Travel Guide to Waikato Wine Region

The Waikato wine region of New Zealand is located in the upper areas of the country’s North Island. Historically, this area was best known for its kiwi fruits and cows but more recently it has become acknowledged as a significant wine region.  The fertile soils of this region mean that it is perfect for the growth of vines and the production of the best in New Zealand wines. Waikato is home to a number of small vineyards which means that local winemakers regularly make use of grapes from other regions. These grapes are used to produce what are now recognized as some of the best wines across New Zealand.

Find out about Wine Tasting and Tours in Waikato to enjoy if you visit the region.

Landscapes of Waikato wine region, New Zealand
Landscapes of Waikato wine region, New Zealand

Small but Unique Wine Region

Although the wines of the Waikato region are made using grapes from a range of other wine regions in New Zealand, they are incredibly high in flavor, quality and taste – a pleasure to drink for any wine lover.

Wines of Distinctive Style

The Waikato wine region of New Zealand is the smallest wine making area of the country. Due to the small size of the region, there are no appellations or sub regions.

Because of the vineyards of the Waikato region are very small, they rely heavily on grapes produced in other regions. As a result of this, the Waikato wines carry the characteristics of wines of other regions and do not have their own indigenous style. Despite this, there is one wine that is unique to the region which is the Rongopai botrytised white wine that is made locally with notable effort.

The red wines of Waikato are characterized by their spicy blackberry flavors along with hints of blackcurrant, plum and oak. These wines have notably fine tannins with aromas of liquorice, spices, violet and mocha. Waikato white wines are filled with the flavors of ripe grapefruits. These white wines have the perfect balance of oak and fruit with lingering tastes of fresh apricots and peaches. The rose wines produced in Waikato are characterized by aromas of raspberry with flavors of red cherries, fresh strawberries, candy and red liquorice.

All of these wines are a pleasure to drink and satisfy the palate of any wine drinker.

Grape Varieties

Red varieties: Merlot, Pinot Noir

White varieties: Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

What to Taste in Waikato

Waikato is well known for the production of outstanding Methode Champenoise, Botrytised Riesling, and Merlot/Cabernet wines. Botrytized Riesling is notoriously difficult for winemakers to balance. Once the grape has reached the perfect level of ripeness, winemakers are faced with the challenge of controlling their levels of acidity, sweetness, and fruitiness. The winemakers of Waikato have managed to find the perfect balance to create the most excellent Botrytised Riesling in New Zealand and across the world. The Methode Champenoise sparkling wines produced in Waikato are filled with pineapple and citrus flavors. They have aromas of toasted honey followed by a crisp palate.

The cool climate of the region means that is can produce the highest quality Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines. These climatic conditions enable the local wine makers to produce wine that is fresh, slightly iodised, fruit and extremely easy to drink.

Despite its small size, the wines of the Waikato region have been central to the success of the wine making industry in New Zealand.

The tasting room and shop of the Volcanic Hills Winery

Volcanic Hills is the only winery based in Rotorua, a town in the middle of the north island in the Waikato wine region of New Zealand.

Volcanic Hills Winery sources fruit from all over New Zealand, bringing many regional delights to their tasting room in the North Island. The main grape varieties used are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. The best quality grapes go into the production of their superb red, white, rosé, sparkling, and fortified wines.

Discover more Wineries in Waikato to visit.

Places to Visit in Waikato Wine Region

Hamilton City – The City on the Banks of the Mighty Waikato River

Hamilton City is located on the banks of the magnificent Waikato River. This setting makes the city the perfect place to enjoy riverside walks and leisurely boat cruises. One of the most popular attractions in Hamilton City is the Hamilton Gardens. The Gardens are filled with a network of webbed paths that take one through a range of stunning themed gardens from different countries including tranquil Italian scenes.

Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand

Other attractions to enjoy in the city include the Waikato Museum, the Hamilton Zoo, and the city’s central precinct. This precinct is perfect for lazy days spent walking through the buzzing streets and enjoying the street side cafes and restaurants. Hamilton is the events capital of New Zealand and hosts a number of exciting events throughout the year including sports matches, concerts, and festivals. Hamilton provides visitors with the perfect blend of natural beauty, delicious food, excellent wine and culture.

Waikato Museum – Cultural Heart of Hamilton

The Waikato Museum is a world-class and internationally acclaimed museum and art gallery. This museum is considered the cultural heart and hub of the Waikato region. Visitors to the Waikato Museum are given the chance to experience visual stories and to engage in guided activities that bring science, culture, and art to life. The range of events and exhibitions hosted by the museum tells the stories of the Waikato region from a global and regional perspective. The Waikato Museum is open daily and should not be missed by all who visit the Waikato region.

Matamata and Surrounds – Shooting Spot of Hobbit Movie

The town of Matamata and its surrounding became popular after Hobbit movies. This area is a wonderland of plains and hillsides with a wonderfully rural feel. Matamata is surrounded by the shadows of the Kamai Mountain Ranges which provide a range of natural attractions including the 153 m high Wairere Falls and the Opal Hot Springs. In the center of Matamata, there is a wide range of cafes and restaurants selling wonderful artisanal products. The town center is given a certain charm from the many grand trees that surround it. The main attraction is Matamata is a tour that takes visitors through the magical sites and settings of the Hobbit film trilogy.

Scenery view of Hobbit movie set, Matamata, New Zealand.

Hidden Gem – The Magical Beauty of Raglan

Raglan is considered the official chill-out spot of Waikato. This town has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, superb waves for surfing, and a rugged and untouched landscape. It is a popular attraction for surfers, artists, and locals looking for a weekend escape. The bohemian vibe of Raglan makes it the perfect location to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The beautiful beaches and harbor of Raglan mean that it is ideal for kayaking, paddle boarding, cruises, and other water sports. The beautiful land-based scenery provides the perfect setting for hiking, walking, and horseback riding.

The Natural Wonderland of Waikato

The diverse geography of Waikato makes it an incredible natural playground for nature and outdoor lovers. The natural environment of Waikato is best known for its setting as Middle Earth in the Hobbit trilogy of movies. Visit Waikato for natural beauty unlike anywhere else in the world.

The Great Lake of Taupo

Lake Taupo is one of the world’s most famous lakes and is so big that it is considered to be the same size as Singapore! This lake was formed around 2000 years ago by a major volcanic eruption. The most popular attraction at Lake Taupo is the breathtaking Huka Falls. At these waterfalls, visitors can see over 220 000 liters of water thundering over a dramatic cliff face. Activities at Lake Taupo include sailing, kayaking, water skiing, boat trips, fishing, hiking and walking. There is also a wide range of accommodation available for visitors looking to extend their stay. Lake Taupo provides the perfect location for a fun-filled holiday with activities for all ages.

The view on lake Taupoin the Waikato region
The view on lake Taupo, Waikato wine region, New Zealand
Waitomo Caves – Where Time and Space Stand Still

The Waitomo Caves in Waikato are also known as the New Zealand Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. These caves are one of the most visited attractions in New Zealand and are magically filled with glow worms. The caves are home to a magnificent underground system of rivers surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. Within the Waitomo cave system, there are three that can be explored by foot. The Glowworm caves are the most famous of the three and can be explored on a boat ride one is encouraged to sit in silence as these bright shining worms do not like any noise. The Ruakuri Cave is the largest of the caves and was discovered approximately 500 years ago. The last of the three caves if the Aranui Cave which is famous for its pink, white and brown stalactites and stalagmites.

The Waitomo Caves are conveniently located only 1 hour away from Hamilton and provide the perfect experience for visitors to be transported into a whole new underground world.

