Sarah our head of marketing shares some of her favourite day hikes in the Waikato:

People often forget that we actually have some really cool day hikes and walks right here on our doorstep. I “recently” turned 40 and decided that I would climb 40 mountains which quite frankly was a bit ambitious (and not likely to happen), but I thought I would share five which I’ve done recently with my family. I hope this inspires you to get out, breathe in some fresh Waikato air and give yourself some headspace to think and plan.

1. Mount Karioi, Raglan

This beautiful maunga is visible from so many places in Raglan, she’s almost like a Raglan community mascot. Often referred to as the ‘Sleeping Lady’ due to its profile, the ancient volcano Karioi is the sister to Mount Pirongia and can be climbed from two sides (one track being faster than the other). It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the view from the summit on a clear day is spectacular, you can sometimes see as far as Mount Taranaki! My legs were a bit wobbly after this one but it felt like a real achievement. Find more info on this track here.

2. Kaniwhaniwha Nikau Walk & Caves, Te Pahu

This walkway is in fact the start to several walks in the Pirongia Forest and is an easy 7km loop track starting from a parking lot and swimming hole just off Limeworks Loop Road near Te Pahu. The track is also buggy friendly and there is a campground approximately 3.5km from the parking lot which we’ve always thought about staying at but never quite made happen – it would be a great spot with kids. There is a junction off the Nikau Walk taking you to the Kaniwhaniwha Caves (this adds about an extra 20mins to the walk) which are well-worth visiting. You can crawl through the main limestone cave (about 20m from entry to exit) and you need head torches/torches which my children found very exciting. The Nikau walk itself winds mainly next to a stream and we stopped and swam at lots of swimming holes on the way to the caves. This is a super fun day walk. Find more info here.

3. Karakariki Track, Hamilton (ish)

This is actually a very quick 20-minute (one-way) track just outside of Hamilton on the way to Raglan which we loved as there was an opportunity to swim near a little waterfall and find fossils in the rocks and water. I really think this one is a hidden gem, especially on a hot day! Some pics of our finds below. Find more info here.

4. Wairere Falls Walk, Matamata

This walk is a family favourite as it offers amazing views over the Waikato from the top of the falls and there are lots of opportunities for bouldering and swimming in rock pools at the start (or end) of the walk. The Wairere Falls itself is the highest waterfall in the north island at 153m. I was a bit freaked out by some walkers posing perilously close to the edge of the falls for the perfect Instagram shot. It always makes my stomach lurch. It’s a good 90 minute to two hour walk from the car park on Goodwin Road to the top and a fairly steep climb but it’s a great day walk. We’ve seen quite a few people continuing on to other tracks in the Kaimai Mamuka Conservation Park from the top and there are a number of DOC huts within the Park so if you’re keen to extend your walk to an overnight walk, I think it would be worth exploring. Find more info here.

5. Mount Kakepuku, Te Awamutu

I’ve included this one as it’s dog friendly (on-lead only). I really wish there were more dog friendly walks and hikes in the Waikato as our border terrier Richie loves to come on our family walks. This is also a fairly short one and you can’t go to the summit with your pooch as this is within DOC reserve but you can walk almost to the top within the Waikato District Reserve. The walk itself only took us about 2 hours return and I wouldn’t recommend walking it on a rainy day. We were slipping and sliding all over the show, especially on the way down, which provided much hilarity (and some panic). Also mountain bikers and walkers share ¾ of the track so you do have to keep your wits about you. I like this quick walk and stopping for a coffee at Red Kitchen in Te Awamutu on the way. Access is off Kakepuku Mountain Road. Find more info here.

So, there you go – happy walking!

– Sarah