Hamilton may be the hub of the Waikato, but the region boasts a great deal more
Take Tokoroa for instance, the bustling multi-cultural town lying in the centre
of a huge forestry industry supporting the Kinleith pulp and paper mill. Tours of the
giant Kinleith plant take visitors through the entire process of the modern forest
industry, from the nursery through logging, processing and pulp and paper making to final
distribution. A thriving community puts the emphasis on outdoor recreation in Tokoroa.
Sharing the South Waikato is Putaruru, built in the early 1900's to service the
Arapuni hydro electric dam as well as the timber industry. While still a vital part of
this timber industry, Putaruru has a lighter side today as the country's camellia capital.
Tirau, known as Oxford when it was established in the mid-1800s, is the third of
the South Waikato towns. Unlike the timber towns, Tirau has the majority of its workforce
employed at the multi-million-dollar casein production complex. A strong English tradition
dating back to its founding is reflected in the town's thriving antique trade.
Gateway to the green valley is Te Awamutu, aptly named "Rosetown" for
its many beautiful gardens. Occupying pride of place in Te Awamutu's museum is
"Uemuku," a carving that is one of the most treasured of all Maori relics, said
to have been carried from Hawaii to New Zealand in the Tainui canoe.
Racing ahead on Highway 27 is Matamata, recognised as one of the premier
thoroughbred breeding and training areas in Australasia. The lush Matamata plains are home
to highly productive dairy herds too, serviced by the New Zealand Dairy group who have
factories at Waitoa and Morrinsville. Some milk from this area may go to the NZ
Dairy Group's other factories at Tirau, Cambridge, Lichfield, Te Awamutu and Te Rapa.
On the coast near Hamilton is the small town of Raglan which has one of the best
surf breaks in the world. The break is noted for its unusually long rides and is part of
the Surfing world circuit.
Turn back the pages of time with a visit to Cambridge. Named after the Duke of
Cambridge, the then commander-in-chief of the army, the town had military beginnings as a
camp of the Third Waikato Regiment in 1864. A large redoubt with excellent views over the
surrounding countryside was built on a site behind the present police station -- but its
military phase was short. Now the centre of a thriving agricultural area, Cambridge today
is noted for its beauty -- particularly the stunning autumn colours of its many trees.
A walk back in time is offered by the National Agricultural Heritage at Mystery
Creek. Offering a perfect foil to the modern up-scale farming scene, the National
Agricultural Heritage offers such cameos of the past as an 1875 jail lockup, a village
church, and the heritage school, originally built in 1912.