Nikau Caves Cafe & Walk – Waikaretu, North Waikato

Roughly 50 minutes from the Mercer off ramp or 1 hour from Huntly, this is a hidden gem. A beautiful cafe set among farmland at Waikaretu in the North Waikato, this makes a great day trip, with the added bonus of having no phone reception – a great place to disconnect from the world! I take all our visitors out here for lunch, and there’s heaps of space for a card game or just to enjoy the view. It backs on to working farms, and you can watch the sheep while you eat. Classic New Zealand!

The team running the cafe are lovely and the food is brilliant – highly recommend the pizza & coffee! If you’re ever out on an adventure without dogs, they also run caving tours to see the glow worms – from the photos I’ve seen that looks amazing too.

This cafe is dog friendly (under control on lead), with heaps of outdoor seating and shade to choose from. We were there with my friends poodles who can be reactive, and we were able to manage this with no problems thanks to the layout of the outdoor tables.

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After your meal, you can have a chat with the cafe team and they can point you in the direction of the walks. It is just before the cafe when you’re heading from SH22, with a little space there for car parking. Usually it’s pretty quiet though you might see one or two other groups there.

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There’s access to the stream for a paddle, and a short walk through the bush. There is no signage stating whether dogs are permitted or not, but we checked with the cafe before heading out and they were happy for us to head out to the waterfall with the dogs. The track itself is pretty narrow and overgrown in parts, with a fallen tree, a bridge on a bit of a lean and two stiles over fences as you cross into farm land. There are some great views here, and Sullivan though he was pretty clever up on these rocks!

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All up, it’s around 1.8km return. There is also a 30 minute loop track within the bush reserve which would be more suitable for most dogs – again, you can get directions for this from the cafe.

Under Control
Car Parking – Heaps at the cafe. Some at the walk, or you can walk from the cafe.
Toilets/Water – At the cafe. Creek access at the walk.
Other – Beware of poison that has been laid at the walk. Use common sense, and check with cafe before doing the walk. Keep dogs under control at all times. If you’re wanting to make a full day of it (or a weekend even), you could combine this with Port Waikato and Harker Reserve/Vivian Falls. I love the view from Highway 22, especially around sunset – you can see for miles. The roads out this way can be a bit dodgy though, with slips, narrow sections and uneven surfaces which haven’t been fixed for years. Take your time and drive carefully.