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Local tourists blown away by twilight kayak glow worm tour

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Operating a tourism business has been challenging during the Covid-19 pandemic but family-owned Riverside Adventures Waikato has more than kept its head above water by targeting the local market.

Having lost its international visitors – previously 60% of the customer base – the company increased its exposure to the domestic market with support from the local council and Hamilton Waikato Tourism.

“This strategy has worked with many Kiwis coming to the South Waikato for the first time and being blown away by what is on offer,” says Steve Hastie, who runs with business with wife Sally and Sally’s parents Mike and Ann Paget.

Waikato river trail

“Our hero product is an amazing twilight kayak glow worm tour. This activity can be enjoyed by anyone with a basic level of fitness – if you can sit upright, you can paddle a kayak! The tour showcases one of the natural hidden gems of the South Waikato, topped off by the reflection of twinkling stars on the calm waters of Lake Karāpiro.”

Riverside Adventures (rebranded from Lake District Adventures in September) offers authentic outdoor experiences. “We provide kayak, bike, SUP and ebike hire, transport shuttles to all bike trails in the central North Island, guided bike and kayak tours, and fully inclusive multi-day tour packages,” says Hastie. “Our true strength is the way we welcome people to the region. How our customers ‘feel’ is just as important as ‘what they do’.

He says the business is supported by the fantastic Waikato River Trail. Trail riders catch a shuttle to the historic hydro village of Arapuni to cross the iconic swing-bridge over the power station below, stopping to support the local Rhubarb Café and often staying overnight in B&Bs.

Riverside Adventures has been growing its corporate event and team-building activities, created to suit customer requirements. Recent clients include Rocketspark, Top Notch Calves, Vazey Child Chartered Accountants and Sentinel Homes. The company has also put together adventure races for Putāruru High School and the NZ under-21 Rowing Squad, and is keen to do the same for other schools and sports.

Having outgrown its existing premises, Riverside Adventures plans to move to a larger site near the northern end of the Waikato River Trail. The new five-acre site will have a new operations building, safer access to the lake and bike trail, and an exciting expansion into the accommodation sector with six lakeside pod-style units.

Riverside Adventures owners Steve and Sally Hastie

“There is strong demand for unique accommodation which aligns with the natural and environmental aspects of our business. We have partnered with Putāruru-based building company Nest Homes to design and build the units and manager’s residence.”

Financial assistance from SWIFT has helped the company through the planning and developmental stages of the business expansion, and South Waikato District Council has been supportive from the start.

“Our goal is to create a tourism asset for the South Waikato that locals can be proud of. We want to encourage people to play, stay and explore what the region has to offer,” says Hastie. “And we look forward to being well-positioned for the return of international visitors when the borders open.”

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