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Waikato the odd, unusual, fascinating and quirky

  • 3 minutes

Lake Karapiro, Waikato

Places to visit and things to do

Waikato’s got it nailed with fascinating Waikato quirky museums. Have you considered touring a dairy farm? Th at draws you back for more. Celebrate New Zealand’s industrial heart with a dairy farm tour. Find out what it’s like to kayak among glowworms; and a new favourite, a dam tour of industrial sized concrete walls.

Things to do include grabbing a Duck Island ice cream. Get going exploring the hidden corners of the Waikato.


Anytime, year round visit quirky Waikato attractions although the dairy tour is only open when the cows are in production.

  1. Quirky flavours – Waikato is dairy country with ice cream to match – Duck Island Ice Cream

@Duck Island Ice Cream

You’ve got to visit the homeland of ice cream with no stabilisers, no food additives to perk up artificial flavours and colour and no artificial syrups. Just honest to goodness flavour with delicious melt in the mouth quirky combinations.

Duck Island Ice Cream highlights

  • Fairy bread for kids (plus a few adults but we are not telling anyone)
  • Peanut butter cookie dough ice cream
  • Salted coconut caramel cacao crumb – a quirky deliciousness
  • A culinary gift to the visitor experience – must-do for foodie lovers

Hamilton East, the original store is easy to find. Just look for the queues out the door.


Steele Park playground is nearby and a great place to think about popping into DUCK ISLAND ice cream to road test another flavour … read more

Want to know more about what to do in Hamilton, Check out your Hamilton, what to see and do — travel guide & itinerary.

Have you got New Zealand’s top visitor attractions of Hobbiton or Waitomo Caves on your bucket list and need a vehicle check out your options here.


  1. Tirau corrugated iron sculpture

Corrugated iron is an acknowledgement of a rural service town’s links to the humble corrugated shed. ‘The Dog’ in Tirau in 1998 was the first of thousands of Corrugated Creations now spread around the world. Each is made with the same processes and materials as a corrugated iron roof – and is expected to last just as long.

Tirau corrugated iron sculpture highlights

  • Tirau Dog Tourist Information Centre and a town where a functional corrugated iron sheet is now an art form
  • The town’s identity is now large corrugated iron sculptures depicting main street businesses. The public toilets are located in large corrugated sheep together with a visitor information desk. Another set of public toilets, off the main road are worth a photo stop together with the pukeko signage on the shops opposite. Tirau is part of North Island Two Week Road Trip
Corrugated iron pukeko sculpture in Tirau, New Zealand
Corrugated iron pukeko sculpture in Tirau

Tirau is a stop on a road trip exploring the North Island geothermal marvels.


  1. Waikato Dairy tours

Cambridge Dairy Farm, Waikato, NZ
Cambridge Dairy Farm, Waikato, NZ

Honestly you’re invited to tour a working dairy farm.

Waikato Dairy highlights

  • Why not, definitely a way to meet and greet the locals. Visit a working Cambridge Dairy Farm and listen to the story behind producing New Zealand’s liquid gold. 1-hour tour timed to suit milking, ideally 2.30 pm. Introduction to farming practices, 600 Fresian and Jersey Cows. Closed during the winter drying off season. Months of Operation: January, February, March, April, May, August, September, October, November, and December.


Check out more tour options here!


  1. Odd endearing kiwi icons – your selfie holiday shots

Kiwi preservation house and zoo in Otorohanga, New Zealand
Kiwi preservation house and zoo in Otorohanga
  • Te Kuiti’s acknowledges the role of sheep shearing with an enormous statue of David Fagan, 12 time world champion shearer festooning the town’s entrance
  • Otorohanga’s homage to kiwiana is unmissable. Check out the larger (much larger) than life gaily coloured patchwork kiwi gracing the town’s southern entrance and images of jandals easy to find for a selfie snap
  • Morrinsville hits the jackpot with a herd of cows. Dairy country cows are sculptured into a glorious kaleidoscope of colours, from patchwork to New Zealand ferns decorating the main street.
  1. Waikato dam visits

The best way to view the Waikato Dams is on a bike. Cycle your way on the Waikato River Trail, attractions, things to do and places to visit and enjoy the scenery.

