Spa Park to Huka Falls

Spa Park – Huka Falls Walkway is a two hour return walk that follows the Waikato River to the Huka Falls.

Spa Thermal Park Huka Falls Walkway

Spa Park – Huka Falls Walkway

The walk starts at Spa Thermal Park, which is at the end of County Ave (off Spa Road). Gates are locked between 8pm and 7am.  At 41 hectares the park is one of Taupo’s largest parks. There is an excellent children’s playground onsite.

It’s approximately a five minute walk across Spa Park to the start of the track.

Spa Thermal Park

Spa Thermal Park

It is a 2.6 km easy track that is approximately 50 minutes one way to Huka Falls. Cyclists are not permitted on the Spa Park to Huka Falls walkway. Cyclists are recommended to take the Rotary Ride track.

Near the start of the track is a bridge that crosses Otumuheke Stream, a natural hot stream that follows into the Waikato River. Residents and visitors visit to soak in the natural hot pool.

Otumere Stream follows into Waikato River creating natural hot pool

Otumuheke Stream follows into Waikato River creating natural hot pool

The walk follows the Waikato River offering views of Reid’s Farm Recreation Reserve and Huka Lodge. Two very different forms of accommodation – Reid’s Farm, a free camping site and Huka Lodge, a luxurious lodge that attracts royalty and movie stars.

The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest river running 425 km through the North Island. It drains at the north eastern edge of Lake Taupo, later creating the Huka Falls and then flowing northeast across the Waikato plains and draining into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato.

Waikato River

Waikato River

View of Huka Lodge

View of Huka Lodge

The Huka Falls is formed when the Waikato River, which is normally up to 100 metres wide, narrows to just 15 metres causing a large volume of water to collide as it passes through a narrow gorge of hard volcanic rock. Approximately 220,000 litres of water passes per second creating an impressive waterfall.

The word Huka means foam in Māori – you can see where it got its name from when you see the falls.

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Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Riverside Park Taupo

Riverside Park is located within the Tongariro Domain on the banks of the Waikato River.

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Riverside Park 

Riverside Park officially opened in November 2007 on the site of the former Taupo Motor Camp, which closed in 2006 after the lease expired. Public opinion was divided when the camping ground closed, as it had been a popular camping site since the 1930s. Today Riverside Park is popular with locals and visitors.

The park has plenty of seating, tables and green space for picnicking and relaxing. There are a mature beech trees in the park that were donated from former mayor Clayton Stent’s own property.

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Riverside Park

There is a large boardwalk that runs alongside the Waikato River. The boardwalk turns into a concrete pathway, which makes for a nice short walk. Visitors can exit the park and cross the road by Control Gate Bridge and continue along the banks of the Waikato River to Spa Thermal Park or walk along Tongariro Street to the main shopping district.

Boardwalk, Riverside Park

Boardwalk, Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

In the park carved into three stones are words from the poems ‘Waikato River’, ‘A Preference for River’ and ‘My Poems’, from Rowley Habib’s poetry collection The Raw Men – Selected Poems 1954 – 2004. Habib’s mother was of Ngati Ruingarangi hapu, a sub tribe of local iwi Ngati Tuwharetoa and Habib grew up in Taupo and attended Taupo Public School.

Poetry from Rowley Habib

Poetry from Rowley Habib

The Unison Amphitheatre is grassed amphitheatre that provides seating for up to 15,000 people and is used for outdoor concerts and events during the summer months.

Also held every Saturday from 10am to 1pm is the Riverside Market, which has various stalls selling produce, breads, crafts, art, clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and more.

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens is a public garden located on State Highway 1 just south of Hamilton Central.

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens

The gardens are open from 7.30am. They close at 7.30pm in the summer and 5.30pm in the winter. There is access from Gate 1 or 2 on Cobham Drive. The Information Centre and Shop is open from 9am to 5pm all year round.

Alternatively you can also walk along the edge of the Waikato River from the city to Hamilton Gardens, which is what I did. After crossing Victoria Bridge I turned right and followed the path along the river.

