Most people talk about Rotorua, Auckland, Queenstown when they discuss New Zealand. However, this magical country, which covers 268,021 square kilometres of the earth’s surface has a lot more to offer. Today, we’re going to introduce you to a patch of New Zealand’s perfection – the city of Hamilton. What was once an agricultural service centre is now a blooming city, filled with galleries, museums, beautiful walkways, sanctuaries and the slow slide of the lovely Waikato river.
They say that great things come in small packages. So, get ready to unwrap this lovely city with us today.
|Language||English and Māori|
|Dial code||+64-7(area code)-number|
|Currency||New Zealand Dollar|
|Time Zone||GMT (+13)|
Hamilton is a city filled with students, and the city does well to keep up with their frenetic energy.The city plays host to some incredible music festivals, like the Soundscape Music Festival (one of New Zealand’s biggest street parties). Musicians from all over the Waikato also converge on this beautiful town at the Opus Chamber Orchestra. You can also spot (or hear) the beautiful strains of music floating from the Gallagher Concert Chamber, played by world class musicians. For the less musically inclined, there are incredible cricket matches played at Seddon Park (including ODIs, T-20s and Test Matches). When the sun drops, the bustling night market comes to life, where you can taste a variety of international cuisine and shop for different arts and handicrafts. The lake is open to sailing for 9 months of the year. Spend an evening playing miniature golf at the Centre Place shopping mall, find incredible bargains on clothes and second-hand items at the shops in the centre of the city, visit the Classics museum and gape at the collection of classic cars, take the Historic Hamilton walking tour to discover the city’s stories and spend a day walking around the incredible Waikato Museum.
Hamilton balances its great energy with the calm serenity of nature. Dominating the city’s landscape is the Waikato River. Its smooth surface allows kayaking, sailing and fishing and a slow cruise, while its shores are popular with cyclists. If you’re looking for a more controlled experience of nature, why not wander over to Hamilton Zoo, which boasts of more than 600 animals (indigenous and international)? Or you could spend a few hours wandering through the gorgeously landscaped Hamilton Gardens? You’ll be able to witness the beauty of the Victorian Flower Garden, the Chinoiserie Garden, the Italian Renaissance Garden and the Indian Char Bagh Garden. If you have an evening free, why not spend it in the gentle company of the Hamilton Lake. The area around, boasts of beautifully lush grasslands (perfect for a picnic) and is a great place to spot native birds. Or trade in this leisurely stroll around the lake for some energetic hiking in Taitua Arboretum, which is filled with gently swaying trees, lakes and woodland gardens. The Timber Trail, which winds through the Pureora Forests, gifts cyclists with the sight of ancient trees, eight suspension bridges to cross and a fairylike forest to wander in.
A short distance from the city is the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, where you can take an evening dinner tour. Another one of New Zealand’s unique experiences is also near the city – the iconic, glowing caves of Waitomo. Take a tour of these deep limestone caves, boasting of large caverns, large limestone formations and the twinkle and glow of millions of glow-worms in the dark. West of Hamilton is the beautiful, black sand coastline of Raglan – a surfing paradise for thrill seekers. Why not take a surf lesion at one of the surf schools? Drive back to Hamilton, and you’ll find more amazing activities to engage you. You could visit New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Zealong Tea Estate and sample one of the purest oolong teas grown in the world. Stroll along the Riverside Walkway, with the Waikato river slipping by. Greet the night with a smile and a drink in your hand at Victoria Street – popular for pubs, clubs, cafes and eateries. Or, skip the pub hopping and go park hopping across Hamilton’s different parks.
As a modern and cosmopolitan city, Hamilton boasts of a wide and eclectic palate. Enjoy a quality slow-cooked steak at Smith and Mckenzie’s Steak House for lunch and then dig into a plate of Pyttipanna (a Nordic dish) at Scotts Epicurean for dinner. Relish authentic Australasian cuisine at the Sugar Bowl Café or go for crowd pleasing fare like fish and chips at the Foundation Bar Kitchen Lounge. Also, if you’re in Hamilton then you cannot skip a trip to the Rocket Coffee café. Freshly roasted beans translate into some of the best coffee you’ve had. Mexican, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Swedish - whatever your heart (and tummy) desires, it will find in Hamilton’s best kitchens.
Hamilton can be found on the North Island of New Zealand. Resting comfortably on the banks of the grand Waikato river, this city is part of the greater Hamilton Urban Area, which includes the nearby towns of Te Awamutu, Ngaruawahia and Cambridge.
To enjoy the clear, rainless days of the summer, the peak time to visit Hamilton is from early January to early March. To enjoy the best of Hamilton’s beaches, the peak time to visit this city is from mid-January to the first week of February. The weather in Hamilton is largely consistent and pleasant, barring a few cold, wet weeks in winter. The busiest months for tourists are December, April and July so if you’re looking to avoid high rates and crowds, avoid visiting during these months. October is a great month as prices drop dramatically.
By Air: Hamilton is an inland city in New Zealand’s North Island. Unfortunately, its airport only hosts domestic flights. You will need to catch a flight to the international airports in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown or Dunedin. From there, Air New Zealand offers direct flights to Hamilton.
By Train: From Auckland, you can take the Northern Explorer train, which runs 3 days a week, to Hamilton. Tickets are priced at around 48 dollars. The other three days, the train runs from Wellington to Hamilton. The train routes are spectacular so you should consider this mode of travel within New Zealand.
By Car: New Zealand’s major highway, SH 1, slices through Hamilton making it a smooth and easy drive to the city. You can choose SH 1 from Auckland, Taupo, Rotorua or the Bay of Plenty.
By Bus: The bus network is well-spread across the entire country. You can choose between InterCity Coachlines and BUSIT. Make sure, though, that you book your tickets in advance as availability and prices can shoot up dramatically, closer to your travel dates.
Hamilton, the city, was built on the site of several Māori villages (including Kirikiriroa, which is the Māori name of the city). These villages were abandoned during the Invasion of Waikato and land confiscation by the Crown, leaving the area open for English settlers. The settlement was then christened Hamilton after Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton. Today, it has moved far beyond its origins to become the third fastest growing urban area in the country.
It just goes to show you, that even the smallest places on the earth can provide the biggest surprises. Check out Thomas Cook’s New Zealand Packages and make Hamilton a holiday destination for your next trip.