Stud mares in a paddock. Cambridge is a stud center for thoroughbred racehorses. Photo / Tourism in Hamilton and Waikato
Often referred to as the city of trees and champions, Cambridge is admired by powerful locals and visitors alike for its leafy streets, historic buildings, antique shops, restaurants and its winners – not just the gold medal cyclists who train at the Grassroots Trust Velodrome and the rowers at Lake Karapiro, but also the successful racehorses bred at nearby thoroughbred studs.
As part of the powerful local story series, the Waikato Herald takes to the streets of a few towns in the region, beginning with Cambridge (Kemureti in Māori) where there is so much to see and do that many visitors say they wish they had planned to stay longer – and the locals keep coming back.
One of the best ways to experience a city or village is to explore it on foot, and nowhere is this more true than in Cambridge, which once rivaled Hamilton as the largest city in the Waikato region in the late 19th century.
Cambridge is fast becoming a foodie hotspot. The city’s restaurants range from casual cafes that pride themselves on excellent coffee alongside fresh local dishes and delicious cakes, biscuits and sandwiches prepared on site, to award-winning fine dining.
Among the city’s eateries that have garnered national attention is the Italian-influenced Alpino Cambridge, which was named Restaurant To Watch in the Cuisine Good Food Awards. Another is Alpha Street Kitchen & Bar, housed in the Grade II listed 1912 National Hotel.
Foodies will also have plenty to choose from at Cambridge’s delicatessens, which stock local artisanal food products.
The town is a popular meeting place for antique collectors – or anyone wanting to salvage a treasure from a previous possession – with antique and second-hand shops as well as fashion boutiques, hardware stores, gift shops, art galleries and studios.
Every Saturday morning, Victoria Square in the heart of the city comes alive with the Cambridge Farmers’ Market, where shoppers are drawn to the fresh, locally grown produce including gourmet salads and vegetables, and as spring turns into early summer, there will be one give berries and asparagus grown on farms around the city of Cambridge.
Waikato is one of the largest blueberry growing areas in New Zealand with many farms inviting you to pick your own if you wish and some also selling delicious fresh fruit ice cream.
Cambridge Farmers’ Market also attracts shoppers with artisanal foods such as preserves, breads, pastries, small goods and many other items. There’s live music to keep you entertained as you browse the stalls – and of course good, locally roasted coffee too.
Another market worth seeing is the Cambridge Trash ‘n Treasure Market, held on the second Sunday of each month at Memorial Park Rugby Grounds.
Thanks to the foresight of early planners, the streets of Cambridge are now lined with towering trees, many of which are exotic and add to the English urban atmosphere.
A tour of the city at this time of year is a beautiful experience with cherry trees in bloom and should include the trails around Lake Te Koo Utu, which is something of a hidden gem as it lies below street level. The tree-lined lake was formed by volcanic eruptions in the Taupō area around 1800 years ago and was the site of a secret aviation fuel bunker during World War II.
Many of Cambridge’s Victorian and Edwardian buildings are listed and can be admired as you stroll the streets. Particularly picturesque ones include the Anglican St Andrew’s Church, built in 1881, and Cambridge Primary School, built in 1879.
The Equine Stars Walk of Fame on Victoria St celebrates winning horses, as does the mare and foal statue in the Jubilee Gardens in front of the Edwardian-era Town Hall, which also features a war memorial and clock tower.
Cambridge not only honors its horse champions, but applauds its victorious athletes on the Sports Walk of Fame along Duke St.
Among them are the cyclists who train on the local roads and at the Grassroots Trust Velodrome, where Cycling New Zealand is headquartered, and the rowers who are often seen out on Lake Karapiro, home of Rowing New Zealand.
Sports enthusiasts or just weekend enthusiasts, cyclists – and anyone who loves to hit the road – will be drawn to the Te Awa Great New Zealand River Ride. This scenic 40-mile cycling and walking trail stretches from Ngāruawāhia to Lake Karapiro, with a road section passing through the scenic streets of Cambridge.
Plan a visit to Cambridge soon – there is much to discover.
To keep up to date with the latest things to do in the Waikato area, sign up for Hamilton & Waikato Tourism’s free quarterly newsletter. Follow this link waikatonz.com/subscribe-to-our-newsletter/