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Travel Guide

Hamilton, what to see and do — travel guide & itinerary

  • 5 minutes
In this Article

New Zealand’s mighty river city

In this Article

MIGHTY WAIKATO with Hamilton, one of New Zealand’s largest cities wrapped around the majestic flow of the Waikato river. Hamilton’s Waikato River is a grand sweep of water, waterways and verdant green. The Waikato is the city’s calling card. The temptation to slip outdoors and explore the fabulous river walks makes Hamilton a great destination. One minute at a cafe next weaving your way through the quiet of the Waikato River walks. Green spaces galore.

Is Hamilton interesting, it seems very flat and industrial?

Hamilton is defined by green spaces galore where the countryside has been invited into the urban spaces. While Hamilton is undoubtedly a service town supporting the massive dairy industrial heartland of the North Island it’s also pleasant walkable city.


One of the world’s great gardens resides in Hamilton.

New Zealand North-Island, Lake Karapiro. trees reflecting on water surface. misty scenery, Waikato, New Zealand
Lake Karapiro

Best time to visit Hamilton

Year round.

For outdoors activities the best time of the year to visit is between late December to early March. Winter river fog makes for those misty atmospheric moments, layer up and enjoy the outdoors.

Weather in Hamilton

Hamilton Weather Forecast and Observations

In Hamilton, the summers are between 20°c to 28°c. Summers are comfortable. In winter the damp humidity and fog creates cloudy conditions. Always carry a waterproof layer and admire the verdant green pasture and gardens; the result of temperate climate.


Hamilton is part of the Waikato with plenty of attractions and things to do nearby.

  • Waikato River & river walks
  • Hamilton Garden
  • Excellent short break destination as Hamilton is close to major visitor attractions such as Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, Taupo & Rotorua
  • Vibrant local arts scene encapsulated in Arts Post and regional galleries in towns such as Matamata and Cambridge
  • Excellent venue for conferences and events
  • Specialist museums, classic vehicles and cameras

Check out the top 5 activities to brighten up your Hamilton trip.


Hamilton Wellington St inland Waikato River beach, New Zealand
Hamilton Wellington St inland Waikato River beach


Walk along the majestic Waikato River on the Riverside Walkway. The walkway is extensive, over 11 km of boardwalks and wide easy tracks accessibles at multiple points along the city centre. The walkway embraces native bush, planted parks and gardens and residential areas where communities could be part of our walk exploration. The walkway is a shared cycle / walk / jogging area. Check out Hamilton great short city walks in the Waikato – Best Bits for more information about walking trails in the city.



Public artworks and installations:

The above information is from Public Art & Heritage, VisitHamilton online resource.



Westfield Chartwell, Hamilton, New Zealand @stuff
Westfield Chartwell @stuff

The city centre has a number of second hand shops especially in the city centre. They are clustered around  Liverpool Street, Ulster Street, River Road and Te Aroha Street in Hamilton Central.

The Base on Te Rapa Road. This huge shopping centre is a large retail mall where pretty much everything you would want can be found there. Dress-Smart Outlet Shopping Centre is located at The Base. Other major retail centres are Chartwell Shopping Centre & Centre Place, part of the CBD.

Hamilton has the requisite Farmers Market Waikato Farmers Market  and Food Night Markets (venue The Base). Check online for up to date information for opening hours and venues.

Check out Hamilton shopping and market guide for more information.


Hamilton Zoo has individual face2face encounters and keeper talks. The Zoo has an extensive younger person programme as well as school holiday programme.

  • Open: 9.30 – 4.30pm  (closed Monday)
  • Admission: Fees apply
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Toilet: Yes
  • Cafe: Yes
Meerkats at Hamilton Zoo @Jason Dawson
Meerkats at Hamilton Zoo @Jason Dawson


Ancestral Maori carving guarding the place by the Waikato River, Museum, Hamilton, New Zealand
Ancestral Maori carving guarding the place by the Waikato River

Commercial galleries are flourishing in Hamilton due to its proximity to Auckland, its local vibrant arts scene and the support offered to the central North Island art communities from Raglan to the Coromandel.

There are over 20 galleries within the Hamilton area alone.


Check with our upcoming festivals page for details:

Balloons over Waikato festival, Hamilton, New Zealand
Balloons over Waikato festival


Public fountain Waikato Museum precinct, Hamilton, New Zealand
Morning reflections at Turtle Lake, Hamilton Gardens @dominim
  • Indoors, visit Classic Museum or Waikato Museum with its excellent younger person programmes
  • Visit Hamilton Zoo with a walk through the largest aviary in Australia and New Zealand
  • Picnic at Hamilton Gardens and explore Turtle Lake
  • Visit Claudelands playground and sports fields
  • Find out what nature has on show at Taitua Arboretum

For more information check out Hamilton families & kids top attractions, places to go.

Every surface is a canvas in Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand Every surface is a canvas in Hamilton
Hamilton, Waikato River public artwork on toilets, New Zealand Hamilton, Waikato River public artwork on toilets


This section covers the central North Island with major attractions less than 1 hour driving time.

