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The Kaimai Range of New Zealand: From Mount Te Aroha to Hobbiton

Published
November 10, 2020
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I'VE done Mount Te Aroha twice. At 952 metres, it’s the highest peak in the Kaimai-Mamaku Range, which continues the mountains of the Coromandel Peninsula southward, next to the Hauraki Plains.

Mount Te Aroha is located next to the spa town of Te Aroha, halfway along the Kaimai Range. The climb isn’t challenging, and it takes only three hours to reach the summit if you are reasonably fit. There are lots of other tracks nearby.

Here’s a map of the Hauraki Rail Trail cycleway I saw in Matamata, south of Te Aroha. The map shows where both Te Aroha and Matamata are in relation to the Kaimai Range. They are accessible by road too, of course.

A highlight of Mount Te Aroha is the group of hot springs at the foot of the mountain. These springs have been used for hundreds of years for their healing properties.

In the late 1800s the land was gifted to New Zealand by the Māori chief Mokena Hou to be used as a public health resort, and has remained a popular spot for bathers ever since. There are many other hot springs in the Waikato area and the wider North Island, and some in the South Island as well.

The other highlight of the Kaimai Range, a little south of Mount Te Aroha, is the Wairere Falls. Wairere Falls are 153 metres high and visible from the Wairere Falls Carpark, about 25 km south of the town of Te Aroha on State Highway 27.

Wairere Falls, photo by C. Rodliffe, 21 March 2008, CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There’s quite a pleasant hike up to Wairere Falls from thecarpark, with a picturesque bridge and lots of other photo opportunities.

See the DOC PDF brochure Family walks in the Waikato. Also waikatonz.com (web resource), Te Aroha Mineral Springs and he websites for the privately-owned Opal Hot Springs Holiday Park and Okoroire Hot Springs. A comprehensive list of hot pools in any locality is provided by nzhotpools.co.nz.

The falls are close to Matamata, where the Hobbiton™ filmset from the Lord of the Rings films is located.

A Selfie by the Hobbiton sign

For tours of Hobbiton,visit the website of Hobbiton MovieSet Tours. It’s all still pretty much as it was in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Hobbiton costs NZ $90 to get in as an adult, but it’s well worth it! It verges onto the streets of Matamata, rather incongruously. Then again, if all our country towns were like this, they might be a bit more pleasant.

Image for post

It’s better to go in the morning because it gets rather crowded in the afternoon, and you can book online for an early morning tour. They limit the numbers. And while $90 may seem steep, it also means that the numbers are limited. You’re able to take photos and videos. The Green Dragon pub is the highlight: it’s fully furnished inside. Here’s a video I made of Hobbiton outdoors, followed by a scene in a blacksmith’s, and then inside the Green Dragon.

Other interesting places to visit in the vicinity are Okoroire some 18 kilometres distant in a southward direction, where the hot springs hotel has been in operation since the 1880s; and the much chillier Blue Spring, a further 12 kilometres on near Putaruru, which supplies about 60 percent of New Zealand’s bottled water. Both of these are up back roads, so check your GPS.

There’s also a backpackers’ hostel just outside of Matamata, where you can base yourself if you don’t want to stay somewhere else, such as the Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel.

Note

This post is referenced in my new book The Neglected North Island: New Zealand's other half.

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