The Complete Family Guide to Hamilton and its Surroundings
Sitting in a handy central position on the North Island, Hamilton makes an excellent base to hit the highlights, including Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves. But there’s so much more to the buzzing city than its day trips. Families will find fantastic open spaces to explore between a beautifully curated garden and the arboretum. When the weather isn’t playing nice, there’s also a ton of indoor attractions to keep the whole family entertained, educated and happy.
So, plan your family getaway to Hamilton, including the activities and accommodation, with this travel guide to Hamilton for families.
Things to Do in Hamilton with Kids
- See native birds at Sanctuary Mountain
- Take a trip to the Hobbiton Movie Set
- Burn off some energy at the Taitua Arboretum
- Explore the labyrinth of gardens at the Hamilton Gardens
- Delve into the glowworm caves of Waitomo
- Learn something new at the Waikato Museum
- Play tenpin bowling at SkyCity Hamilton
- Go for a walk and a coffee beside Hamilton Lake
- Treat the kids to a real fruit ice cream
- Do the Mt Pirongia Mangakara Nature Walk
- Tackle the climbing walls (and a rainy day) at Extreme Edge.
For more details on each activity and their locations, see the 10 Things to Do in Hamilton with Kids.
Family Adventure Activities
Around Hamilton are a fantastic range of outdoor adventures in and around the city. Enjoy an educational experience at Sanctuary Mountain (Mt Maungatautari), a 50-minute drive from Hamilton city centre. This protected wildlife sanctuary is an excellent place to see and learn about New Zealand’s native birds through their guided walks through the forest or see the “living dinosaur” the tuatara on their tuatara enclosure tour. Find out more on Viator or Tripadvisor.
And for families who enjoy a little fantasy, be sure to check out the Hobbiton Movie Set. See the home of Bilbo Baggins and enjoy a non-alcoholic (or alcoholic) drink at the Green Dragon Tavern on a guided tour. The stroller-friendly tour is approximately two hours, which is ideal for kids with the shortest attention spans. Check out our How to Get the Best Hobbiton Discount if you plan to visit independently. Otherwise, there are some fantastic guided tours to the set with transport included from Hamilton, such as with Headfirst Travel (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Clem and Judy Richards (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Finally, a trip to the Waitomo Caves is a must, with some great options for kids on the Ruakuri Cave walking tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), the Waitomo Glowworm Caves walking and boat tour (on Viator and Tripadvisor), and the CaveWorld tour through the stunning Footwhistle glowworm cave (on Viator and Tripadvisor). There’s so much to cover on this popular area of New Zealand, so be sure to check out The Guide to Waitomo for Families for more information.
All-weather Family Activities
What is there to do in Hamilton if the weather isn’t playing ball? As they say here in New Zealand, “Heaps!”
Head to SkyCity Hamilton, which features Hamilton’s only tenpin bowling alley, giving families a great opportunity to bond over a game. Enjoy the views of the Waikato River from the deck and try out some of the other arcade games, air hockey or pool tables. When it’s time to refuel, there are a few restaurants in the complex too, the best for families being Eat Burger.
Inquisitive children of all ages will have a blast at the Waikato Museum in Hamilton city centre. The museum’s ever-changing exhibitions always include something engaging for the kids, whether it’s about the Maori culture or New Zealand’s unique wildlife. The Exscite science gallery is often a hit with the little ones, which is full of interactive displays that will have kids engaged for hours.
For more all-weather activity ideas, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in Hamilton on a Rainy Day.
Free Family Activities
Stick to your travel budget while keeping the whole family entertained and happy with some of the free things to do in Hamilton. For instance, Taitua Arboretum is a fantastic place to let the kids run around and burn some energy. There are various walks throughout the arboretum of mature trees, lakes, gardens and picnic spots, some that are even suitable for strollers.
Alternatively, the Hamilton Gardens are free to visit where the kids will have a blast exploring the array of different-themed gardens. There is a garden-themed playground on-site, as well as activity sheets for kids that you can pick up from the gift shop. If you want to delve deeper into the history and stories behind the gardens, there are guided tours available. Find out more about the guided tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.
For more free ideas, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Hamilton.