Hamilton New Zealand Travel Guide
Introduction to Hamilton
Situated about 130 kilometres south of Auckland along the banks of the longest river in the country, Hamilton is the first major centre you’ll encounter as you head south from the biggest city in New Zealand.
While it often gets overlooked in favour of destinations like Rotorua, Hamilton’s under-the-radar status, small size, student population, and chilled out ambience makes it a great place to hang out for a few days.
Cultural Attractions in Hamilton
Get a background on the history of the Hamilton area by spending time exploring the Waikato Museum. Here, you’ll find plenty of Maori art, and a war canoe they used before the European arrived.
They also host a number of interesting travelling exhibits on an ongoing basis. Recent shows have included exhibits on Bob Marley and Leonardo Da Vinci, so be sure to drop in even if you only have a passing interest in local history. Chances are, you’ll learn something interesting during your time here, even if it isn’t 100% related to the Hamilton area.
Have a love for the golden age of automobiles? Check out some of the hottest car models from the 20th century by paying a visit to the Classics Museum while you are in Hamilton. On its floor, you’ll find dozens of shapely hot rods and dream vehicles dating back to the 1950s and earlier, making it a must-see for gearheads visiting this city.
There’s more, though, as you’ll also find other artifacts of this period of the 20th century in this place. From antique petrol pumps to jukebox machines, visiting the Classics Museum in Hamilton will serve as a nostalgia trip for boomers and a peer into the era of the parents/grandparents of Millennials and Generation Z.
Want to get a taste of the diversity available in this corner of New Zealand? Be sure to check out the Hamilton Night Market, especially during the summer months. Situated in the car park underneath the local K-Mart department store, not only will you find a bewildering array of food that runs the gamut from churros to Indian curry, virtually all of it is affordable.
Most dishes going for less than $5 NZD, so if you are a backpacker looking to save money, we strongly recommend swinging by this market.
Other Attractions in Hamilton
New Zealand has a unique slate of plant species, as they have evolved separately from other biomes on other islands and continents for aeons. A trip to Hamilton Gardens will give you an education on this subject, as it shows off the Maori’s approach to gardening.
When Europeans arrived, what is now known as the Hamilton River was lined by Maori gardens, in which food crops imported from Polynesia generations earlier were grown successfully, despite the cooler subtropical climate.
In addition to learning about the agricultural knowledge of the Maori, there are different sections which show off English, Japanese, and Italian Renaissance approach to gardening. There is also a colourful rose garden, which is amazing to see when it is in full bloom. As such, spring is a wonderful time to visit this attraction (starting in October – remember that seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere).
If your green thumb craves more after visiting the Hamilton Gardens, head over to the Taitua Arboretum. A tranquil 20-hectare park situated just outside the city limits, locals consider this park one of Hamilton’s best-kept secrets.
Filled with mature trees and lakes which give birds like black swans and ducks a home, it is perfect for runners, walkers, and for those looking for a place to clear their head. Be sure to drop by in the fall (starting in April), as the autumn colours here are nothing short of dazzling.
America excels at baseball. Canada eats, sleeps, and breathes hockey. In New Zealand, rugby is life. Want to share the passion locals in Hamilton have for this sport? Take in a rugby union game at Waikato Stadium.
Here, fans will shout, cheer, and ring cowbells as they urge their side on to victory. On occasion, New Zealand’s national team, the All Blacks, will play a match here – do not miss a chance to see them in action should a game be on the schedule.