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Hamilton (New Zealand)

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Hamilton (Kirikiriroa in Māori) is an inland city in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island.

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.


Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

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.

By car[edit]

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.

By train[edit]

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.

By plane[edit]

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.

Get around[edit]

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.

See[edit][add listing]

  • 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.
  • 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 WW1, the Cenotaph has three memorials honouring the NZ navy, air force and army.
  • 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!  edit

Do[edit][add listing]



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.
  • The Hot Air Balloon Festival in April each year is also worth a look, especially the night glow event.
  • The Parachute Music Festival is one of the largest Christian Music Festivals hosted outside of the United States, featuring both international and national acts. Occurs yearly in late January.
  • The Hamilton Garden Arts Festival takes place every year at the end of February. Hosted in the renowned Hamilton Gardens it includes Music, Theatre, and Film.

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Centre Place Mall, Cnr of Ward and Worley Sts, [1]. 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 stores  edit
  • The Base Te Rapa, Cnr of Te Rapa Road and Avalon Drive, [2]. 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.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Hamilton has the highest number of restaurants and eateries per-capita in New Zealand, so there are lots to choose from.

  • Hamilton Farmers Market, River Road Car Park, 204 River Rd every Sunday morning 08:00-12:00. Fresh coffee, fresh bread, excellent atmosphere.
  • Domaine Restaurant, 575 Victoria St.
  • Iguana, 203 Victoria St, +64 7 834-2280, is a central city restaurant offering mainly pizza and salads.
  • The Londoner, 596 Victoria St, +64 7 839-9941, is an English style Pub at the end of Victoria Street.
  • Metropolis, 211 Victoria St, +64 7 834-2081, offers decent coffee and cafe food.
  • Caffe Centrale, 10 Alma St, +64 7 838-1013, is Hamilton's only Italian owned and operated Italian Restaurant. Marco is a master of Italian cooking, and Alessandro makes their house gelato.
  • House on Hood, 27 Hood St, +64 7 839-2727, is a well-priced craft beer pub, along with serving outstanding thin-base pizza and other outstanding food.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Most of Hamilton's bars, clubs, and coffee houses are located with easy walking distance of each other, in the Victoria/Hood/Alexandra Street area.

Coffee Houses[edit]

  • Scotts on Ward, Ward Street - exceptional
  • Scotts Epicurean, Victoria Street - exceptional
  • Espresso Workshop, Sunshine Ave, Te Rapa - exceptional
  • Sierra Caffe, Barton Street - good
  • Jack's Coffee Lounge, Cambridge Road, Hillcrest - very good
  • Hazel Hayes, Victoria Street - good
  • Momento, branches on Hood Street, Victoria Street, Waikato University, and outside Waikato Hospital - very good
  • Coffee and Food Establishment, Hood Street - exceptional

Bars & Pubs[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.

Sleep[edit][add listing]


  • J's Backpackers, 8 Grey St, ☎ +64 7 856-8934, offer cheap accommodation. They're located in Hamilton East, about a half hour walk from the city centre.
  • Eagle's Nest Backpackers, 937 Victoria St, +64 7 838 2704, [3]. On the north end of Victoria St, approx 10min walk from the bars.  edit

Bed & Breakfast[edit]

  • City Centre Hamilton Bed and Breakfast, 3 Anglesea St, Central, +64 7 838-1671, [4]. 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, [5]. 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, [6]. 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


  • Novotel Hamilton, 7 Alma St, ☎ +64 7 838-1366, is the city's largest hotel, and only 4.5 star rate hotel. Located next to Hamilton's only casino, right in the centre of town.
  • Ibis Tainui, 18 Alma St, ph: +64 7 859-9200, [7] is located on the riverbank, with many rooms including a view of the city's majestic river.
  • Ventura Inn & Suites Hamilton, 23 Clarence St, ph: +64 7 838-0110. [8] Centrally located hotel.

Serviced Apartments[edit]

  • Quest Apartments Hamilton, 42-47 Ward St, +64 7 839-1676, [9]. 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 centre  edit
  • Comfort Inn Southern Cross Hamilton, 222 Ulster Street, Hamilton, 7 838-3299, [10]. 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

Get out[edit]

Sunset over Raglan
  • 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, [11], 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 [12]. 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.
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