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Travel guide

Cambridge, Waikato, attractions, things to do and places to go

  • 4 minutes
In this Article

What’s so great about Cambridge, Waikato

Cambridge, charming, picturesque and packed with choices for the most discerning visitor quietly slumbers in the Waikato countryside.

Top 9 attractions

Location says it all, Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton and Hamilton within half an hour drive

In this Article

WHAT TO SEE CAMBRIDGE

Te Ara Wai Journeys, Waikato, New Zealand @Best Awards
Te Ara Wai Journeys @Best Awards

Te Ara Wai Journey a digital mobile story while exploring Cambridge, launched by Waipa District Council. WAIKATO TE AWA  – CAMBRIDGE Te Awa trail is a celebration of the Mighty Waikato River, the people who have lived by and on the river. Waikato Tainui and its local iwi ngati haua have identified sites of significance. Connecting Cambridge to Karapiro is the Te Awa walk/cycleway which is just over 8km of dedicated pathway to the Mighty River Domain on the shores of Lake Karapiro.

  • Start: Cambridge
  • Finish: Lake Karapiro
  • Length: 8 km
  • Grade: Slight elevations, flat wide firm pathway

This walk is part of the Unforgettable Day Walks in New Zealand series. For details check out Cambridge to Lake Karapiro day walk.

  • Heritage Cambridge town walks with cafes to keep your energy levels up, check out Cambridge Museum for detailed accounts of the buildings history as well as the stories of notable town personalities
  • Historic Lake Te Koutu is part of the a 6 hectare park complete with lake only minutes from the centre of town. The Cambridge Domain, (1880) is bordered by heritage band rotunda, a heritage building for bowls and diminutive charming hothouse and short easy paths around a natural lake. The lake was a rich food resource for pre-European Maori (eels, fresh water fish). The grounds are home to majestic deciduous trees, including a mature Cedar of Lebanon, chestnuts, oaks and planes. The camelia grove is a favourite for wedding parties in spring.
Te Koutu Domain hothouse flowers, Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Te Koutu Domain hothouse flowers
Sanctuary Mountain, tree ferns reaching for the light, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain
  • Lake Karapiro kayaking either guided or self-guided on a lake created for hydro-electric dams.
  • Sanctuary Mountain all things feathered has found a refugee in Maungatautari with a robust predator fence offering native wildlife a place to flourish.
  • Cambridge Tivoli Cinema, a treat to sit with your wine, snacks or a coffee from the inhouse cafe and relax the old-fashioned way in a picture theatre
  • Shopping, relish the chance to stroll along a traditional main street without a mall or discount warehouse in sight
  • Waitomo Caves highlights what to see and do – Best Bits is a perfect place to visit regardless of the weather, a great indoor year round alternative

WHERE TO TAKE THE BEST SELFIE

  • The town of trees, find a glorious deciduous tree in autumn lush beauty
  • Sanctuary Mountain where the wildlife reign
  • Mare and foal statue adjacent to the Town Hall
  • Quaint heritage buildings such as St Andrew’s Anglician church
  • Cambridge Museum street mural
Vibrant yellow-orange leaves during autumn in Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Vibrant yellow-orange leaves during autumn in Cambridge

WHAT TO DO WITH THE KIDS IN CAMBRIDGE?

Cambridge Esquestarian sculpture near town hall, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge Esquestarian sculpture near town hall
  • Te Ara Wai oral stories with cafes and the occasional ice cream to keep the energy flowing
  • Playground and water sports at Lake Karapiro Mighty River Domain
  • Cycle your way around Cambridge. Either bring your bike or hire wheels for the day
  • Urban kids visit a working farm and find out where your milk and cheese comes from
  • Hang out in the quirky Hamilton classic car museum
  • Explore the Hamilton Gardens where fantasy comes in enormous taps, plants that move and floating blimps complete with their own carriage

WHAT KEESP THE CAMBRIDGE ECONOMY TICKING OVER?

The Cambridge economy pivots around dairying just in case you missed the cows placidly munching in the paddocks (fields) with sheep farming on the hill country.

