What to Do in Hamilton: The Hub of the Waikato Region
Situated on the banks of New Zealand’s longest river, Hamilton is a picturesque city brimming with arts, shopping and dining! It’s the metropolitan hub of the North Island Waikato region offering a wealth of city and outdoor experience. Enjoy the river along a cycle trail, at the award-winning Hamilton Gardens or on a river cruise. Catch one of the national events taking place here every year or just enjoy a casual quick visit to one of the museums. There are so many possibilities, which we’ll guide you through with this list of things to do in Hamilton!
1. Wander Through the Hamilton Gardens
If you only have time to do one thing in Hamilton, make it a walk around the picturesque Hamilton Gardens. Encompassing 133 acres (54 hectares) by the Waikato River, the Hamilton Gardens has 21 themed gardens representing civilisations from around the world and throughout history. There’s plenty of photo opportunities, a gift store and a cafe. Plus, take a Hamilton Gardens Guided Tour for more of an insight – more info on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton East
2. Visit the Waikato Museum
Delve into the history and culture of the Waikato region at the fantastic Waikato Museum. The museum has an ever-changing schedule of exhibitions focussing on the rich Maori heritage of the area, as well as displaying local art. The museum is a fantastic option for kids too, with dedicated kids exhibitions and learning zones. The Waikato Museum is free-entry.
Location: 1 Grantham Street
3. Wine and Dine
A tantalising range of gourmet dining experiences awaits on the streets and laneways of Hamilton city. With award-winning restaurants, and artisan sellers of cheese, tea, ice cream and more, there is something to suit all styles and moods. So have a wander around and see why Hamilton is fast becoming a top foodie hotspot in New Zealand.
Location: Hamilton city
4. Cycle or Walk Alongside the Waikato River
Hamilton sits on the banks of New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato River. To make the most of the spectacular river scenery there is an expansive walk and cycle trail following the river. Walks along the river are well signposted from the city. Or hire a bike to do the Te Awa River Ride, spanning 70km (43 miles) from Ngaruawahia in the north to Lake Karapiro in the south. Find out more in our guide to Mountain Biking in Waikato.
Location: Waikato River
5. Catch a Show, Game or Event
Hamilton is often the chosen city to host national cultural and sporting events. Some of the biggest events are the Balloons over Waikato hot air balloon festival, the New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays, the Waikato Show, the Great New Zealand Food Show, the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival and much more. See what else is happening in New Zealand in New Zealand Events Calendar: What’s Going On?
Location: All around Hamilton
6. Enjoy a Cafe Cruise Down the Waikato River
See the Waikato River and some of the other fabulous highlights of Hamilton on the Waikato River Explorer river cruise. The boat has a cafe and bar on board, as well as being undercover making it a great thing to do in Hamilton whatever the weather. The trip departs from the Hamilton Gardens and Waikato Museum every 90 minutes and lasts for approximately one hour. Find out more about the cruise on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Hamilton Gardens (see above)
7. Do Some Shopping
When in a city with the country’s largest shopping centre and a myriad of boutique shopping to be done in the city, it would almost be a crime to not do some shopping while you’re here. While boutique shopping can be done in the city centre, taking a special trip to The Base is sure to give you the retail therapy you need with more than 180 stores and eateries.
Location: Hamilton City Centre & The Base, Te Awa
8. Taste Beer and Tour a Local Brewery
See why Kiwis love their craft beer at Hamilton’s homegrown brewery, Good George Brewing. Pop in for a brewery tour in Old St George’s Church (what would The Lord say?!) and you’ll even get a Good George glass to take home with you. The brewery is also open for tastings and food.
Location: 32A Somerset Street, Frankton
9. Visit One of the Nearby Kiwi Towns
Hamilton is an ideal base to explore the surrounding Waikato region! How about surfing in the bohemian town of Raglan? Visit the charming Olde English town of Cambridge? Or what about exploring the wildlife-filled wetlands and Sanctuary Mountain near Te Awamutu? The Waitomo Caves and Morrinsville are just another two areas worth mentioning!
Location: Around Hamilton
10. Visit the Classics Museum
Petrolheads, don’t miss this fantastic museum and treasure trove in the heart of Hamilton. Take a look at a collection of beautifully-restored cars from yesteryear, as well as petrol memorabilia. Have some food in the 1950s-style Jukebox Diner to top off the experience. The museum is open daily.
Location: 11 Railside Place