Waikato dam visits highlights

  • A lot of industrial sized concrete walls
  • Eight hydro power stations capturing the energy of the Mighty Waikato River as it descends 335 metres from Lake Taupo to Cambridge
  • Aratiatia is well known for its dramatic water diversions creating the spectacular display of the full flow of released water over the temporarily exposed original waterfalls
  • Lake Karapiro with its place in New Zealand’s water sports is a hydro lake, artificially formed with the completion of Karapiro Dam

There are nine structures in all, for the starting point of the chain is a control structure at the outlet of the lake on the edge of the town of Taupo. Built in 1941 this allows control of the lake level over 5 feet, its natural range. While the Waikato Hydro Day Out tours are currently unavailable, you can easily view highlights from roadside vantage points. Waikato dams are a fascinating slice of industrial history wrapped around glorious Waikato scenery.

Aratiatia Dam sluice gates opened, New Zealand
Arataitai Dam sluice gates opened

A visitor favourite spot Arapuni suspension bridge 

The sheer height of the suspension bridge is framed with lush native bush cascading down the gorge towards the rushing river below.

Lake Maraetai, Mangakino, New Zealand
Lake Maraetai, Mangakino, New Zealand

Waikato Hydro Power Lakes

The five hydro lakes on the river within Eastern Region are Lake Aratiatia near Taupō, then Lakes Ohakuri, Atiamuri, and Whakamaru, and finally Lake Maraetai near Mangakino.

Source FishandGameNZ


Cambridge is a gem with leafy lined main street filled with cafes, quirky shops, a vibrant weekend market and an excellent regional museum. A great place to finish your self-guided dam exploration tour of the Waikato River.


  1. Snapshot of New Zealand past, present & … Lake Karapiro

Discover the secrets of a hydroelectric lake on the Waikato River.

Karāpiro is a hydroelectric lake on the Waikato River. Start the exploration at the Karapiro lookout. Above Karāpiro stands Maungatautari, a culturally and ecologically important mountain. Journey along the lakeshore, towards the mountain, and to a lookout above Karāpiro Dam. Te Ara Wai journeys is North Island, Aotearoa is where the stories began with the flow of the Waikato over 20,000 years ago.

Lake Karapiro highlights

  • Maungatautari Mountain. Learn about flora and fauna conservation on Maungatautari, and discover the spiritual and historical importance of the maunga (mountain)
  • Taumatawīwī Battle Site. Learn about the battle that culminated around this cliff face in 1830 – one of the last times traditional Māori weapons were used in warfare.

For more details about the self-guided tour check out Explore Karāpiro | Waipā Journeys.

New Zealand North-Island, Lake Karapiro. trees reflecting on water surface. misty scenery, Waikato, New Zealand
Lake Karapiro
  1. Tour a sports venue

Grassroots Trust Velodrome Guided Tour. The Grassroots Trust Velodrome has supported olympic champions and is New Zealand’s premier indoor cycling event centre. And the best bit, you might have an opportunity to have a go on the track if you pick the right time.

  1. Fascinating – kayak into a glowworm grotto

Kayak on the Waikato River to the Pokaiwhenua stream. With stunning twilight lake views, you are transported into the world of glowworms twinkling in the dusk in the quiet tributaries of the Waikato River. The Boatshed Kayaks offers both guided and rental options for visitors to explore Lake Karapiro and the Waikato River.


Enjoy the popular group or family and friends guided tour around Lake Karapiro in easy-to-use, super light sea kayaks. Visit stunning waterfalls, see the famous international rowing course, and get involved in a fun activity/game coordinated by your experienced guide.


For more ideas what to see and do in Waikato check out Waikato Travel Guide.



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