On State Highway One on the road near Hamilton is the town of Tirau. This town is often a stopping point for people driving between Auckland and Taupo or Rotorua. The town has a lot of souvenir shops, antique shops and cafes.
Look out for the corrugated iron "sheep" and "dog" on the main street. That is where the main tourist information centre is and public toilets.
Lake Karapiro is located just off State Highway One between Cambridge and Hamilton. It is a man made lake formed when the Karapiro Dam was built on the Waikato River.
The Lake is best known for its world-class rowing course and is the venue for many water sport events such as yachting, powerboating and water skiing. It is also the location of the Special K Women's Triathlon event which is held in various locations around New Zealand.
Karapairo got its name from the Maori language. 'Kara' means stone and 'piro' means evil smelling. According to legend, Karapiro was the stronghold of the chief O-Te-Ihingarangi, and was where the Ngati Haua and their Tauranga allies made a defensive pact during the land wars of 1864.
Cambridge is a quaint town located 24 kms south east of Hamilton. It is on State Highway one so most people have to pass through the town when driving south. Although the road detours the main shopping streets I recommend taking a drive through and stopping off at one of the lovely cafes located in town. The information centre is located at the main roundabout with a museum and souvenir shop. If you are looking for the public toilets they are across the road and charge about 50cents (I think) per person.
I remember going to Waingaro Hot Springs as a child with my parents and having a blast with the slides and various pools. The mineral pools are heated naturally between 37 and 41 degrees. Teh have four pools and New Zealand's longest hot water slides.
Accommodation is available in the area with a motel and caravan park/camping ground.
How to get there
Waingaro Road, Drive 24 kms west of Ngaruawahia township (North of Hamilton)
Huntly is a little town we came across about 1/2 an hour north of Hamilton.
We decided to stop for a few minutes (just because there was a town there) and found it a pleasant, non-touristy town where we also found the bakeries (at least 2 in the main street) to have exceptionally low prices.
I had a most delicious savoury quiche for only $2.50, and my husband tried his first ever smoked cod pie for just $2!
Delicous. Seems to be a NZ specialty, as we saw cod pies in many pie shops, the way we'd have meat pies.
This town is worth a stop for a little wander.