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Travel Guide

Matamata, Waikato attractions, things to do & places to visit

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Matamata, Waikato

In this Article

Matamata – the town racing ahead

In this Article

Explore an award winning movie set, Hobbiton or walk to the stunning Wairere waterfall. Grab the opportunity to spend a day leisurely exploring one of NZ’s premier open air museum complexes, Firth Tower with 13 buildings. Delve into the lives of locals with artfully told stories. Matamata is an ideal hub to explore Lake Karapiro or Karangahake Gorge. Finish your day with a soak in the Opal Hot Springs. Rural New Zealand with a dash of an urban vibe with cafes and restaurants to suit all tastes.

Walks & waterfalls

Bench seat for relaxation and rest at Wairoa Stream (Te Wairere) Waterfall hiking track, Kerikeri, Far North District, Northland, North Island, New Zealand, NZ
Wairoa Stream (Te Wairere) Waterfall

Wairere falls

The highest waterfall in the North Island is within the Kaimai National Park. The waterfalls are approximately 15 minutes drive from Matamata to the carpark at the start of the walk. The popular route is well maintained however there are a considerable number of steps.

Wairere Falls is the third landmark Toroa, Captain of the Mataatua canoe, had been instructed by his father Irakewa to identify. The falls were an important source of freshwater for the Ngati Awa tribe.

The falls reflect the story of human occupation, originally a place for warrior initiation, the site for a flax mill (1870), replaced by a flour mill in 1879, and later reconverted to a flax mill. The stream continued to supply water to the Whakatāne township until 1924. The site was made a scenic reserve in 1971. The waterfalls are lit at night creating a great photo moment and a chance to reflect who has gone before you.

… read more Visit Karangahake Gorge & Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park

Kaimai Mamaku Lookout, an observation deck in State Hwy 29 in Waikato New Zealand
Kaimai Mamaku Lookout

Kaimai – Mamaku conservation park

One of Aotearoa New Zealand lesser known public parks is less than one hour from Matamata. Go exploring 19th century gold mining trails. An area quietly slumbering in the valleys and peaks of the Kaimai Ranges. The rich history and charm of the cycling trails and short walks is stunning. A place where gold miners found the most lucrative strikes in New Zealand’s history is fascinating. Karangahake Gorge, part of the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park is definitely worth a detour. Take a day trip from Matamata and explore the Kaimai Mountain Range, its history and the secrets behind the regenerating bush.

Art & heritage

Firth tower & open air historical village

Discover a Matamata jewel and New Zealand treasure for heritage buffs. One of New Zealand’s largest open air collections of farming equipment is located on a quiet rural road.

Firth tower top sights

  • The collection is augmented by a significant early cinema collection
  • A memorable and well constructed exhibition of the impact of war on the locals and an acknowledgment of pre-European Maori activities in the area
  • Attractive potager garden, shady trees and plenty of space for picnics
  • On the boundary fence is the Te Aroa shared trail, a wide footpath encouraging visitors to walk the 2 km from the town centre to the Firth Tower
  • Over 13 heritage buildings where entrance fees apply
  • Heritage gardens are free to wander

… read more Firth Tower & Heritage Village

Firth Tower, winter day, Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand
Firth Tower

Matamata heritage trail

Matamata is a key link in a heritage trail covering western Waikato towns of Te Aroha (historic spa town), Morrinsville and Matamata. The Matamata-Piako District Heritage Trail links the towns of Matamata, Te Aroha and Morrinsville and visits places of historical interest on the way. The trail follows the Old Te Aroha Road under the Kaimai Range, on to Okauia, Matamata, Morrinsville and back to Te Aroha again. In Matamata is the Edwardian splendour of the 1919 bank building. For a complete list of heritage buildings and places of interest check Schedule 1: Heritage Sites in Matamata- Piako District.

Period 'Bank of New Zealand' building, Arawa Street, Matamata, Waikato Region, North Island, New Zealand
Period 'Bank of New Zealand' building, Arawa Street, Matamata

For cemetery buffs Matamata cemetery will not disappoint with the earliest burial recorded on 16 October 1910, six years after the establishment of the Matamata township in 1904. Before that date burials were made at the Waharoa Cemetery or at Te Aroha. Burial records are available at Matamata District Council Area Office, Tainui Street, Matamata. (no. 25 of the heritage trail brochure).

In 1846 Wiremu Tamihana moved his followers from Tapiri Village near the Matamata Pa on the Waitoa River, to this area in Peria. Here houses were built, maize, wheat, potatoes, kumaras and peaches were grown, and a church, post office and storage pits (rua) were built. Tamihana’s own homestead stood amongst the karaka trees (no. 26 of the heritage trail brochure).

