How to Visit Hamilton on a Budget
The central hub of the Waikato region, and the North Island for that matter, Hamilton is an ideal base for budget travellers. Not only is the city packed with free and affordable activities, but there are many top New Zealand attractions under an hour’s drive away. Your living costs won’t be too crazy either, with plenty of cheap eateries and supermarkets. Accommodation mostly comes in the form motels, with limited hostels and holiday parks. Alternatively, many locals open their doors to travellers here, making a homestay in Hamilton another affordable option.
So, plan your itinerary with free and cheap activities and find affordable places to eat and stay with this complete travel guide to Hamilton on a budget!
Budget Tips for Hamilton
- Hamilton’s budget accommodations are limited, especially the hostels, so book quickly to avoid disappointment (and end up having to spend more to stay somewhere else)
- Visit in the low season (May to October) to find some discounts on accommodations and some activities
- Book yourself into self-catering accommodation so you can make your own meals and save money on food
- Fill up your time in Hamilton with some of the free and cheap activities
- Be choosey with the activities that you want to splurge on, like the recommendations in the 10 Hamilton Must-Dos
- Some of Hamilton’s activities are spread around the city. Hop on a city bus to get there cheaply if you don’t have your own transport.
For more general money-saving tips, take a look at the 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Hamilton
There are plenty of free things to do in the city – just take a look at our 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Hamilton. A quick rundown of the top free attractions include:
The Waikato Riverside Walkway! The Waikato River is the longest river in New Zealand and the pride of the region. Enjoy the 11km (7 miles) walkway alongside the river with many access points throughout the city. You’ll venture through all sorts of landscapes, from native bush to residential areas to picturesque parks. The walkway is also suitable for strollers and bikes.
During your walk along the riverside, take a detour to the Waikato Museum. Learn about the intriguing history of Hamilton and the Waikato region with the ever-changing exhibitions often showing Maori artefacts, items from early European settlers and pieces from the natural world. Find the museum in the city centre on Graham Street.
Finally, a must-do in Hamilton, whatever your budget, is the Hamilton Gardens. The gardens are free-entry with various different themed gardens taking you from historic Maori villages to the gardens of Japan. If your budget allows, there’s also the option to take a guided tour to enhance your experience. Find out more about the guided tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Don’t forget to check out our 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Hamilton for more ideas.
Cheap Activities in Hamilton
There are a number of nearby attractions that you can visit on the cheap, including Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves. However, we guess you know about those already. For something a little different, try Sanctuary Mountain (Mt Maungatautari), which is a protected wildlife sanctuary. Rare birds can be seen in the forest, which is protected by a predator-proof fence, including takahe, kiwi bird and kokako. A self-guided walk is the most affordable option, while upgrading to a guided tour or a tour of the tuatara enclosure is highly recommended. Find out more on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Petrolheads, don’t miss the Classics Museum, an impressive collection of more than 100 classic cars, petrol memorabilia, vintage toys, pedal cars and much more. At around NZ$20 entry per adult, it won’t set you back too far.
Finally, if you’re travelling with a group or as a family, don’t miss the Lilliputt Fun Zone in Centre Place. At around NZ$15 per adult, it’s an affordable activity where you’ll get to putt through a weird and wacky ice age-themed course. Also on the complex are laser tag, virtual reality experiences and escape rooms.
For more recommendations, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Hamilton.
Cheap Eats in Hamilton
Complete your budget getaway by treating yourself to some of the local foods of Hamilton! You don’t have to pay a ton to enjoy a good meal in the city. For instance, Dumpling House (698 Grey Street) does irresistibly cheap dumplings packed with flavour. Get your Japanese fix at Donburi-Ya (789 Victoria Street) with affordable sushi and bowls of ramen and udon noodles.
European-style food can be found at the likes of The Bank Bar & Brasserie (Corner of Victoria Street and Hood Street) which offers a good selection of NZ$12 lunches and NZ$20 dinners including pizzas, burgers, salads and other pub grub.
If you’re not much of a meathead, try the Blissfully Vegan Takeaway (4/26 Bryant Road) offering a buffet-style setup for around NZ$10.
For more food recommendations, head to The Foodie Guide to Hamilton.