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.
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.
Hamilton is a moderately sized city, however the CBD and shopping area is easily walkable. To get to other destinations, there is a bus service, provided by Environment Waikato. Bus routes and times are available on-line, but cover the whole city. A single way ticket costs $3.10 and lasts for one hour. If you intend to be using the bus service frequently, it may be worth investing in a BusIt card, an electronic card that although costs $5, will possibly save you money due to the discounts it provides on fares - a single way ticket with a BusIt card costs $2.30 and there is an opportunity to buy a full Day Pass for $7.00.
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).
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 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.
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.$120. (-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, ☎ 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.