1. DICKEY FLAT
Dickey Flat is a gem you'll find on SH 29 at Karangahake with a fantastic swimming hole. You will also find the remains of the Karangahake Mines along the way. There is a 180m tunnel that requires a torch. I've driven past it so many times but never actually stopped to investigate. Don't worry though, this is the year. IT WILL HAPPEN. For anyone wishing to make a weekend of it, there's a campsite too.
2. KANIWHANIWHA STREAM, CAVES AND TRACK
Streams, limestone caves, walking and biking tracks - sounds like a slice of heaven, don't you think? This spot is in Te Pahu, in the Waipa District. At the entrance to the Nikau walking track is the Kaniwhaniwha stream, a popular swimming spot. If you decide to follow the track, there a numerous other spots for swimming. Five minutes from the Nikau Walk junction are two limestone caves, near the start of the Bell Track. You can walk through the 20-metre long main cave, except for a short hands-and-knees crawl. The cave is wet underfoot and torches are required. The second smaller cave is tight and narrow. Directions: From Hamilton take SH23 to Whatawhata. Turn left onto Te Pahu Rd after the bridge over the Waipa River. Limeworks Loop Rd is about 10.6km on the right.
3. TE WAIHOU BLUE SPRINGS
The Blue Springs in Putaruru are truly amazing. The entrance to the Te Waihou track is on Whites Road, Putaruru in South Waikato. It takes about 90 minutes to walk there but the track is an easy one, hugging farmland and hills the entire way. It's a perfect spot for a picnic, swimming and snorkelling. And the blue and greens of the springs are truly unparalleled anywhere in New Zealand.
A list of gorgeous summer spots wouldn't be complete without Raglan, located 48 km west of Hamilton on State Highway 23. The blacksand beaches is a popular destination during summer, perfect for a day trip to the beach. Along the way, stop by the Bridal Veil Falls. It's a 20 minute return trek.
5. WAIRERE FALLS
The Wairere falls are 150m high and a spectacular sight to behold. The track is a steady climb with steps and staircases and a return trip will likely take about 4 -5 hours. From the lookout, there is a wonderful view of the valley and the Waikato Plains. There are also plenty of pools to paddle in. This one requires a bit of preparation, so please make sure you take adequate supplies, wear comfortable boots and make sure you tell someone where you are going.
DIRECTIONS: Wairere Falls Track is on Goodwin Road off Te Aroha-Okauia road, south of Te Aroha.
6. WELLINGTON ST BEACH
If you don't want to travel out of Hamilton, this could be the spot for you. It can be found off Wellington St in Hamilton East. It is one of New Zealand's top ten beaches, according to a competition earlier in the year. It's a popular place often frequented by young people cooling off in the water.
7. LAKE KARAPIRO
We can't forget the great asset in Waikato's backyard - Lake Karapiro. It's 30 kilometres south-east of Hamilton and wonderful on a sunny day. It's a popular spot not only for rowing but swimming, kayaking, skiing and boating. There's also a Karapiro section of the Waikato River trails that you may enjoy - it's intermediate grade.