Cambridge and surrounds

Hamilton Travel Blog

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The corrugated iron dog shop at Tirau - this is actually the tourist information centre!

Left Taupo on a glorious sunny morning to head to Cambridge (stayed here, about 20km south of Hamilton).  Stopped at Tokoroa to buy a thermos (my coffee fixes were getting expensive!) and to see the "Pine Man of Tokoroa" with his enormous chainsaw - a tribute to the pine loggers in this area.  The man was erected by the local Rotary Club - we thought he could come in useful for the Kyneton Rotary Club working bees!  Stopped in Tirau for morning tea and to see the corrugated iron dog and sheep - the town is famous for corrugated iron and all the shops have little creations adorning them.

The Waipa Delta tourist steam boat which does trips up and down the river in Hamilton.
  The tourist info centre is actually IN the dog, so it's a bit bigger!  We drove to Matamata but were pretty unimpressed - it's only real claim to fame seems to be the Hobbit houses - sets used for the Lord of the Rings movies, but they're only facades and you have to on a $50 tour to see them, so didn't bother.

We arrived in Cambridge at lunch time and found it to be really lovely.  It's set along a river and is very much like an English village with its old trees and village green, also a nice lake you can walk around with lots of ducks etc..  This time is famous for race horse studs as well as several famous athletes - we saw Sarah Olmer in the street, a NZ cyclist who is currently advertising McDonalds - the only reason we recognized her!  The town is well worth a stop, even if just to have a wander around the shops and streets for a break.

Angora rabbit shearing at Waitomo.
  Staying here was great, because not as busy as Hamilton but still close.

The next day we visited the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves ($35pp incl entrance to the Museum).  Our best advice here is to start early and get on the 9 or 9.30am tours, because after that the tour buses arrive and it becomes a bit chaotic.  The guide gave us a good tour of the cave, and then put us on little dinghies to travel along the river and actually see the glow worms.  the boat is pulled along by a rope, so no noise, just very peaceful water noises with incredible little green lights overhead (and reflecting on the water).  The millions of lights are spectacular and certainly worth a visit if you are in this area.  The Museum was pretty small but had some interesting finds from the caves and also a history of caving in the area.  There were some skeletons of interesting animals that had got into the caves and couldn't get out, including the big bird which is now extinct (and the name of which I suddenly can't remember - actually I can, the moa!).

Waitomo Glow-worm Caves

1/2km down the road there is an Angora Rabbit Farm and at no cost to you, you can watch an angora rabbit being shorn!  The poor little fellas are stretched out on a mediaeval rack and then shorn with normal sheep shears - they shake like leaves the whole time, which we can understand.  Mind you, they get shorn every 3 months so they should get used to it!  Normally the shearing takes place at 1.30pm but we were "lucky" enough to arrived just before a bus of Japanese tourists, so didn't have to wait at all.

On the way back to Cambridge we stopped at the Kiwi House in Otorohanga - it is a sanctuary and breeding centre for kiwis and other native NZ birds.  It's quite interesting and well laid out, with all the trees etc., labelled and their native uses explained eg: Maori medicine, etc.

The Pine Man of Tokoroa, would probably be most useful for working bees the world over!
.  If you're interested in the Finn Brothers (Crowded House, Split Enz), you can also stop at nearby Te Awamutu where they were born.  Apparently there is a museum to them but we didn't see it.

On our last day in the Hamilton area, we drove over to Raglan where the beaches are famous with surfers (a famous surfing movie was filmed at Manu Beach (I think it was called The Long Break, but we're not surfers).  Had a cuppa on the beach and watched the surfers - lots of lying on the boards, standing up briefly then falling over, quite amusing actually!  Then headed back to Hamilton itself and visited the Waikato Museum (free) which although small, is pretty good.  It had some quite interesting Maori artefacts and information, including the big canoe donated by the Maori queen.

The belly dancers of Hamilton
  It is built into the museum as though it's in it's own canoe house, and that section of the museum from the outside is all carved in the traditional way, so great to see from the river.  We went for a cruise along the river on the Waipa Delta - nice and relaxing with all you can drink coffee (in case you're tempted to nod off) and scones as well.  The commentary gave the European and Maori history of the river so quite good.  The bonus of our trip was this evening, because the Hamilton Festival was having it's opening night in the Gardens, all free and very entertaining.  We had a walk around the grounds first, the specialist gardens are really well laid on different themes - English, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian Renaissaince, American Modern plus rose gardens and self-sufficient gardens.  The festival Mardi Gras was terrific with dancers (including the biggest belly dancers we've ever seen), drummers, country singers, comedians and almost anything else you can think of.
Maori performance group, Hamilton Arts Festival
  The highlight of the evening was watching a six foot something blonde, DD bust-ed drag queen dancing withe one of the Fijian dancers - quite a sight!

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The corrugated iron dog shop at Ti…
The corrugated iron dog shop at T…
The Waipa Delta tourist steam boat…
The Waipa Delta tourist steam boa…
Angora rabbit shearing at Waitomo.
Angora rabbit shearing at Waitomo.
Waitomo Glow-worm Caves
Waitomo Glow-worm Caves
The Pine Man of Tokoroa, would pro…
The Pine Man of Tokoroa, would pr…
The belly dancers of Hamilton
The belly dancers of Hamilton
Maori performance group, Hamilton …
Maori performance group, Hamilton…
View from Chinese Scholars Garden …
View from Chinese Scholars Garden…
The Mardi Gras parade leaders, Ham…
The Mardi Gras parade leaders, Ha…
Hamilton
photo by: Koralifix