The Waikato River, New Zealand's longest river, flows through the middle of the city. This effectively cuts the city in half, with Hamilton West containing the Central Business District and main shopping areas. Hamilton East, among other things, is home to The University of Waikato, resulting in a large student population.
Buses can sometimes be full and sometimes empty, so it can pay to book a few days in advance. Booking in advance (particularly on the internet) can also save money - up to half the fare in some cases. In any case, travelling by bus is generally a cheap option, albeit a bit slow at times.
InterCity Coachlines, +64 9 583-5780, is New Zealand's national coach company and operates over 150 services to more than 600 destinations nationwide.
ManaBus.Com offer bus services to Hamilton several times a day from throughout the North Island.
Naked Bus is a budget bus service with nation-wide routes and goes through Hamilton more than once daily.
Because New Zealand's major highway, State Highway 1 (SH1) cuts through the city, so getting to Hamilton is simple. Drive south down SH1 from Auckland. Drive northbound on SH1 from Taupo, or connect to SH1 from Rotorua or the Bay of Plenty.
Tranz Scenic offer one daily service from Auckland to Hamilton (departs 07:25, arrives 09:50), at $49 per person, one way. The journey takes an hour and a half and isn't terribly exciting, but is much quicker than bus or car. There is also one daily service from Wellington to Hamilton (departs 07:25, arrives 17:00) which, costing $129, provides an opportunity to take in some beautiful New Zealand scenery and the famous Raurimu Rail Spiral. See also: Train travel in New Zealand.
Hamilton International Airport hosts domestic flights, with regular direct flights from:
Auckland - beginning at $65 one way for a 30min journey
Wellington - starting at $70 one way for a 1h journey
Christchurch - beginning at $135 one way direct for a 1h40 journey (fares start at $70 if you stop in Wellington for half an hour)
There are often limited specials to/from Hamilton available on Grab-a-seat, Air New Zealand's website for its specials.
The airport is about 10km (6 mi) out of town, so allow time for airport transfers. A taxi or shuttle bus service is available. Passengers who arrive on flights late in the evening on Fridays and Saturdays should arrange transport in advance as taxis can be scarce. Also, be aware that fog can close the airport on winter mornings.
Many visitors to Hamilton find that walking is a surprisingly effective way of getting around the main city. Hamilton is a moderately sized city, however the CBD and shopping area is easily walkable. If you are staying in or near the CBD, it is likely that you can reach everywhere you need to go within a 5-10 minute walk.
For slightly wider-ranging exploration, there are a couple places in Hamilton (e.g. Velo Espresso) where you can hire a bike. These fees tend to be slightly high (e.g. $35 for a full day), and thus aren't attractive merely as a transport option; however they can be excellent if you're looking to experience the Te Araroa trail, or the Pukete Mountain Bike Park.
Due to the reliable and cost-effective bus system, Hamilton does not have as strong a taxi fleet as Auckland does. However, there are a good number of local taxi services available, such as Hamilton Taxis (0800 477 477) or Red Cabs (07 839 39 39). During peak times (particularly Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights), you may face a wait-time of up to an hour or so.
Hamilton features one of the most well-organised bus services in New Zealand. The local bus service is fast, reliable, and cheap. All buses travel a relatively short loop: visiting a particular Hamilton suburb, and then returning to the transport centre for passengers to transfer to another bus.
Bus routes and times are available online at the Busit website, and cover the whole city. A bus ticket costs $3.30 and includes free bus transfers for one hour, allowing you to reach the transport station and then transfer to another bus to complete your journey.
If you intend to use the bus service frequently, it may be worth investing $5 in a BusIt card, an pre-paid card that and provides discounts on fares. A single way ticket with a BusIt card costs $2.40.
Finally, a "City Explorer" pass can be purchased, which provides unlimited travel within the Hamilton City boundaries. The City Explorer pass is valid during the day of purchase, and until 3:30am on the following day. An adult City Explorer pass will cost $7.90, or $6.30 with a BusIt card.
Hamilton Gardens are a really nice place to go and see. In addition to 'normal' gardens such as a rose garden and the Rhododendron Lawn, visitors can also go and see 'themed' gardens, such as the Chinese Scholar Garden, or the American Revolutionist Garden, among others. Entrance is free, although beware that some of the themed gardens are inaccessible after 19:30 (20:00 in the summer).
