clubs, trundlers and carts. Visit their website here.
Lake Moananui is one of the South Waikato’s largest multi purpose reserve and a popular recreational facility located off Maraetai Road in Tokoroa. The landscape consists of rolling grassland surrounding a man-made lake. The reserve is approximately 27 hectares, with the lake being an artificial impoundment of the Matarawa Stream, and is contained behind a dam of compacted ignimbrite. The dam has a concrete facing which the stream flows over. Lake Moana nui and its surrounding landscape have a high quality ‘gardenesque’ public park, landscape character. It has all the elements which contribute to a public park of significant physical and visual quality including a large body of water, gently rolling grass parkland, a walkway and typical public park structures such as pergolas, foot bridges and park benches. The total area of the lake is approximately 5 hectares; the average depth of the lake is 2m with a maximum depth of about 4.5m. There are three ‘islands’ within the lake. A large island is situated at the head of the lake. There is a smaller one at the southwest arm and a further smaller ‘island’ beneath the dam.
A walkway around the lake is enjoyed by visitors and residents alike and soon to be installed exercise stations will add another element to this already beautiful and well used reserve.
Prior to European settlement of Tokoroa the Matarawa Stream flowed in its natural bed west of the town site. As the town developed, the residential subdivision extended towards the stream, with the stream now forming the western ‘boundary’ of the town. As part of the residential growth the Matarawa Stream and its potential recreational development was seen as a focus for sub-divisional reserve allocations. This in turn led to the proposal to create a lake and its associated parkland.
South Waikato Indoor Pools
The South Waikato Indoor Pools are located off Roslin Street in Tokoroa. These pools include a 25 metre lane swimming pool, a tiered leisure pool and spa pool. There is also an outdoor children's play area. It is open year round. Click here more for more information.
Cougar Park Mountain Bike Tracks
The Cougar Park Mountain Biking Tracks are located off Mossop Road in Tokoroa. This excellent and well-maintained facility is frequently used by visitors and residents. Close to 20 off-road forest tracks make this home for a number of mountain biking events. The tracks suit a variety of levels and abilities with new tracks being developed regularly. For more information you can visit the Club's website here.
Jim Barnett Reserve
The stunning Jim Barnett Reserve is situated alongside the Waikato River in the Waotu area. Thirteen tracks meander through the reserve, all of which are easy walking with a few short, steep bits, negotiable for people of most fitness levels.
But don't stop there, there are a multitude of trails showcasing glow worms, an old tramway and ancient totara. There is a camp site and toilets available, along with potable water and picnic tables. The tracks in this reserve form part of the Waikato River Trails. For more information visit the page here or go to the Jim Barnett website.
Jones' Landing is named after Gordon Jones' father who had a boatshed there. The area provides local communities and visiting tourists with good boating, trout fishing, picnic and swimming opportunities. Visitors are treated to impressive geological features. The cliffs to the right of the landing are formed by ignimbrite blocks which are vertically fissured by cooling stresses. For more information visit the page.
Arapuni Suspension Bridge
The village of Arapuni is home to a hydro electric power station and dam which were among the first to be built on the Waikato River. Construction began in 1924 and the first power was supplied in 1929. Over the years the powerhouse has been extended; two additional generators were installed in 1934 and two more in 1937 and 1938; with a final two units commissioned in 1945 and 1946. This power station has given faithful service to the region over the years, and deserves it's title of 'Old Workhorse of the Waikato'. The suspension bridge, which is suspended 54 metres above the power station, is 152 metres long and has a slope of eight metres. It was built in 1925 to enable easy access for power station employees. Although not for the faint hearted, those who do venture over the bridge are rewarded with spectacular views of the scenic gorge. The bridge is maintained annually by Mighty River Power and Council is grateful for their support as this bridge is not only a tourist attraction in its own right, but also forms an interesting feature along the Waikato River Trails. Public toilets are located at Arapuni Dam and at the suspension bridge, with bus and car parking available too.
Putauru Golf Club
This 18 hole golf course is located on the outskirts of Putaruru off Arapuni Road, into Golf Street. For more information click here.
Te Waihou and Blue Spring
This award-winning trail is located off Whites Road near Putaruru or from Leslie Road (off White's Road). This stunning and popular trail was built with the support of local landowners. Te Waihou Walkway covers a distance of 4.7km with an average walking time of one and a half hours (or three hours) return). The terrain varies from easy walking to backcountry trekking. Beautiful waterfalls, gushing crystal clear waters and abundant birdlife can be enjoyed. Te Waihou is totally spring fed. Water from the Mamaku Plateau takes between 50 to 100 years to reach the Blue Spring. The reason for the blue colour and high visual clarity of the Waihou River and its spring source is the high optical purity of the water. Over 70% of New Zealand's bottled water comes from the Blue Spring. For more information click here. No dogs (whether leashed or unleashed) are allowed on Te Waihou walkway.
Tirau Golf Club
This 65 par, 18 hole course, with eight par 3 challenges is enjoyed by established golfers whilst providing fun and enjoyment for beginners and social groups. The immaculate park like golf course, just off State Highways 1 and 27 is available to small and large groups with a warm welcome guaranteed; and boasts a real country welcome with arranged catering and bar service at low club prices. For more information click here.
Okoroire Hotel and Golf course
The Okoroire Hotel is a beautiful, famous 'Olde World' country pub built in the 1880s and nestled in eighty acres of park surroundings on the banks of the Waihou River. The hotel is constructed from native timbers and is a veritable example of a true Kiwi hotel. Boasting it's own nine hole golf course and hot pools, Okororie is an ideal center for a golfing and relaxing break. It is now under new management and is undergoing significant refurbishment. For more information click here.