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Amazing Matamata

The NZMCA’s latest Motorhome Friendly Town is a vibrant spot in the Waikato known for its thoroughbred horse breeding and training, and as home to the world famous Hobbiton movie set.

Matamata means ‘headland’ and was the name of a new pa established in 1830 by Te Waharoa, the famous Ngatihaua chief. In 1865, after the Land Wars, Josiah Clifton Firth, an Auckland flour miller and entrepreneur, negotiated with Te Waharoa’s son Tarapipi for the lease of 22,600 hectares of land. In 1885 a railway was built from Morrinsville to Matamata and the town has grown from a small scattering of houses around the railway station to a rural town which services the residents of both the town and its rural hinterland. State Highway 27 runs through the town, linking the Waikato to the Bay of Plenty, making it a hub of activity with locals and tourists alike.

Key attractions and activities in Matamata and the surrounding district include:

Firth Tower Museum

The town’s iconic Firth Tower was built in 1882 by Josiah Clifton Firth to provide a lookout over the countryside and was also used as the estate office and sleeping quarters for single men. Today, you can visit to learn something of life in a more leisured age through the museum displays housed in 13 buildings. Or enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of gardens, wide lawns and shady trees while you picnic under the venerable oaks or take a stroll. Self-contained motorhome/caravan stopover sites are available 24 hours a day with powered sites located around the perimeter of the car park. An honesty box system means you can follow your own schedule. A free dump station is available at Railside on the Green, 41A Hetana St, along with public toilets and the Matamata Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Centennial Drive

This stunning botanical park winds its way through the town centre. It was developed in the early 1900s and has lots of great spots for picnics and walks to admire the gardens, a water feature and a variety of trees from all around the world.

Wairere Falls

This very popular walk is on the western side of the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park. From the Goodwin Rd car park, the track features mossy green boulders and bridged mountain stream crossings. You can walk 45 minutes to the viewing platform and see the spectacular 153-metre, two stage drop of the Wairere Falls. The track continues another 45 minutes to a lookout platform at the top of the falls with views over the valley and the Waikato Plains.

Hobbiton Movie Set

Explore the lush pastures of The Shire with a guided tour of Hobbiton, as featured in Sir Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies. In 1998, location scouts discovered Alexander farm, a stunning 1,250 acre sheep farm bearing a striking similarity to The Shire, as described by JRR Tolkien. The beautiful movie set with 44 Hobbit Holes remains in the same fantastic detail seen in the movies.

The Blue Spring and Te Waihou Walkway

The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway is internationally acclaimed with water so pure it supplies around 60 percent of New Zealand’s bottled water. The spring is fed from the Mamaku Plateau where the water takes up to 100 years to filter through; the resulting water is so pure and clean that it produces a beautiful blue colour while being virtually clear. The Blue Spring walk takes about one and a half hours each way, starting from Whites Road (State Highway 28), near Putaruru. There is also a shorter walk, 15 minutes each way, to the Blue Spring, accessed from nearby Leslie Road.

Hauraki Rail Trail

The 197km Hauraki Rail Trail can be completed in four to five days. Its five sections range from 23km to 55km and allow for manageable day rides. Start or end your journey in Matamata on the leg to/from Te Aroha, where you’ll pass through fertile plains, significant horse studs, goat farms, groves of scented trees, sight the scenic Wairere Falls, ravines, Stanley Landing and the Firth Tower Museum and grounds.

Everything you need

On top of all that, Matamata offers great local shopping, eating out and entertainment. The Motorhome Friendly Town has both New World and Countdown supermarkets and all the services needed to keep you and your vehicle running smoothly. Alongside the big-name chain restaurants, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to discover. The local library has free Wifi and a great range of books to browse. Visitors can enjoy a round at the Matamata Golf Club, a flutter at the Matamata Racing Club or leisurely laps at Swim Zone Matamata, with its heated indoor and outdoor pools open year-round. There’s also a fantastic public playground at the Matamata Domain.

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