ArtsPost, 120 Victoria St (South end of Victoria Street), +64 7 838-6928. The three exhibition spaces at ArtsPost display an exciting programme of fresh new art which changes regularly, and ArtsPost's retail shop features beautiful art pieces and great variety. New items are added regularly to a uniquely New Zealand product range.
Lake Rotoroa ("Hamilton Lake"), off Ruakiwi Rd, is Hamilton's central lake. The lake and its surrounding grounds are the venue for many local sports groups. There is a 3.8km path around the lake for sightseeing.
Riff Raff: near 200 Victoria St stands a statue of the iconic Riff Raff character from the cult status movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Riff Raff was gifted to the city of Hamilton to commemorate the links between the city and Richard O'Brien, creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Victoria Bridge & Memorial Park; Take a short walk over Victoria Bridge, turn left, continue to Memorial Park. Originally dedicated to soldiers after World War 1, the Cenotaph has three memorials honouring the NZ navy, air force and army.
Taitua Arboretum, Taitua Road (From Hamilton follow SH23 west (towards Raglan / Whatawhata) and turn left into Howden Road, then left again into Taitua Road.), ☎ 0-7-847 5847. 8am - 30min before dusk. The Taitua Arboretum is a 20-hectare reserve featuring a large collection of mature trees. The grounds include lakes and woodland gardens, surrounded by an array of walking paths. The trees and lake attract a great array of bird life, and is perfect for bird watching, or even just a relaxing walk or picnic. Free. (175°12'53.6E,37°48'21.9S)edit
Hamilton Zoo, Brymer Rd, +64 7 838-6720, is home to over 600 native New Zealand and exotic animals. Kids especially enjoy it. To get there, simply enter Hamilton from the North or South on SH1, and look for the signs, on the section of SH1 called Avalon Drive (Te Rapa area in the North). Daily 09:00-17:00, with the last admission at 15:30. $12, Children $6.
Waikato Museum, 1 Grantham St (South end of Victoria Street), +64 7 838-6606. General Art and Culture Displays and Exhibits about New Zealand and International Cultures. Daily 10:00-16:30. Entry is free, though charges may apply for some exhibitions.
Waikato Stadium, Gate 5 Waikato Stadium, 128 Seddon Rd, Whitiora. The home stadium of the Chiefs (Super Rugby) and the Waikato Rugby Union (ITM Cup), A place to visit if you are a fan of Rugby Union.
Hamilton River Walk - The Waikato river passes through the middle of Hamilton, and there is opportunity to walk on both sides from the Hamilton Gardens in the south to beyond the Pukete walking bridge. Very soon the walkway will extend, on at least one side, to beyond the Horotiu bridge north of Hamilton. The walkway(s) have several signs that discuss the local history and points of interest. For example, many of the parks on the riverside were once Maori Pa. Care must be taken late Autumn when the river is high, as some parts of the walkway become impassable, although there are always alternative routes available. Walk, or ride your bicycle!
Te Araroa - Hamilton City Traverse - The nation-wide Te Araroa walkway makes its way south from Ngaruawahia through Hamilton. The Hamilton City Traverse section of Te Araroa starts on Pukete Road (at the Northern end of Braithwaite Park), and continues for 16.5km, ending at Taitua Arboretum on Taitua Rd.
Hamilton is home to many of New Zealand's events, including:
The Agricultural Field Days, which are hosted at Mystery Creek, bring thousands of people (125,000 in 2007) from around the world. Taking place every June, this is a must-see to have an insight to farming in New Zealand.
Centre Place Mall, Cnr of Ward and Worley Sts, . M-Th & Sa 09:00-17:00, F 09:00-20:30, Su 10:00-16:00. Located in the city centre the mall includes good cafe's, restaurants and clothing storesedit
The Base Te Rapa, Cnr of Te Rapa Road and Avalon Drive, . M-Sa 09:00-18:00, Su 10:00-17:00, Te Awa mall open Th-F to 21:00. Located on the Northern outskirts of the city, The Base includes a mall (Te Awa) and many chain stores edit
ArtsPost Galleries, 120 Victoria St, +64 7 838-6928, is an art gallery showcasing local work. Well worth a visit, and also offers a range of items for sale, from paintings to glass blown paperweights. Daily 10:00-16:30. Free.
