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This farming region south of Auckland features lots of green, rolling landscape and the powerful Waikato River. At 425km, the Waikato (Māori for “flowing water”) is the longest river in New Zealand. It flows from Mount Ruapehu into the Tasman Sea, and in addition to hydrating the region’s broad plains, the Waikato generates clean hydroelectric power.

The biggest attractions for travellers to Waikato are the world-class surf and laid-back culture in the beach town of Raglan and the limestone glow-worm caves farther south in Waitomo. You can do lots of adventure activities in Waitomo, from abseiling (rappelling) to cave tubing. Hamilton is the area’s largest city, and is a university town with good nightlife.

Waikato is the region that Peter Jackson chose to create the town of Hobbiton for his Lord of the Rings trilogy (near the town of Matamata), and there is indeed that kind of bucolic charm to be found here.

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