A little-known gem amid Waikato's larger, show-stealing attractions, discover the next big thing in Ngāruawāhia: Durham Precinct.
Nudging the base of the Hākarimata Range and an easy diversion off the Waikato Expressway, Durham Precinct jostles with food venues and niche boutiques that offer the perfect fuel-up or wind-down when you're exploring the area. Open Monday to Saturday, punch Durham Precinct into your Google maps and make a day of it.
Cycle Te Awa Great New Zealand River Ride
A smooth, 70km bike ride that traces the curves of the Waikato River from Ngāruawāhia to the Lake Karapiro reservoir, Durham Precinct is the perfect place to start or finish the Great New Zealand River Ride. Hire a regular bike or e-bike from the precinct's River Riders and experience a slice of NZ's longest river, including a new section between the Velodrome and Hamilton Gardens, all set to open this year. River Riders has convenient drop-off and pick-up points freckling the route, so there's no need to return to the starting point.
Eat and repeat
Got taste buds? Then you've got to take them to The Marketplace at Durham Precinct. Sister Six cafe serves protein shakes and freshly roasted Raglan Roast Coffee for the early riser, as well as artisan stone-baked pizza for the hungry lunch-goer. Gourmet burgers are the forte of Phat Pattie and Wingin' It specialises in all things chicken delicious. For a sugar fix, Piece of Cake is a hard-to-walk-past dessert bar, or if it's a traditional tavern you're after, The Summit pours locally brewed Good George beer.
The nearby Hākarimata Range dishes up 5000 acres of protected scenic reserve. Enjoy a leisurely two-hour ramble along the 3km Kauri Loop Track or rev things up with a three-hour summit walk of Hākarimata. For those wishing to enrich their noodle, Te Puna Wai Tours are led by Ngāruawāhia resident, Matutaera Herangi. Setting off from Kīngitanga Reserve near Durham Precinct, enjoy a 90-minute delve into local Māori history, including a visit to Tūrangawaewae Marae.
It's fitting that such a charming array of wares line the shelves of Hākarimata Boutique, a delightfully restored cottage known as The Old Cobblers. It's a stylish place, meticulously arranged to showcase a beautiful selection of locally made (or sourced) objects. When you inevitably leave with bags full of indulgent treasures, appease your spender's guilt by knowing it supports the longevity of home-grown talent.
Venture to The Point
Because one trip to Durham Precinct is never enough, namely for those sweet treats from Piece of Cake, break up your visit with a wander to The Point, a five-minute walk (or two-minute drive) down the road. The Point is a historic place of interest with a gun turret, cenotaph and memorial to the first Māori King, Pōtatau. Fronting the banks of Waipā River, it's also a beautiful place to sit and picnic beside its photogenic band rotunda. Kids bouncing off the walls on sugared doughnuts can be worn out at The Point's playground, basketball hoop and skate park.
5 Hākarimata Scenic Reserve walking trails
Hākarimata Waterworks Track
A short and scenic one-hour return trail that sews a route through the bush, tracing the edges of a stream before reaching an old dam.
Hākarimata Summit Track
Accessed via the Waterworks Track, continue onwards to reach the Hākarimata summit, sitting 374m above sea level. To reach the top, you'll have to take on the infamous staircase with its daunting but rewarding 1349 steps. Allow three hours return.
A full-day 12km (one way) walk that you'll want to allocate at least 7.5 hours to complete. Various lookout points offer elevated views across the Waikato River, Ngāruawāhia and Hamilton city.
Hākarimata Rail Trail
Tracing the tracks that once serviced Ngāruawāhia and Glen Massey Railway, this scenic stretch of pathway offers a quick 30-minute stretch of the legs and is also suitable for buggies, wheelchairs and bikes.
Hākarimata Kauri Loop Track
Walk in the presence of native kauri, rimu and nīkau trees and visit an old pa site on this two-hour loop track. The initial flight of stairs will get the glutes fired up but you'll soon lose the grimace once your eyes settle on the views.
For more travel inspiration, go to newzealand.com/nz.
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