Head to this wonderful part of Waikato for encounters with llamas, a dose of Kiwiana and scenic bush hikes galore.

1. Stick your neck out

Piopio is a sweetly tidy town where all the streets are named after native birds and everyone waves at you on country lanes as you drive past. The farmers at Greenmount Llamas are passionate about their beasts and the picturesque King Country. Llamas carry your gear as you trek through native bush, limestone rock and clean clear waters of the Mokau and Mangaotaki Rivers. Homemade country lunch and accommodation available, gorgeous fibres and handmade garments. At least two days' notice is needed for trekking. Phone: 07 877 8297.

2. Kiwi experience

Just up the road (in country miles), Otorohanga's kiwi house and native bird park is said to be the best place to see a kiwi, with specialised nocturnal enclosures, the country's largest walk-through dome aviary and bonus sessions with a tuatara or two. Run by the not-for-profit Otorohanga Zoological Society, this is the best of native wildlife through education, display and breeding. Open daily (except Christmas).


3. Kiwiana Town

Otorohanga is the little Kiwi town that could. Former mayor Dale Williams turned around youth unemployment and the town celebrates Kiwiana from buzzy bee to paua, pavlova, Sir Ed and an All Black or two in murals, corrugated iron sculptures and the Ed Hillary Walkway in the centre of town. There's a cleverly-renovated railway station, good coffee, and themed public loos plus carved Maori poupou and more commemorating the intriguing history of the King Country.

4. Bushed

Only a 10-minute (6km) drive from Hairy Feet Waitomo is the Mangaotaki Scenic Reserve beside the Mangaotaki River Bridge. Picturesque native bush with a backdrop of more of those stunning limestone cliffs and fine specimen trees, some of which are named. Access to Mangaotaki River with picnic tables, and an easy walk 20 minutes on loop track. Also on the Mangaotaki Rd are the Waitanguru Falls. Take the 10-minute walk down a steep track to another little space in paradise in native forest. Photo opportunities guaranteed.

5. Hike on

Off Leitch Rd via Mangaotaki Rd (approximately 8km from Hairy Feet Waitomo) is a track into Whareorino Forest. Leitch's Hiking track is popular and leads to a Department of Conservation hut. Clearly marked, the track is well graded for the hours hike to Leitch's Hut. To stay at the hut visit doc.govt.nz.