Agribusiness includes boutique winery or two, horticulture and newer livestock such as Llamas.  Horse stud indicators are the more attractive wooden fences.  Thoroughbred horse stock is protected from impact with the elimination of standard wire fencing.  Picturesque farming creates an idyllic Aotearoa New Zealand postcard scene. The hard work is hidden behind the efficient looking farm buildings.

CLIMATE

Cambridge, NZ – Current Weather

Thoroughbred race horses and foals in paddocks at Cambridge Thoroughbred Lodge, Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Thoroughbred race horses and foals in paddocks at Cambridge Thoroughbred Lodge

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT CAMBRIDGE, WAIKATO?

Cambridge knitted tree crafty covers, winter Waikato, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge knitted tree crafty covers, winter Waikato
  • Year round with winter offering indoor activities from the Tivoli Cinema, wellness centres and museums.  Dotted throughout the district are art galleries and artisan stores.  The local market is a visitor favourite
  • Spring – Summer water sports season with major rowing competitions and the chance to stretch your wings on Lake Karapiro. Biking the Waikato trails is a perfect way to take the slow lane exploring the district.
  • Autumn is a flurry of leaf colour, orange and red highlights, grab handfuls of curled, crisp gold leaves and play throw

WHY STAY IN CAMBRIDGE, WAIKATO, NEW ZEALAND?

Cambridge is a great place to experience authentic New Zealand where the rural economy and urban vibe of Cambridge offer visitors choices galore. Location says it all with convenient connections to Hamilton, Auckland and key attractions such as Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton. A great day trip from Hamilton or an excellent excuse for a short break from either Auckland or Wellington.

Hamilton’s airport is a short 30 minutes drive making Cambridge very accessible and very tempting. Cambridge, the Waikato hub to everywhere with options to cycle and/or drive.  Easy country roads wrapped around attractive rolling pasture dotted with numerous cows (dairy).

Cambridge town clock tower, cyclists, winter days, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge town clock tower, cyclists, winter days

FOR ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN CAMBRIDGE CHECK OUT

PLACE PLACE ESTIMATED TIME (vehicle) DISTANCE
Cambridge Hamilton 27 minutes 26 km
Cambridge Waitomo Caves 54  minutes 65 km
Cambridge Sanctuary Mountain  40 minutes 38 km
Cambridge Hobbiton 30 minutes 27 km
Cambridge Mighty River Domain 12 minutees 10 km
Cambridge Te Awamutu 30 minutes 31 km
Cambridge Auckland 1 hr, 50 minutes 146 km
Cambridge Raglan 58 minutes 64 km
Cambridge Tauranga 1 hour 82 km

 

FAMEOUS LOCAL CAMBRIDGE RESIDENTS

Being sporty is definitely a Waikato trait

  • Mark Todd of equestrian fame with several Olympic medals
  • Sarah Ulmer medalist in cycling
  • Joelle King a squash player with several significant wins under her belt
  • Blanche Eleanor Carnachon, born 1871, educator and pioneer of women’s rights to an education. Avid supporter of public education.
Cambridge primary school heritage buildings and reimaged new, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge primary school heritage buildings and reimaged new

NOTORIETY & CONFLICT IN CAMBRIDGE

  • War, brutality and the loss of identity, the Waikato is witness to this universal theme of history. The confiscation of land. The British colonial forces took 1.2 million acres of Waikato land. Of this, 225,000 acres became “native reserves” and 50,000 acres were repatriotiated to Maori ownership. About 150,000 acres were subdivided for military settlements, the remainder sold to pay for the war.  See Travel Pack Section for further reading on the subject.  The past should not be a forgotten country.

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

POPULATION

  • 19,150 (2019)
  • Largest town in the Waipa District, and third largest urban area in the Waikato, Hamilton is the largest with Taupo second in the population stakes.

