Suburban walk: A Waikato River wander

By Justine McLeary

A peaceful and history-filled trail meanders along Hamilton's Waikato River. (Expand the image to see a map of the walk). Photo / NZPA
A peaceful and history-filled trail meanders along Hamilton's Waikato River. (Expand the image to see a map of the walk). Photo / NZPA

The hectic pace of Auckland seems a million miles away as I idly watch a lone duck disappear around a bend in the river.

I'm in Hamilton to rediscover the walk that meanders through the city beside the Waikato River. I've spent many happy hours strolling here, and it's a pleasure to retrace these steps with family.

Thick trees lining a steep bank separate the path from the road above as we pass under the Fairfield Bridge towards Hamilton's northern suburbs. It's a crisp, sunny day and fellow walkers are out in force.

Over by the east bank, the occasional fish leaps clear of the current. It's so peaceful it's easy to forget that traffic roars by constantly overhead.

History lies around every bend of the Waikato River. Stretching for 425km from Mt Ruapehu to Port Waikato, it's New Zealand's longest and was a key source of food for early Maori.

Today it's more commonly used as a playground for water skiers, anglers, swimmers brave enough to tackle the strong current, and rowers.

A couple of boats pass on their way upstream, their occupants no doubt practising for one of Hamilton's many river events.

Stately homes begin to appear as we near St Andrews. All are immaculately kept with stunning gardens. Strategically placed public benches offer good views of these gardens and the river.

There's no need for a guide on this walk. Take your time, stop as often as you like to feed ducks, marvel at the city's bridges and imposing homes, do a spot of birdwatching or enjoy a picnic lunch.

Walk the entire 11km trail from Hamilton Gardens to Pukete, or do it in parts.

Either way the scenery is memorable.

- Herald on Sunday

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