This is what Lonely Planet says about Hamilton: “Landlocked cities in an island nation are never going to have the glamorous appeal of their coastal cousins. Rotorua compensates with boiling mud and Taupo has its lake, but Hamilton, despite the majestic Waikato River, is more prosaic.” We initially thought prosaic sounded nice until we googled what it meant – it means ‘commonplace/unromantic’. Thanks. We, on the other hand, think that the description of Hamilton in Canada is much more fitting: “Something special is happening in Hamilton. Hamilton’s revitalized downtown has rebounded with unexpected hipness. A pocket of cosmopolitan life thrives with good eateries, quirky stores, independent galleries and cool bars.” Much better. Hamilton has a lot to offer and it holds a special place in our hearts. So go and check out the mighty Waikato River by strolling along the shores or even grabbing a tube and floating down a part of it.
The Hamilton Gardens are the jewel of city. You probably think botanical gardens are only for grandmas but this place is amazing. Take a picnic and explore the extensive and beautifully themed gardens and grounds. On sunny Sunday afternoons the region’s best food trucks descend on the Hamilton Gardens to delight the punters eagerly awaiting some tasty tucker while listening to live music.
Another fantastic place to explore is the Taitua Arboretum, conveniently located on the way out to Raglan. There is a lovely loop walk that takes you through the ever changing forest. The arboretum is full of chickens and ducks to feed if you like, they add a pretty entertaining aspect to your stroll. This is also the place that Andrew and I got married! So it is a pretty special spot for us.
If you sill need another outdoor fix there is always the Hamilton Lake (Lake Rotoroa) to visit. It’s about a 4 km loop around the lake with nesting pukekos at in every nook. But Hamilton is not purely about the outdoors, the cafe scene in Hamilton is great with Hayes Common probably being my favourite spot. This place is located right near the river in Hamilton East and has great coffee and great food. Hamilton is also home to the now famous Good George Brewing, these guys love Hamilton almost as much as we do and they also happen to make good beer. The brewery has good food too (think southern USA barbecue style) and a great atmosphere. The centre of town is filled with all sorts of fantastic restaurants and bars, which makes it a great place to go out.
A half hour drive from Hamilton is the awesome beach town of Raglan. The town is cute and the black volcanic sand beach is a great surf and swim spot. There are also some great hikes nearby like the Mt Karioi Track which gives stunning views of the area, it takes about 3 hours return and is pretty steep at times. A swim is definitely earned after this! For some scenery and less exertion then Bridal Veil Falls is a nice stop to make, located 20 minutes south of Raglan, its an attractive waterfall to gaze upon,
Another good spot just outside of Hamilton is The Blue Spring at Te Waihou Walkway, only a 45 minute drive. This place is seriously beautiful and the walk is easy, just don’t try to swim as it it freezing!
Hamilton may not be on the top of the tourist list when visiting Hamilton, but if you happen to find your way there then you would have discovered a hidden gem! There are tonnes of reasonably priced accommodation options so you won’t be breaking the bank. Overall you’re looking at around NZ$100 per day.