A stunning and largely unspoiled natural environment has seen a surge in tourism. Waipa’s visitor economy is now worth $178 million per year and supports 13 per cent of all jobs. A wide range of events, some of them world-class, plus a range of other activities continue to draw a growing number of visitors to the area.
Waipa is home to 17 peat lakes and more than 132 parks and reserves. They include Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, a 3,400 hectare fenced bird sanctuary – the biggest ecological island on mainland New Zealand.
Sanctuary Mountain’s habitat hosts some of New Zealand’s unique and rare native birds and wildlife including the kaka, hihi (stitchbird), takahe, giant weta, tuatara and North Island robin. New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi, is there in growing numbers. Self walks and guided tours are available from the visitor centre on the southern side of the mountain signposted from Te Awamutu and Cambridge.
Other natural attractions include the Mangakara Nature Walk, Nikau Walk and Mangakawa Scenic Reserve. There are spectacular hikes up Mt Pirongia and Yarndley’s Bush offers 14-hectares of spectacular, family-friendly hiking.
There is exceptional trout fishing and water sports at Lake Karapiro and the district has a growing reputation for cycling along a network of cycleways and walkways including the Waikato River Ride and Te Awa River Ride. Cycle hire is available from the Avantidrome and the Cambridge i-Site which offers a full schedule of training loops.
Cambridge and Te Awamutu offer excellent, boutique-type shopping and a growing range of eateries catering for all tastes and budgets.
Waipa is within a short drive to the Hobbiton Movie Tours set where guided tours are offered. The world-famous Waitomo Caves are just a 40 minute drive from Te Awamutu.
Visitor accommodation ranges from motels to exclusive lodges with the peak season from November to April. There are significant opportunities for investors in the accommodation sector, particularly in Cambridge. Given the growing number of events, there is simply not enough accommodation available for the growing number of visitors.
Further tourism information is available from i-Sites in Cambridge and Te Awamutu as well as the tourism organisation Hamilton Waikato Tourism which is charged with marketing the region.