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The Waikato Region

Waikato River

The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest river at 425 kilometres in length. It drains Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, creates the Huka Falls and then flows northwest, through the Waikato Plains. It empties into the Tasman Sea south of Auckland, at Port Waikato. The present course of the river was largely formed by a volcanic eruption approximately 1800 years ago. The large outflow of volcanic debris blocked the old channel to the Firth of Thames at Lake Karapiro and forced the river to turn west and then north. The remains of the old river path can be clearly seen at Hinuera where the cliffs mark the ancient river edges. The river's main tributary is the Waipa River, which joins the Waikato at Ngaruawahia, 21 kilometres north of the city.

The name Waikato comes from the Māori language and translates as flowing water. The Waikato River has spiritual meaning for various local Māori tribes, including Tainui, who regard it as a source of their mana, or pride. The seat of the Maori King is at the Marae of Turangawaewae on the banks of the river at Ngaruawahia. For many years Tainui sought to re-establish its links to the river after the New Zealand Wars and the subsequent confiscations of the 1860s. A settlement was finally reached in August 2008 and the tribe now has joint management of the river along with the Waikato Regional Council.

As well as being a water and recreation resource, the river was historically a critical communications and transport link for the communities along it. The Waikato River in Hamilton is frequently used by rowers, kayakers and powered pleasure craft. Water-skiers and jet skis have zones outside the city limits where they can be used.

Due to the river's geography, it is ideal for generating electricity and as much as 13% of the country’s power needs are generated by the rivers network of dams. There are eight dams and nine hydroelectric power stations on the river.

The Waikato River and its hydro lakes are home to at least 19 types of native fish and 10 types of introduced fish. The introduced species include rainbow and brown trout providing what has been called "the finest fly-fishing in the world". Other introduced species, like the carp and mosquitofish, have become major pests.


Hamilton (Kirikiriroa in Māori) is the centre of New Zealand's fourth largest urban area, and Hamilton City is the country's fourth largest territorial authority. Initially an agricultural service centre, it now has a growing and diverse economy and is the second fastest growing urban area in the country.

Education and research and development play an important part in the modern economy of the city and it is home to approximately 40,000 tertiary students and 1,000 PhD scientists.

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens is owned and operated by Hamilton City Council. The Gardens is the Waikato Region's most popular visitor attraction, attracting in excess of 1 million people and holding over 2,000 events each year. The gardens present the theme of 'the story of gardens' and are divided into the Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape garden collections. Entry is free, with most gardens open during daylight hours throughout the year.

The gardens first opened in 1960 with the first substantial development being Rogers Rose Garden, which was opened in 1971. The most-visited gardens are the American Modernist Garden, Chinese Scholars Garden, English Flower Garden, Japanese Garden of Contemplation, Indian Char Bagh Garden, Maori Garden, The Italian Renaissance Garden, Tudor and Tropical Gardens. Eight new gardens are currently under construction.

Read more about Hamilton Gardens here.

Mystery Creek Events Centre

Mystery Creek Events Centre is owned and operated by the NZ National Fieldays Society. The Society operates as a non-profit organisation, registered with the Charities Commission. The Society was developed in 1969, focusing on the development of the NZ National Agricultural Fieldays event.

The NZ National Agricultural Fieldays event remains the cornerstone of the Society, with more and more events now being hosted on site. The Society now owns and manages the property, Fieldays, Transport and Heavy Equipment Expo and jointly operates the Waikato Boat Fishing and Leisure Show. The Society recently launched their brand new event; Equidays.

Mystery Creek’s mission is “to be the best multi-functional events organisation, providing quality events and service to our customers”. The Waikato River Explorer is proud to be working alongside the team at Mystery Creek Events Centre.

Experience the beauty of the Waikato river from the Waikato River Explorer. Click here to book your scenic cruise or enquire about your Waikato event today.
Enjoy a river cruise along the Waikato RiverEnjoy a river cruise along the Waikato RiverThe Waikato River in Hamilton is frequently used by rowers, kayakers and powered pleasure craft.The mighty Waikato River - book your scenic cruise today!The Waikato Museum as viewed from the Waikato RiverThe Hamilton Gardens, one of the pick up points for your Waikato River cruise
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