Outdoors – adventures

Mighty River Domain is a mere 15 minute drive. Discover where crowds relax on grassy banks watching New Zealand’s premier water sports venues. Lake Karapiro, Mighty River Domain is the venue for sporting and cultural events. Either participate in a guided tour or go it alone. Riverside Adventures Waikato offers kayaks and paddleboards for hire to help get you equipped for your next activity. For biking enthusiasts shuttle services and hire equipment. Hire equipment hire includes bikes, e-bikes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards (SUPs), and a range of accessories to turn your kayak adventure into a fishing trip.

  • Glow Worm kayaking guided tour. Paddle slowly through the Pokaiwhenua canyon and, when darkness falls, be guided by the magical titiwai – New Zealand glow worms.
  • Spend a day on the water paddle boarding or kayaking
Mighty River Domain, Lake Karapiro, Waikato entrance, Waikato, New Zealand
Mighty River Domain

Hauraki Rail Trail

A trip to the Waikato region of New Zealand would not be complete without exploring the shared trail cycle trails. The Tower trail shared pathway between Matamata and the Firth Tower is a chance to enjoy the shade of enormous oak trees as you stroll the 2 km flat path passing thoroughbred farms.


Piako gliding club

Matamata Aerodrome, 9km north of Matamata town, Waikato, New Zealand. About 40 minutes drive from Hamilton OFFERS TRIAL FLIGHTS on non-raining Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. Trial flights & vouchers can be booked any day unless otherwise mentioned. Trial Flights & Gift Vouchers. Fly with an experienced, qualified instructor. Give a Trial Flight Voucher to someone keen on learning to fly.


Stone Hill Horse Trek

Do you want to experience a fantastic landscape on the back of a horse? Then we invite you to discover our farm of over 1500 acres!

Situated in the beautiful Owairaka Valley, this magical experience will take you on a journey amongst grand rhyolite volcanic boulders, passed countless charming streams and infinite green rolling hills, in order to give you the ultimate taste of the Waikato region.

Stone Hill caters to all riding abilities from complete beginners to experienced riders. Located 33km SW of Blue Springs.

Matamata Golf Club

Matamata and Walton golf courses are both attractive 18-hole courses. The greens are in top condition with plentiful rainfall ensuring good conditions throughout the year. The free draining soil means you only need wet weather gear. The course is beautiful with mature trees and the vista of the Kaimai Ranges in the background. There are seven golf courses within ½ hour drive from Matamata


Swimming, hot pools

@Opal Hot Springs & Holiday Park
@Opal Hot Springs & Holiday Park

Opal hot springs pools

Soak in natural hot pools open every day. There are five pools to choose from. Outdoor Pools heated at a temperature  (27-30°C). A chlorinated lane pool with a slide popular with children. The shallow end is fenced off for the safety of the smaller kids. There are two outdoor mineral pools (37-39°C) to enjoy a long relaxing soak.

Swim Zone Matamata

Swim Zone Matamata is an indoor pool complex with an indoor pool, outdoor pools, toddler’s pool and dive pool. Swim Zone operates throughout the year.

Selfie locations

  • A three-tonne metal horse and jockey statue on Matamata’s main street
  • Firth Tower heritage buildings and capture your face in an illustrated photo board
  • Hobbiton where posing against a hobbit hole round door is a must
  • Wairere falls is a perennial favourite for outdoor enthusiasts
  • Matamata visitor centre is a surprising favourite with its themed Hobbit exterior


Auckland & Beyond Tours – The Hobbiton Movie Set Day Tour – Ex Auckland

Hobbiton Day Tour – Late Morning Start – Ex Auckland or Rotorua

Hobbiton & Hamilton Gardens Day Tour from Auckland

Hobbit hole, Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand
Hobbit hole, Matamata

Festivals and markets


Keep up to date with Matamata events, Calendar – Matamata NZ.

  • Hobbiton beer festival & International Hobbot Day
  • Historical society annual book fair
  • Matamata festival of music, Brass band competitions with a main street parade

Matamata where to eat & drink

The main street has numerous eateries, cafes and restaurants serving the busy traffic on its way to the Bay of Plenty, Hobbiton and locals.

There are a number of ethnic inspired takeaways and cafes ensuring all tastes and food preferences are catered for.

The local supermarkets are well stocked with a range of heat and serve meals, breads and snacks for the road.

Merchant of Matamata

Converted farm supply store now serves classic New Zealand fare with Good George craft beers and ciders (Hamilton brewery). The innovative pub atmosphere is a place for families and friends to gather after a day exploring the Waikato. The light filled interior with its floor to ceiling glass walls looks out onto the main street with views of the Hobbiton style architecture of the Matamata visitor centre. The Merchant of Matamata is a local meeting spot for dinner forward bookings are recommended for the busy summer period.