WHO TURNED UP AND SETTLED IN THE PLACE

  • Give or take a hundred years approximately the 13th century people arrived. The original name is Kemureit.
  • The current name recognises the Duke of Cambridge (and it’s not Kate and William) rather Queen Victoria’s cousin then the commander-in-chief of the British Army.
  • The current location of the town reflects the 864, because it was the closest point to the Confiscation (Aukati) Line that was accessible by river transport. The camp built in 1864 in Fort Street overlooked the river towards Maungatautari – the Maori fortified stronghold.  The 3rd Waikato Militia settled in Cambridge.
Cambridge Domain with historic bowling pavlion and rotunda, winter day, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge Domain with historic bowling pavlion and rotunda, winter day

“In pre-colonial days Cambridge was the site of an important Maori pa called Horotiu, the same name being applied to the course of the Waikato River from the vicinity of this pa to Ngaruawahia. Cambridge was chosen as a military settlement in June 1864, largely due to its position near the upstream limit of navigation for the steam vessels employed by the forces under General Sir Duncan Cameron during the Waikato War. Colonel Theodore Minet Haultain, Commandant of the Waikato Regiments, was responsible for the fixing of the actual site but he was assisted by General Cameron, and by Captain Cadell, the officer in charge of the river steamers. The 3rd Waikato Regiment camped on the site in 1865 and constructed a redoubt capable of accommodating a garrison of more than 1,000 men. With the end of hostilities and the expansion of farm settlement, Cambridge grew as a market town. In 1868 Cambridge became a highway district administered by a board of trustees. It was created a town district in 1882 and in 1886 attained borough status. The settlement of Leamington, which grew up on the left bank of the Waikato River opposite Cambridge, is linked to it by a traffic bridge. Leamington was created an independent town district in 1905 and, following merger proposals in 1956, became part of the Borough of Cambridge in 1958. The name Cambridge is stated to have been given by General Cameron because of a supposed resemblance of that part of the Waikato River to the River Cam in Cambridgeshire.” CAMBRIDGE – 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand – Te Ara: CAMBRIDGE’, from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966.

Cambridge St Andrews Anglican church, f avourie for weddings, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge St Andrews Anglican church, favourie for weddings

Maori Land Confiscations – brief comments

“Parliament passed legislation enabling the confiscation (raupatu) of Māori land from tribes deemed to have ‘engaged in open rebellion against Her Majesty’s authority’. Pākehā settlers would occupy the confiscated land.

On the eve of the British invasion of Waikato in July 1863, the government ordered all Māori living in the Manukau district and on the Waikato frontier north of the Mangatāwhiri stream to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen and give up their weapons. Those who refused were warned that they would ‘forfeit the right to the possession of their lands guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi’.

Under the New Zealand Settlements Act, Waikato lost almost all their land and Ngāti Hauā about a third of theirs. But kūpapa (pro-government or neutral) Māori also lost land as the yardstick rapidly changed from guilt to convenience. Ngāti Maniapoto territory still under Kīngitanga control was untouched. In the long term, Taranaki Māori suffered most from confiscation in terms of land actually occupied.” Source Land confiscation law passed NZ History Updated 4 Dec 2020.

  • Kemureti, meaning of, 1. (noun) someone related through two different lines, standing in a double relationship. E kī ana taku karangarua, a Kemureti, e toru tekau mā waru ngā tāngata i runga, he tāne anake (HP 1991:8). / My relation, Kemureti, says that thirty-eight people were on it, only men.  Maori Dictionary

Instagram

Cambridge BNZ bank decorated knitted craft tree warmers winter in Waikato, Waikato, New Zealand
Autumn rosehips in the rain, Te Koutu Domain Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Alpino restaurant Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Te Koutu Domain hothouse begonias, Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
St Andrews platinum jubilee Queen Elizabeth, head of Anglican church, Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Knitted craft clothing for Cambridge trees, Waikato, New Zealand
Autumn in Te Koutu Park, Cambridge, New Zealand
, Waikato, New Zealand
Te Koutu Domain hothouse flowers, Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Thoroughbred race horses and foals in paddocks at Cambridge Thoroughbred Lodge, Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge Domain with historic bowling pavlion and rotunda, winter day, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge Esquestarian sculpture near town hall, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge knitted tree crafty covers, winter Waikato, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge primary school heritage buildings and reimaged new, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge St Andrews Anglican church, f avourie for weddings, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge town clock tower, cyclists, winter days, Waikato, New Zealand

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