Along the way I passed Wellington Street Beach and Hayes Paddock.

Wellington Street Beach is Hamilton’s own inland beach on the edge of the Waikato River. The small sandy beach has a jetty, which local youth jump from and there is a large grassy area suitable for picnics.

The beach has significance with local Māori. It was an important waka (canoe) landing site for earlier Māori traders. Many Māori who swim in the river at this spot today perform the ritual or tohi, where they splash the water on their face. This is done five times as a blessing to each of the Tanui Māori kings – Potatau Te Wherowhero, Tawhaio, Mahuta, Te Rata, and Koroki.

Wellington Street Beach

Wellington Street Beach

Hayes Paddock was developed as a garden suburb of state housing. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 200 houses were along seven streets, which were mainly named after former Governor-Generals. Macfarlane Street, named after James MacFarlane, is the only street not named after a Governor-General. MacFarlane was partner in the company Henderson and MacFarlane.

Hayes Paddock is named after William Hayes, who farmed the area from 1903 to 1925. The area is now a protected heritage precinct under the Council’s district plan.

Path to Hamilton Gardens

Path to Hamilton Gardens

In 1960, four acres of land was put aside for the purpose of a public garden. Those original four acres make up what is the Victorian Flower Garden and the Hammond Camellia Flower Garden. Over time the gardens expanded to what it is today.

The gardens present the theme – the ‘story of gardens’. There are five themed collections, which are Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar and Landscape. Within each of these collections are individual themed gardens.

The Paradise Collection is my favourite. It is like you are visiting another part of the world. The Paradise Collection includes an American Modernist Garden, Chinese Scholars Garden, English Flower Garden, Japanese Garden of Contemplation, Indian Char Bagh Garden and an Italian Renaissance Garden.

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American Modernist Garden – a late 20th Century garden designed for outdoor living, in the American West Coast tradition.

Chinese Scholar's Garden

Chinese Scholar’s Garden – an interpretation of the 10th – 12th Century Sung Dynasty gardens

English Flower Garden

English Flower Garden – designed in the style of an English 19th Century Arts and Crafts garden

Japanese Garden of Contemplation

Japanese Garden of Contemplation – an example of the 14th – 16th Century Muromachi Period gardens

Indian Char Bagh Garden

Indian Char Bagh Garden – an interpretation of a 16th – 17th Century garden built for the Mughal aristocracy.

Italian Renaissance Garden

Italian Renaissance Garden – an interpretation of the 15th – 16th Century Renaissance Gardens

The Productive Collection are edible gardens. The Kitchen Garden is a traditional European productive garden with a variety of vegetables and small fruits. Students from Waikato Institute of Technology maintain this garden as part of their studies. There is also a large herb garden, that is designed around four rectangular plots. The Sustainable Backyard is a garden that is designed around sustainable gardening principles.  The Te Parapara Garden is a traditional Māori horticulture garden.

Te Parapara Garden

Te Parapara Garden

The Fantasy Collection includes a Chinoiserie Garden, which has European interpretations of Oriental design that were fashionable in late 18th and 19th Century gardens. The Tropical Garden uses plants from other climatic regions. Hamilton Gardens currently has two fantasy themed gardens under development – a Tudor Garden and Surrealist Garden.

Tropical Garden

Tropical Garden

Although it was spring when I visited it was still very much winter so there was not a lot flowers blossoming in the Cultivar Collection, which includes the Hammond Camellia Garden, New Zealand Cultivar Garden, Rhododendron Lawn, Rogers Rose Garden, Victorian Flower Garden.

The last themed collection is the Landscape Collection offers nice short nature walks. This collection includes Bussaco Woodland, Hamilton East Cemetery and Valley Walk.

Another prominent feature of Hamilton Gardens is Turtle Lake, which is nice area for picnics. Located nearby is the Hamilton Gardens Cafe, which is open 9am to 6pm in the summer and 9.30pm to 5pm in the winter.

