South of Aucklands Bombay Hills is a land of lush green valleys where the air is crisp and clear – the home of restful dairy cows and galloping thoroughbred champions.
To the west the surf is pounding along Raglans famous left-hand break and adrenalins pumping in Waitomo as blackwater rafters paddle through a surreal subterranean world.
In Hamilton the roasted coffee is always steaming and the city life hums in tune with the retail therapy and café culture.
Through it all New Zealands longest river winds its weary way to the sea at Port Waikato, backing up patiently behind a string of hydroelectric power dams along its course. The mighty Waikato flows mainly through a relatively level flood plain. Things liven up in the three rapids that lie between Lake Taupo outlet and Ohakuri hydro lake.
Huka Falls produces breathtaking power and only extreme adventure gurus have run them. Aratiatia Rapids rise with awesome fury when the control gates are opened and this creates a great spectacle. Ngawaapurua Rapids, downstream from the Aratiatia Dam, provide real whitewater sport. A huge breaking wave dominates the rapids and a strong back-eddy facilitates reruns. You can play here for hours.
Out Raglan way you have the luxury of riding both ocean surf and Grade 2 rapids on the Waitetuna River. Put in by the S.H.23 road bridge at Waitetuna settlement and ride the sharp drops out to the eastern arm of the Raglan Harbour.
Another little gem is the Mangakino Stream, which flows into Lake Maraetai south east of Mangakino township. Put in at the Sandels Road bridge after heavy rain and ride some bouncy Grade 3 rapids down to the lake.
This region has heaps of lake and river water for kayakers to play around in. Why not hire canoes or kayaks for a multi-day float and camp trip down the Waikato River, starting below the Karapiro Dam – its a scenic delight.