Don't drive past Cambridge

By: Road Trip

While the majority of travellers pass through without stopping, the Cambridge region is a destination in itself and well worth an extended stopover.

Lake _Karapiro

Residents take great pleasure in sharing the township with visitors who always leave raving about the many delights of the boutique shopping, the fabulous farmers’ market, and the hidden treasures of the river walks and lakes.

Add to these the rich natural and cultural heritage, the sporting prowess of the occupants, and the subsequent spin-off opportunities for the visitor, and you have a destination that should not be missed.

Cambridge, with its permanent population of around 16,000, is a big little town, with all the amenities of a city but none of the hustle and bustle. It is known as ‘The Town of Trees’ – and it certainly lives up to its name.

Towering exotic trees of considerable girth line the streets and lakes, providing a picturesque reminder of the foresight of early settlers, at any time of the year – even in the depths of winter.

One of the most delightful places to enjoy the myriad introduced trees in a happy juxtaposition with the remnants of a raupo swamp, alive with waterfowl is Lake Te Ko Utu. Despite the fact the lake is almost flanked by SH1 (as it dog-legs around two of its sides), it is all but hidden from view from the road. The lake was created hundreds of years ago in a cataclysmic upheaval, when a tributary of the Waikato River was blocked.

Seven different paths wind down into the lake basin from Thorton Road and Victoria or Whittaker Streets. Flat access and good parking for RVs can be found at the Albert Street entrance, where there are public amenities and barbecues. Good, flat, dog-friendly walks can be enjoyed all around the lake. Just make sure your pooch doesn’t hassle the waterfowl. Doggy bag dispensers can also be found at this end of the lake.

It’s lovely here year round. In winter, the lake steams on a frosty morning. In spring, the flowering cherry trees alive with Tui offset the myriad water lilies on the lake. Of course, both summer shade and autumn colour provide their own particular charms.

Sports enthusiasts will love Cambridge. There’s a terrific cycle trail from the village to Lake Karapiro, tennis courts above Lake Te Ko Utu, and cricket pitches abound. It’s the home of Olympic rowing and also great place to kayak. For thrill seekers, there’s even a jet boat service.

Walking here is a popular activity. A good circuit is the riverbank between the bridges, but if you’re in for a more serious hike, take a drive from Karapiro to Maungatautari Ecological Island. This is the largest ecological island on mainland New Zealand and well worth a story in itself.

Once a broad rainforest rich with moa and other native birdlife, encroaching pasture and introduced predators have put paid to much of the wildlife. Now, with the predator-proofing mostly in place, native birds are gradually being introduced.

Cambridge is also close enough to Hamilton, Morrinsville, and Tirau for a plethora of lovely day trips.

Why not make this pretty little town your base next time you’re heading off in your RV? You’ll not be disappointed.

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