Explore Waikato with the kids, writes Ceana Priest.
Is it time to get the tribe outside and shake off winter? Here are six great reasons to ditch the devices and go adventuring. From boardwalks clinging to cliff faces to viewing platforms perched among towering kahikatea forests, these outdoorsy gems scattered throughout the Waikato are perfect for little explorers.
However, spring weather can be changeable. Combined with kids acting as homing beacons for puddles and mud, it's handy to stash a change of warm clothes and socks in the car. Be prepared for the unexpected.
Sometimes younger family members need an incentive to tackle trails. Bribery works. Reusable food pouches filled with fruit, dates, crackers or scroggin can ignite enthusiasm to push through.
Although reaching the destination is rewarding, remember kids' energy levels are unpredictable. Take care to make sure they enjoy the outing. Listen to the birds, play Poohsticks or find critters in the dirt. Some days you'll need to turn around and leave the adventure for another day (perfect excuse for an icecream).
Miranda Bird Hide Track | Firth of Thames
Become a bird twitcher for the day and spot the remarkable bar-tailed godwit returning each year from its "holiday" in Alaska. Call into the nearby Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre to hire binoculars or a telescope. For the best bird viewing, visit two hours either side of high tide. This 10-minute walk is suitable for buggies and assisted wheelchairs. No dogs.
Getting there: located on the Firth of Thames, 10 minutes south of Miranda.
Hammond Park | Hamilton
Kids will love tearing along the meandering boardwalk perched between cliff faces as the Waikato River surges past. A beach at the beginning of the walk makes a nice picnic spot, or the large grassed area before the boardwalk would be perfect to kick a ball around. This easy 30-minute return walk is suitable for buggies, wheelchairs and bikes. Dogs on leads.
Getting there: best parking is on Malcolm St, Riverlea, Hamilton.
Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls | Raglan
Explore an island forest with fairies and a dramatic 55m waterfall in its midst. The top viewing platforms are wheelchair-accessible, however, the Bottom of Falls bridge is an energetic trek down 261 steps. It's very doable, just take your time as the steps can be muddy after winter. Allow 60 minutes return to explore.
Getting there: approximately 45 minutes from Hamilton. After Te Uku (SH23), follow the signs on Te Mata Rd.
Yarndley's Bush | Te Awamutu
A boardwalk winds past sprawling kahikatea root buttresses towards a viewing platform perched among towering native trees. From the top you can create some impressive echoes. Look out for eel or kōura in the small stream. The track is ideal for buggies, although there is a moderately steep slope at the start. Allow 45 minutes to complete the loop. Dogs on leads.
Getting there: located off SH3 on Ngarato Rd, 10 minutes north of Te Awamutu.
Ruakuri Walk | Waitomo
A gorge with towering cliffs, limestone tunnels and boardwalks. This impressive 1km loop also includes a cavern with a river roaring through it. Littlies would be best tucked in a backpack as there are steep ledges. Allow 60 minutes to explore. Picnic tables and coin-operated barbecue available. No dogs.
Getting there: turn left after Waitomo Village on to Tumutumu Rd. The carpark is 2km further along on the right.
Opepe Scenic and Historic Reserve — Northern Loop | Taupō
This trail passes through a mature podocarp forest. Amazingly, many trees have survived fires and logging. You can peer up at enormous rimu trees and climb through hollowed-out trunks. The walk is well graded and suitable for sturdy outdoorsy buggies. Allow 45 minutes to complete the 1.5km loop. Dogs on leads.
Getting there: 17km from Taupō on the Napier Taupō Highway (SH5).
More information: see outdoorkid.co.nz
We're giving away six copies of Ceana Priest's Outdoor Kid — a guidebook with 50 kid-friendly outdoor adventures in the Waikato. Visit our facebook page to go in the draw.