Turtle Lake

Turtle Lake

Hamilton Gardens, which recently won International Garden of the Year at the 2014 Garden Tourism Awards, receives over 1 million visitors a year. So next time you are in the Waikato region check out what is one of New Zealand’s best gardens!

PS Rangiriri

The remains of the Rangiriri, a historic paddle steamer sit back from the Waikato River between Memorial Park and Parana Park.

Waikato River

Waikato River

The PS Rangiriri was commissioned by New Zealand’s colonial Government in 1864 for use on the Waikato River during the Land Wars.

The Rangiriri was never fitted with guns, but it did have a steel pipe, that was connected with the main boilers, that was fitted around the side. If an enemy tried to board the Rangiriri, a lever could be pulled and scolding steam would be released through holes in the pipe.

The scolding steam was never needed as the Rangiriri arrived too late and was never used during the Land Wars. It was instead used as a transport and supply vessel. It brought some of Hamilton’s earliest militia settlers to the city.

P.S. Rangiriri

P.S. Rangiriri

The Rangiriri was in Government service until it was sold to a private company in 1868. In 1889, the Rangiriri ran aground and spent the next 90 years abandoned in the river suffering damage from erosion and river silt. In 1981-82 it was raised from the river floor and left on the river bank.

In 2009 a preservation projection began. In March 2010 a civic cermony was held to mark the official ceremony. It is now sheltered by a canopy and fence around it to protect it from damage.

A viewing platform has been built for visitors to view the wreck.

Viewing platform over PS Rangiriri

Viewing platform over PS Rangiriri

Basic Facts:

Length: 90 feet  6 inches (27.5 metres)

Breadth: 20 feet (6.1 metres)

Draught: 2 feet 6 inches (76.2 cm)

Wheel diameter: 9 feet (2.74 metres)

Speed: 8.5 knots maximum. Cruising speed 6 knots.

Designed by James Stewart

Victoria Bridge to Memorial Park

Victoria Bridge is a steel arch vehicle and pedestrian bridge that crosses the Waikato River connecting Hamilton Central with Hamilton East. The Bridge was first known as the Hamilton Road Bridge. It was later renamed Victoria Bridge but it is now more commonly known to locals as Bridge Street Bridge.

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge

The bridge, which was completed in 1910, was built to replace the wooden Hamilton Union Bridge, which had become so rickety it was deemed unsafe.  The steel arch was manufactured by the Cleveland Bridge Company in the UK and shipped to New Zealand. The structure has a central span of 103.6 metres.

After crossing the bridge I turned left and took the steps down and followed the path along the Waikato River bank to Memorial Park.

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Memorial Park is the site of the landing of the Pioneers Fourth Waikato Regiment in August 1864.  There is a plaque commemorating this on a brick wall in the park.

Tablet commemorating the landing of Pioneers Fourth Waikato Regiment

Tablet commemorating the landing of Pioneers Fourth Waikato Regiment

After the First World War the park was developed into a War Memorial Park. In 1920 the park was named Memorial Park. The park was later further developed to include a memorial to World War II. Later a roll of honour was added for those who tragically lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam.

On ANZAC Day each year the Hamilton RSA dawn parade and service is held at the Hamilton Cenotaph in Memorial Park.

Cenotaph, Memorial Park

Cenotaph, Memorial Park

'We will remember them'

‘We will remember them’

There are also monuments in the park dedicated to the armed services. There is a life-size replica of Spitfire MK XVI as a memorial to the New Zealanders who served in the Air Force during both World Wars.

A BL 5.5 inch Mk3 Artillery Gun is on permanent display dedicated to the Royal New Zealand Artillery Gunners, past and present.

The anchor from the HMNZS Waikato is displayed in the park. The ship was in service from September 1966 to July 1998. The anchor was presented to the City of Hamilton by the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Life-size replica of Spitfire  Mk XVI

Life-size replica of Spitfire Mk XVI

BL 5.5 inch MK3 Artillery Gun

BL 5.5 inch MK3 Artillery Gun

Anchor from HMNZS Waikato

Anchor from HMNZS Waikato