Hamilton is usually the brunt of many a joke in New Zealand. It may not be as glamorous as Auckland, or as steeped in the movie industry as Wellington, or as popular for the adrenaline junkie as Queenstown, but there are plenty of reasons to love Hamilton. After all, we spent 5 weeks there and loved it!
1. Hamilton Gardens
Hamilton Gardens is not your Grandma’s flower patch. Located just south of the city center, the Gardens are full of surprises and offer a really great place to lie on a blanket in the sun by the water, throw around a frisbee, or bring a picnic lunch. They boast as many different types of gardens as there are different cultures and periods of history. Our favorites were the Italian Renaissance garden (top) and the Indian Four Quarter garden.
2. The Waikato River
Hamilton isn’t called the City of Bridges for no reason. The Waikato River flows right through the city, with plenty of bridges to make your way from one side to the other. The council has done an amazing job incorporating parks and trails all along the mighty Waikato River. We took advantage of free parking on Grantham Street and ran the bridge-to-bridge loop quite a few times.
If running next to the water isn’t your style, how about getting out onto the water? Water sports like wake boarding are a perfect way to enjoy the river. We were able to join some friends for an weeknight get-together to celebrate the longer days as part of Daylight Savings.
3. Free Wifi Internet in the CBD & at Libraries
You don’t have to travel in New Zealand very long to realize that free high speed Internet isn’t exactly easy to come by. We greatly appreciated the fact that all Hamilton Libraries offered free wifi Internet, as well as Garden Place and the famed Riff Raff Statue on Victoria Street. We had trouble connecting outside at Garden Place, where we watched people skate on the newly constructed ice skating rink (below), but inside the library was a different story. Don’t bother with the Internet Cafe right next door to the Garden Place library! Just head inside to the second floor for the Wireless Hotspot.
4. Hamilton is a Great Base to Explore the North Island
While most international visitors fly into Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city can be a pain to navigate. It’s definitely worth spending some time exploring, but we highly recommend moving an hour and a half south to set up a base for exploring the rest of the North Island. World famous surf is just 45 minutes away at Raglan.
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, the famed Hobbiton movie set in Matamata is a mere hour’s drive. If you’re craving more white sandy beaches, an hour and a half in the car will get you to Tauranga and The Mount.
And if you prefer lakes to rivers, beautiful Lake Taupo can be reached from Hamilton in just over two hours.
Add to those four reasons all the great cafes & restaurants in Hamilton, the Sky City Casino, and the lush green outlying rural areas, and you have one fantastic New Zealand city. And that’s no joke.
View more pics from our experience in Hamilton on Facebook!