Casabella Lane is located on Barton St and contains many boutique stores, as well as many good cafes. One of Hamilton's best kept secrets.
WestField Chartwell, Cnr. Hukanui Rd. and Comries Rd, . Located in Chartwell. The mall includes good Cafes and Resturants on the Ground as well as Level 1, Event Cinemas on Level 1, Farmers.edit
The vast majority of the bars in Hamilton are owned either by the Phoenix Group, or the Lawrenson Group. All Lawrenson Group bars accept a "FrenzCard", which is a type of loyalty card. Phoenix Group bars tend to offer a similar type of discount card if you ask about it.
The Outback Cnr Victoria & Hood Streets is your typical student bar holding promotion targeted towards students and is the main bar for the local university orientation week.
CBD Corner Pub, on the corner of Hood St an Alexandra St a nice warm pub with good meals and a good atmosphere
House on Hood, at 27 Hood St, is a great bar with a nice deck, serves craft beer from many breweries from around the country.
Zone Bar is the main sport bar in the city. Located within the Skycity casino building. Includes a deck with views over the river. Also on the same floor as a Bowling alley and Laser tag activities
Gothenburg Restaurant, also on Hood St, is Hamilton's premium craft beer location. Their stock of European beers is unequalled in Hamilton, and the service and tapas are always outstanding.
City Centre Hamilton Bed and Breakfast, 3 Anglesea St, Central, ☎ +64 7 838 1671, . A studio cottage sleeping up to three people and includes a kitchenette, bathroom, off-street parking, free Internet access. Five minutes walk from central Hamilton.edit
Halletts Bed & Breakfast, 1380 Kakaramea Rd, Ngahinapouri, ☎ +64 7 825 2727, . Boutique lifestyle B&B surrounded by views of green rolling pastures and mountain backdrops.(-37.880756,175.199082)edit
Shailers Bed & Breakfast, 1447 Kakaramea Rd, ☎ +64 7 825 2729, . Luxury homestay / farmstay twelve minutes drive from Hamilton City in the heart of New Zealand's most fertile region, the Waikato. Tours of their four-hundred cow dairy farm.edit
Quest Apartments Hamilton, 42-47 Ward St, ☎ +64 7 839 1676, . Features 29 apartments (26 x 1 bedroom units and 3 studio units) in central Hamilton. Easy access to the main bars, casinos, shopping and Hamilton's information centreedit
Comfort Inn Southern Cross Hamilton, 222 Ulster Street, Hamilton, ☎ +64 7 838 3299, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 10:00. The hotel consists of 32 guest rooms, offering a choice of standard, executive or superior spa rooms. On-site restaurant, continental breakfast, pool, fitness centre, meeting room facilities. Pet friendly.edit
Matamata is about 45 minutes away - follow SH1, turning off towards Tauranga onto SH 29, and then turning off towards Matamata onto SH27. A small rural community of about 12 000 people, its main claim to fame is that it was the filming site for the Lord of the Rings - in particular the Shire. Visitors are able to visit Hobbiton, , though reservations need to made in advance.
Raglan is a beach side town about 50km (31 mi) away. Simply follow SH23 out of Hamilton to get there. The town is well known for its excellent surf beaches, including Indicators, Whale Bay, and Manu Bay. There are several buses a day here, provided by Environment Waikato . Fares range from $5-10 one way, dependent on when in Hamilton you get on the bus!
Rotorua is roughly an hour and a half. Follow SH1 and then turn onto SH5 at Tirau. Definitely worth a visit, though more than a day trip is probably required.
Cambridge (New Zealand) is only about twenty minutes south of Hamilton. Follow SH1 south, travel through rural Tamahere, and Cambridge will be the next large town.
Auckland, of course, is about 90 minutes drive north from Hamilton. Follow SH1 north until you hit all the traffic.
Tauranga, one of New Zealand's beautiful beach cities, is about 90 minutes drive to the east. Travel south on SH1 through Cambridge. Take the first exit at the big Cambridge roundabout, following the signs towards Rotorua. About 20 minutes south of Cambridge, take the left turn onto SH29 towards Matamata, then follow SH29 all the way to Tauranga. Drive carefully while going up the Kaimai Ranges.