Matamata

MHF Town
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Matamata-Piako District Council

Matamata is a vibrant town in the Waikato, near the base of the Kaimai Range, in a thriving farming area known for its thoroughbred horse breeding and training. 

Home to the internationally acclaimed Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata has a bustling retail, industrial and hospitality district with a bountiful mixture of boutique and chain stores. 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.

You can park overnight at the Firth Tower Museum with its historical buildings, picturesque gardens and Hauraki Rail Trail at your doorstep.  Less than 15minutes from the CBD, you will find Wairere Falls, the tallest waterfall in the North Island, where the spacious Goodwin Road carpark has plenty of room for larger vehicles to manoeuvre easily. 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.

The history of Matamata

Matamata means ‘headland’. This 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, (baptised as Wiremu Tamihana in 1839), for the lease of 22,600 hectares of land. In 1885 a railway was built from Morrinsville to Matamata. In 1887 the Matamata Estate was taken over by the Loan and Mercantile Company and then by the Bank of New Zealand and subdivided into 118 farms in 1904.The township of Matamata, was surveyed into sections with wide streets, a central domain and a 40m wide plantation reserve, now known as Centennial Drive, a botanical park with a wide variety of trees from all over the world. Since 1885 Matamata has grown from a small scattering of houses around a railway station to a rural servicing town which provides for the commercial, medical, educational, religious, industrial and recreational needs of the residents of both the town and its rural hinterland.

Firth Tower Museum

Enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of our gardens, wide lawns and shady trees. Picnic under the venerable oaks or take a stroll. Learn something of life in a more leisured age through our museum displays housed in 13 buildings. The Firth Tower was built in 1882 by Josiah Clifton Firth to provide a lookout over the countryside.  It was also used as the estate office and sleeping quarters for single men. The tower stands on rising ground commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country. The Firth Tower Historical Reserve is administered by the Matamata-Piako District Council and museum exhibits and displays are the work of the Matamata Historical Society. The Heritage Centre houses the archives of the Matamata area.

Self contained motor home/caravan stop over sites are available 24 hours every day.

You can drive into the car park at any time of day or night. The powered sites are located around the perimeter of the car park. There are three power boxes with two power points in each box. Any other car park can be used without power as well. If you do not require power, please consider others and use one of the unpowered spaces. An honesty box system means at the ease of travelling at your own schedule any time of day or night. A free dump station is available at Railside on the Green, 41A Hetana Street along with public toilets and the Matamata Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

For more information about the motorhome area at Firth Tower, visit: https://www.firthtower.co.nz/motorhomes

Centennial Drive

Centennial Drive is a stunning botanical park that winds its way through the Matamata town centre. The drive was formed in the early 1900s when the settlement of Matamata was divided into sections, leaving a 40 metre wide plantation reserve – over time this reserve was planted and developed into Centennial Drive. The drive is now managed and maintained by a committee of volunteers with contributions from Council. The drive is a stunning short walk, with lots of great spots to stop and picnic, or simply wander through and admire the range of features including gardens, a water feature and a variety of trees from all around the world. Note that as Centennial Drive is a park, there is no formed track or walking path – people generally walk along the road or grass.

Wairere Falls

Wairere Falls Track is a very popular walk on the western side of the Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park. From the spacious Goodwin Rd car park, the picturesque track features mossy green boulders and bridged mountain stream crossings. Walk 45 minutes to the viewing platform and see the spectacular 153m, two stage drop. The track continues another 45 minutes up to a lookout platform at the top of the falls. There is a magnificent view looking back over the valley and the Waikato Plains.

Hobbiton™,  Movie Set

In the heart of the Mighty Waikato region, you can explore the lush pastures of the Shire™ with a guided tour of Hobbiton™, as featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies. In 1998, Sir Peter Jackson’s team of location scouts were searching for the iconic rolling hills and lush green pastures of Hobbiton™. An aerial search led them to the Alexander farm, a stunning 1,250 acre sheep farm in the heart of the Waikato. They noted the area’s striking similarity to The Shire™, as described by JRR Tolkien, and quickly realised that the Hobbits™ had found a home. In 2009, Sir Peter Jackson returned to film The Hobbit trilogy, and he left behind the beautiful movie set you’ll see today; 44 permanently reconstructed Hobbit Holes, in the same fantastic detail seen in the movies. In 2012 The Green Dragon™ Inn was opened as the finale to the journey. Guests now finish their Hobbiton™ Movie Set experience with a refreshing beverage from the Hobbit™ Southfarthing™ Range. There’s an abundance of movie magic nestled inside the fully operational farm. Visitors can choose from the Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tour, Evening Banquet Tour or Second Breakfast Tour.

Thanks to https://www.hobbitontours.com/en/our-story/ for this information.

The Blue Springs & Te Waihou Walkway

The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway is internationally acclaimed with water so pure it supplies around 60% 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 walk to the springs follows a track alongside the Waihou River, through wetlands, across rolling pastoral land and features views of small waterfalls, native bush and the famous Blue Spring with glimpses of trout along the way.

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. 

Thanks to https://www.waikatonz.com/experiences/walking-hiking-trails/blue-spring-te-waihou-walkway/ for this information.

Hauraki Rail Trail

The Grade One Easiest Hauraki Rail Trail is a Great Ride for all ages, fitness and abilities. Leisurely riding traces historic towns, lush farmlands, scenic coastlines and a historic railway corridor. With its gentle terrain, tour services, accommodation, and restaurants, it’s one of the most easy Great Rides in New Zealand.

The 197km Hauraki Rail Trail can be completed in 4-5 days, and comprising of five sections ranging from 23km to 55km it allows for excellent and manageable day rides.  Starting from Kaiaua in the North, the trail follows the Firth of Thames through a number of townships, the spectacular Karangahake Gorge, to Matamata in the South. 

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 charming Firth Tower Museum and grounds.

Matamata Piako District Council, 11 Tainui Street, Matamata, phone: 07 881 9050

Alan Rogers
Alan Rogers