The Department of Conservation (DoC) administers a number of reserves within easy reach of Cambridge.
The Maungakawa Scenic Reserve offers one of the best views of Cambridge and its surrounding area, and is the closest DOC reserve to the town.
Just 8km and a 14-minute drive north-east from Cambridge, the reserve is particularly beautiful during spring when daffodils and other flowers are in bloom. You'll find many New Zealand plants such as rewarewa, mahoe, broadleaf and pukatea. Walkers can enjoy a short native bush walk (about 20 minutes) that offers good opportunities to see tui and wood pigeon or a 40-minute walk from the park to Maungakawa Road.
Established in 1963, the reserve has a hill, Pukemako, also known as Sanatarium Hill, site of Te Waikato sanitorium once used for tubercolosis patients. It was later used by soldiers convalescing after World War One and was closed in 1922.
The Gudex Memorial Park, within the reserve, commemorates the work of horticulturalist Michael Christian Gudex. Rewarewa, pukatea, mahoe, broadleaf and many other New Zealand plants can be seen in the reserve.
The picnic area provides extensive views of the Waikato and Hauraki Plains and some days it's possible to see Mount Ruapehu and Mount Taranaki in the distance. The picnic area has tables, fireplaces, toilets and water supply.
To get to the reserve from Cambridge, go along Thornton Road, past the Oaklands subdivision and turn left onto Maungakawa Road. The reserve is well signposted at the top of the hill.
Pirongia Forest Park
This park comprises four separate blocks of land and is about 90km and 90 minutes' drive from Cambridge. It has some challenging walks and is best known for its highest landmark, the 959-metre high Mount Pirongia, formed by volcanic eruptions 2.5 million years ago. The park's second tallest peak is the 756-metre high summit of another volcanic cone, Mount Karioi, which offers spectacular views which on a fine day can include Mount Taranaki.
The park also has the Kaniwhaniwa Caves, two limestone caves which can be explored. The Bell Track, which takes walkers to the caves, is beside the tallest recorded kahikatea tree which towers almost 70 metres above ground.
Landing Road, Arohena
The nearest DOC campsite to Cambridge is at Landing Road, Arohena, about 60km and 55 minutes' drive south of the town.
The reserve has a campsite with capacity for 50 tent sites, tap water, toilets and picnic tables. The site is on the western shores of the Waikato River and is suitable for swimming, fishing and other water sports.