Bridal Veil Falls – The Famous Waireinga Falls

The Bridal Veil Falls in Waikato is also known as the Wairenga Falls. Located only 15 minutes away from Raglan, the Bridal Veil falls are an impressive 55 meters high. To access the falls, one needs to take an easy and short 10-minute walk through the surrounding bushes along the path of the Pakoko River. Once at the falls, there are two viewing platforms at the top of the waterfall that provide incredible views of the plunging water and the surrounding environment. For the more adventurous visitors, there is a steep staircase leading to the bottom of the falls. Surrounding the Bridal Veil Falls there is a network of walking paths and trails that are perfect for a day spent out in pure nature.

Fertile Lands Producing the Best in Fresh Produce

The Waikato region is well known across New Zealand for its kiwi fruits, the excellent grade of beef, and artisan cheese producers. The fertile lands of Waikato have made it one of the most famous gourmet food areas of New Zealand, perfect for lovers of excellent food and wine.

Meyer Vintage Gouda – The Key Stone of New Zealand Cheeses

Meyer Vintage Gouda is one of the most popular locally made cheeses of New Zealand. This cheese has the same crumbly texture as parmesan and a very strong bite. The flavor is strong and lingers long after every bite. The cheese is perfect for a light grating over pasta or to make homemade pesto. This beloved local cheese has won a number of awards and in 2011 made Meyer the cheesemaker of the year in New Zealand. It has also received the award of cheese of the decade at the New Zealand cheese awards. Meyer Vintage Gouda perfectly pairs with a crisp local wine.

Coconut Rice Pudding  

New Zealand’s Comforting, Creamy and Delicious dessert

Coconut rice pudding is a dessert enjoyed by locals of all ages across New Zealand. This dessert is extremely comforting, creamy and delicious.

Coconut Rice Pudding

The ingredients used in coconut rice pudding are arborio rice, coconut milk, coconut cream, milk, vanilla essence, sugar, seasonal fruit and fresh coconut. Making the dessert begins with boiling the rice, sugar, vanilla, coconut cream and coconut milk.  This mixture is then simmered on low heat until the rice is soft, and the mixture is thick and creamy. Once this is achieved, the pudding is ready to be served warm or cold and topped with seasonal fruits. Finally, it is finished with a sprinkle of honey and fresh coconut. No visit to Waikato is complete without a comforting bowl of this delicious dessert.

Duck Island Ice Cream – Waikato’s Hand-Crafted Ice Cream

Duck Island Ice Cream was first handcrafted in the Waikato region in 2015. This ice cream is considered to be the highest quality ice cream in the region and is made using only the best, freshest, and highest quality seasonal ingredients.

You can buy Duck Island Ice Cream in local stores across Waikato. The ice cream is soled either in cones or as a sandwich, sundaes, and cakes and variety of the flavours such as boysenberry cheesecake, salted chocolate brownie, coconut caramel sesame chocolate peanuts, white chocolate pomegranate macadamia, and many more.

Join the locals of Waikato and cool down after a long summer’s day with a deliciously decadent scoop of Duck Island Ice Cream.

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Region Highlights

Surface: 23
Soil: Loam and clay
Climate: Temperate maritime

Selected wineries in Waikato

Volcanic Hills Winery
The only winery in Rotorua and their tasting room is on the top of a Gondola
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Other Wine Regions in New Zealand

There are a big number of wineries in Auckland with wine tasting and tour activities that you can book easily via
Canterbury has a large number of wineries that offer wine tasting and tour. Visit our website to book beautiful wine-filled experiences and learn more about the wine region.
Central Otago
You can experience amazing wine tasting and tour activities at the various wineries in Central Otago . On our site you can read all about this regions to be prepared for your stay.
Gisborne wine region is a great destination with a broad offering of wineries with wine tasting and tours. On our website you can book your visits in order to be prepared for your time in the region.

Map of Wineries in Waikato wine region

Discover the long wine tradition of Waikato and discover some of the best wineries in this region

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List of Wineries in Waikato wine region

Volcanic Hills Winery