On the Beaten Track – Matamata
Welcome to the latest edition of on the beaten track, a blog series where we cover some great towns and secret spots to stop in on your way to visiting us! In this month’s edition we cover a town that is on almost every tourist to do list – Matamata!
Located near the base of the Kaimai Ranges, and part of the Matamata-Piako District, you’ll be most likely to pass through this thriving township if you are heading from Hamilton, or Auckland on State Highway 27. The township is mainly populated due to its local surrounding dairy farms and its Thoroughbred horse breeding and training pursuits.
The Firth Tower was built in 1882 by Josiah Clifton Firth to provide a lookout over the country side. It was also used as the estate office and sleeping quarters for single men. The tower stands on rising ground commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country.
The firth tower grounds also contain other various historical buildings that you can explore, including a Memorial Cairn of Wiremu Tamihana Rangatira of Ngati Haua, “The Kingmaker” – a famous in New Zealand statesman and devout Christian, who worked to achieve peace.
Other historical buildings include original post offices, school, jail and settlers cottages.
The Firth Tower Historical Reserve is administered by the Matamata-Piako District Council and museum exhibits and displays are the work of the Matamata Historical Society and is a great way to learn about the history of the surrounding area.
Probably the attraction that Matamata is most famous for is Hobbiton, a must-visit experience for those who are a fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise. Hobbiton’s origins began when Sir Peter Jackson was scouting for suitable locations which led them to the Alexander farm – a stunning 1,250-acre sheep farm in the heart of the Waikato, just from the small town of Morrisville. The farmland was selected due to the area’s striking similarity to ‘The Shire’ as described by JRR Tolkien in the original books.
As part of a tour you will leave the 21st century behind as you travel into the world of Hobbiton, where you get to experience the sets in full glory, which includes wandering the rambling paths of The Shire, to seeing the submerged Hobbit Holes, The mills, and the world-famous Green Dragon Inn where you can taste the themed beverages on tap. There are also evening tours on offer, where you’ll be taken through the land at dusk and treated to a banquet dinner at the Green Dragon Inn.
Matamata also has a great selection of places to eat and drink if you are just needing a rest break on your way to visiting us!