Workmans cafe and bar

A local favourite for its funky atmosphere and warm welcome. The classic New Zealand contemporary cafe menu serving brunch and a dinner menu on selected nights.


Kowhai creamery, Matamata

Lovers of ice cream and gelato rejoice. The Kowhai Creamery is an artisan ice cream manufacturer with a tasting room. There are vegan options available. The tasting room is closed during the winter months.

Kaimai cafe and store

CLOSED. The Kaimai Café and Store celebrated cheese.

Weather Matamata

Warm summers with rain more likely occurring in the winter months (June – August).

Where is Matamata located

Matamata is nestled at the base of the scenic Kaimai Ranges and is the centre of a thriving farming and equine industry. Horses form part of an important bloodstock region.

Matamata, Waikato NZ what to do nearby?

Matamata is ideally situated to visit Rotorua (68 km), Waitomo Caves (102 km) and the regional hub of the Waikato, Hamilton (62 km). Additionally the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga and Mt Maunganui are only 51 km distance over the picturesque Kaimai Ranges.

Auckland Airport is 103 km and it is an easy drive from the airport to Matamata.

Tauranga, Mt Maunganui Matamata 51 km
Hamilton Matamata 62 km
Rotorua Matamata 68 km
Thames Matamata 86 km
Te Aroha Matamata
Cambridge Matamata
Hobbiton Matamata 12 km
Waitomo Caves Matamata 102 km


Day trips from Matamata, Waikato

Blue Spring which is located at Te Waihou Walkway, New Zealand
Blue Spring which is located at Te Waihou Walkway
  • The Blue Springs ( 30 minutes drive)

Te Waihou Walkway. Mesmerising, water welling up forming blue ribbons with tendrils of green swirling freshwater plants. Photo opportunities galore against the blue / green water, hillsides and regenerating bush. The springs flow at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute. The Blue Spring could fill a six lane, 25 metre swimming pool in just over 12 minutes. It maintains a constant 11°C year round and supplies approximately 60% of New Zealand’s bottled water. The springs origin is the Mamaku Plateau where water percolates through porous rocks taking up to 100 years to produce clear deep blue swelling springs. Look closely at the upwelling water and you will see trout nibbling on the delicious plant life, with open mouths snacking on water insects. The springs are a hotbed of aquatic activity. By the way no fishing is allowed … read more Putaruru Blue Springs & Te Waihou walkway – Best Bits.

  • Explore Cambridge, The town of trees, find a glorious deciduous tree in autumn lush beauty or spring bloom. Take a selfie with the Mare and foal statue adjacent to the Town Hall or quaint heritage buildings such as St Andrew’s Anglician church. Check out Cambridge Museum street mural.
Cambridge St Andrews Anglican church, favourie for weddings, Waikato, New Zealand
Cambridge St Andrews Anglican church
  • 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… read more Cambridge, Waikato, attractions, things to do and places to go – Best Bits.
Te Aroha Mineral Spas, New Zealand @tearohamineralspas
Te Aroha Mineral Spas @tearohamineralspas

A photo moment and must-go is the Edwardian Gazebo in the Domain. The Edwardian delight formerly housed a cold natural soda drinking fountain. Don’t miss viewing the Mokea Te Hau’s memorial cairn next to the Gazebo.



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Travel pack information

Thoroughbred Filly-foal lying grass, Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand
Thoroughbred Filly-foal lying grass

Matamata’s slogan, The Town That Is Racing Ahead.

Look for the black painted wooden fences surrounding lush grass and the thoroughbred horses cared for. Matamata is known for its thoroughbred horses and along with Cambridge has breeding and training horse facilities throughout the district. Matamata’s town slogan has a horse pedigree, ‘The Town That is Racing Ahead.’

The Waikato region’s horse racing history dates back to the late 1800s, with Māori and European employees competing on stock horses on the Firth Estate in Matamata.

One of New Zealand’s most significant training centres is Matamata Racing Club. In 2019, the club celebrated 100 years of racing, honouring the achievements of the champions in the area.

Matamata has produced many fine thoroughbred horses that are now racing internationally.

Some of the racing town’s most notable champions include Dave O’Sullivan, who won the trainer premiership 11 times before retiring in 1998, and his son, Lance, New Zealand’s most successful jockey.

New Zealand Cambridge Mares and foals at a stud, Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand
New Zealand Cambridge Mares and foals at a stud

Judgment on Matamata

New Zealand, Matamata adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Waikato attractions and things to do.



Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

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