Hamilton, what to see and do — travel guide & itinerary
Hamilton is New Zealand’s River City.
New Zealand’s fourth largest city is a service based town supporting the fertile plains of the Waikato. Together with its relative lack of topographic features Hamilton can appear featureless, considerable suburbian spread flat and uninteresting. Visitors tend to scoot through Hamilton on their way to Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves. Hamilton is underrated and has urban charm together with lush countryside at its fingertips to explore.
Hamilton’s trump card is the majestic Waikato River. A grand sweep of water, waterways and verdant green 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, water and waterways Hamilton and its pastoral economy provide a great foil for visitors to relax and enjoy a city where the countryside has been invited into the urban spaces.
Best time to visit
Year round. Winter river fog makes for those misty atmospheric moments, layer up and enjoy the outdoors.
Hamilton has a domestic airport however it is connected to Auckland with a motorway system and is less than an hour away from major North Island cities.
While Hamilton has a public bus system either walking / cycling or driving is the easiest way to move around the city.
Highlights, must see activities:
- Waikato River & river walks
- Hamilton Garden
- Close to major visitor attractions such as Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, Taupo & Rotorua. The city is a service town with superb transport links.
- Vibrant arts scene
- Excellent venue for conferences and events
- Specialist museums, classic vehicles and cameras.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN HAMILTON
WAIKATO RIVERSIDE WALK
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.
PARKS & GARDENS
Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Parklearn more
Tauhara Parklearn more
Hamilton Lake Domainlearn more
Claudelands Bush (Jubilee Park Boardwalk)learn more
Hamilton Gardenslearn more
Taitua Arboretumlearn more
CULTURE & HERITAGE
Public artworks and installations:
Riff Rafflearn more
Earth Blanketlearn more
The Farming Familylearn more
Te Tiaho O Matarikilearn more
Te Waharoa Ki Te Ao Maaramalearn more
Te Ohomauri O Matarikilearn more
Tekoteko and Maihi Carvingslearn more
Little Bulllearn more
Tongue of the Doglearn more
Sapper Moore-Jones Memorial Statuelearn more
War Horselearn more
Boon Street Artlearn more
Te Pumanawa O Te Whenua - Beat Connectionlearn more
Tōia Mailearn more
Te Tatau Ki Kirikiriroa sculpture - VOTRlearn more
The above information is from Public Art & Heritage, VisitHamilton online resource.
MUSEUMS & ATTRACTIONS
Waikato Museumlearn more
ArtsPost Galleries & Shoplearn more
Classics Museumlearn more
Camera Museum, Snapshotlearn more
SHOPPING & MARKETS
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.
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
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.
- 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
HAMILTON DAY TRIPS
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
- New Zealand’s Trail – Waikato / King CountryHamilton 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.
The journey is worth it.