Te Kuiti is located about eighty kilometres south of Hamilton on New Zealand's idyllic North Island. With emerald hills, native bush, and clouds of cotton wool, it is a wonderful slice of Aotearoa.
The best time of year to visit is February and March when the weather is warm, the days are long, and the risk of rain is less. A visit in April may coincide with the Great NZ Muster, an annual street fair held in Te Kuiti.
Visitors flock to the town to see the muster's highlight event, the Running of the Sheep. Thousands of sheep are released to run the length of the main street in a spectacle to rival Pamplona's Running of the Bulls.
Usually held the weekend after Easter, this kiwi country fair is a free family fun day with rides, food, live music, cultural displays, and of course, shearing contests. For locals it makes a great day out, and for travellers on a budget it provides a glimpse of New Zealand's rural way of life.
The shearing capital of the world status can not be denied after a tiki tour along Rora Street, Te Kuiti's main drag. At the southern end, a monolithic sheep shearer statue looms over the town, cementing its claim to fame. At six metres tall, it dwarfs everything in its vicinity including the peaceful Tatsuno Japanese Garden, a children's playground, and an exquisitely carved Maori meeting house known as Tokanganui-a-Noho.
A zen garden commemorates the sister city relationship between Tatsuno and Te Kuiti
One side of Rora Street is a shopping strip with grocers, eateries, and boutique shopping, while the other, next to the train line, hosts some interesting monuments. There is a sculpture of a native giant weta, one of the largest insects in the world, and the Millennium Pavilion that honours the local heritage and people of the area.
Brook Park, accessible from Te Kumi Road, was once the site of the Motakiora Pa and the land still bears the marks and memories of 17th century Maori life. Today the park is a farming project, home to a herd of sheep. It has different walking trails that vary from short and easy to long and strenuous. Listen out for the distinctive call of the tui while roaming remarkable collections of exotic and endemic trees. Hike to the highest peak and be rewarded with exceptional views of the King Country.
After a hike, replenish and recuperate at Bosco Café. Conveniently located at the entrance of the park, bustling Bosco's is the place to go for a day-time meal in Te Kuiti. Across the road is the Waitomo Lodge, which provides comfortable, modern, and affordable accommodation and makes an ideal base to spend a few days exploring the area.
Just a twenty minute drive from Te Kuiti is the famous Waitomo Caves, the North Island's prime tourist attraction. Take a magical boat ride along a subterranean river illuminated by thousands of glimmering glow worms, marvel at a spectacular series of naturally formed stalactites and stalagmites, while thrill-seekers go caving, abseiling, and black water rafting.
Experience the natural attractions, exciting events, and country charm of Te Kuiti, the sheep shearing capital of the world. It makes a nice place to stretch your legs, rest your head, and explore the North Island on your travels of New Zealand.