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Nature & Wildlife

Waiwhakareke wetlands, Waikato a quiet backwater in suburban Hamilton

  • 2 minutes

Hamilton, Waikato

What to see and do at Waiwhakareke wetlands

An award winning community project to capture the biodiversity of pre-European flora and fauna is showcased at Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park. It is illuminating to walk past dated signage poles indicating the planting dates and enjoy a thriving conservation story. Sustainable tourism, the best bits are in the Waikato.


Look for signs for Hamilton Zoo with the entrance to Waiwhakareke adjacent to the overflow car park area.

Waiwhakareke wetlands top sights

  • Kowhai Boardwalk with its signed dated posts indicating planting date. The story of the growth of plants, the look of a recent area and the development of canopy tree cover is a visual journey through the recovery of the wetland and lowland forest.
  • The peat lake with its increasing dark inky colours and rushes is a natural heritage highlight
  • The use of former farm buildings as a shelter, a place to congregate and and learn about Waiwhakareke progress ties the landscape’s former use and today’s project together
  • The development of walks, pathways, parking with the well known neighbour, the Hamilton Zoo will encourage visitors to explore beyond the zoo’s boundary
Waiwhakareke wetland entrance, Waikato, New Zealand
Waiwhakareke wetland entrance
Waiwhakareke naturally woven sculptural balls, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Waiwhakareke naturally woven sculptural balls
  • The sheer effort of volunteers is very evident especially in the recent plantings with each new shoot a record of an individual ensuring the plant has the best start in life
  • Award winning as a first in New Zealand to reconstruct, restore native ecosystems

This is a rare opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play as a restoration project is a living story of what can be achieved. It is a great place to visit in conjunction with Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain  and Rotopiko National Wetland Centre as each place offers a different perspective of the Waikato landscape.


Allow up to 2 hours to walk around the peat lake and surrounding 60 hectares. The tracks are well signposted, wide firm surfaces although winter conditions create puddles in some areas. Much of the boardwalk and trails is wheelchair accessible. There is a composting toilet on site in proximity to the Karaka Jetty.

  • No dogs
  • No fishing
  • No bikes
  • No camping

Waiwhakareke lookout point, Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Waiwhakareke lookout point
Waiwhakareke planting date post Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Waiwhakareke planting date post Hamilton

Thousands of hours of volunteer effort and scientific study have seen the return of rare plants and wildlife to the project area, creating a rich environmental, educational and recreational experience for visitors. Waiwhakareke is owned and managed by Hamilton City Council, with support from Waikato University, Wintec, Waikato Regional Council and Tui 2000. It is also the site of the annual Arbour Day community planting activity.

When a city is determined

Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park is a partnership between Hamilton City Council, Waikato University, Wintec, Tui 2000 Inc., local iwi and the wider community. A highlight of the park’s calendar is the annual Arbour Day “Big Dig In” which sees members of all of these groups come together in their hundreds to plant thousands of native plants in one morning.

The park is managed by Hamilton City Council and overseen by the Waiwhakareke Advisory Group. Regular working mornings are held by the Friends of Waiwhakareke on the last Saturday of the Month from 9am-12pm.

Waiwhakareke was established in 2004 with the long-term aim of reconstructing the natural forest, wetland and lake ecosystems present in pre-European times. Intensive predator control will allow vulnerable species to flourish in an urban environment and spill over to other parts of the city. The 65.5ha park will serve as a focus for Hamilton’s wider biodiversity restoration, including lakes and lakeshores, the Waikato River, its banks and unique gullies, and other parks with current or potential natural values (estimated to be 750 hectares).

Waiwhakareke planting date, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Waiwhakareke planting date

You want to know more about the plants at Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, then check out Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park.


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

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