  • Cambridge area has Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari a predator free
  • High Tea at Zealong Tea Estate, Chinese tea growing in Hamilton’s backyard, authentic, organic and delicious
  • Forests and National Parks, there are several within one hour driving
  • Major tourist attractions such as Hobbiton with stops at Tirau corrugated iron sculptures
  • Hot springs at Okororie, part of the country pub and its classic nine hole golf course
  • Waikato river trails including Putaruru Blue Spring Te Waihou walkway
  • Waitomo Caves, an international renowned caving system with black water rafting, abseil or zipline or a gentle boat ride through thousands of glowworms
  • Mangapohue Natural Bridge walks, Marokopa Falls
  • Hobbiton and hairy feet exploration in Matamata

Day trips to Rotorua / Taupo:

  • Rotorua and Taupo are approximately 1 ½ hours  making for comfortable overnight journeys or day trips focused on a specific activity
Putaruru river light, New Zealand
Putaruru river light


Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waikato, New Zealand
Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Is it easy to get from Hamilton to the Waitomo Caves?

A private vehicle is the easiest way to get there as the Waitomo Caves are in the countryside, outside the small rural town Otorohanga. What’s so great about Otorohanga: what to do.

The Waikato region is dominated by one large urban area (Hamilton) with key attractions such as Waitomo Caves in a rural setting. Either a guided tour bus or private / rental vehicle is required for top attractions such as Hobbiton or Waitomo Caves


Ensure you have allowed sufficient time between attractions to arrive at your destination in time to enjoy the experience. Remember always check opening hours to avoid disappointment.


  • Hamilton to Auckland (motorway):  120 km – 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Hamilton to Raglan: 40 km – 35 minutes
  • Hamilton to Waitomo Caves: 69 km – 55 minutes
  • Hamilton to Otorohanga: 56.5 km – 45 minutes
  • Hamilton to Piopio: 102 km – 1 20 minutes
  • Hamilton to Lake Karapiro: 50 km – 45 minutes
  • Hamilton to Cambridge: 25 km – 26 minutes
  • Hamilton to Sanctuary Mountain: 59 km – 53 minutes
  • Hamilton to Thames: 112km – 1 25 minutes
Coburn St bridge, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Coburn St bridge, Hamilton
Hamilton, Waikato bus stop artwork, New Zealand
Hamilton, Waikato bus stop artwork


Hamilton city is serviced by INTERCITY BUS and has its own urban bus network. Hamilton buses – BUSIT has a number of routes to the regions, Regional buses – BUSIT. For visitors who are using public transport the regional bus network connects to TAUPO, a visitor hot spot.

There are no regional trains however the Auckland to Wellington once daily train service stops in Hamilton as well there is a commuter train service between Auckland and Hamilton. The profitability of the commuter Auckland to Hamilton service means it is advisable to check its timetable and whether it is continuing to operate.


Check Timetable – Te Huia train Auckland to Hamilton for up to date information. Note: Commuter train stops in Huntly.

Quick facts

The Waikato is a local government region of the upper North Island of New Zealand. It covers the Waikato District, Waipa District, Matamata-Piako District, South Waikato District and Hamilton City, as …Wikipedia


Tribal Aotearoa NZ Waikato Maori carvings by the Mighty Waikato River, New Zealand
Tribal Aotearoa NZ Waikato Maori carvings by the Mighty Waikato River
  • Hamilton City Traverse – Pukete Rd to Taitua Rd. A 16.5km city section of the Te Araroa Trail, the northern entrance is Braithwaite Parkand finishes at the Taitua Arboretum in Hamilton West. The walk takes about four hours. Passing through the centre of town, it’s a great combination of urban and rural.
  • ArtsPost online shop is a great way to scroll through the vibrant Waikato art scene and plot your next visit to the gallery, let your fingers do the scrolling here, Latest Stock.


Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.


Imaginative decorative objects, ArtsPost Galleries _ Shop, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
ArtsPost Gallery exhibits, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
ArtsPost Gallery fantasy objects, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Beautiful pottery objects ArtsPost Galleries, Hamilton, New Zealand
Detailed craft pottery, ArtsPost Galleries and Shop, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Glorious honey coloured ancient kauri object, ArtsPost Shop, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Hamilton Wellington St inland Waikato River beach, New Zealand
Hamilton, Waikato bus stop artwork, New Zealand
Public fountain Waikato Museum precinct, Hamilton, New Zealand
Waikato Museum entrance, Hamilton, New Zealand
Ancestral Maori carving guarding the place by the Waikato River, Museum, Hamilton, New Zealand
Coburn St bridge, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Every surface is a canvas in Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
Hamilton, Waikato River public artwork on toilets, New Zealand
Tribal Aotearoa NZ Waikato Maori carvings by the Mighty Waikato River, New Zealand
Hamilton Wellington St, jetty, Waikato, New Zealand

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