A burgeoning culture hub for the garden lovers, nature enthusiasts and good-food fanatics, Hamilton is a vibrant destination in the North Island of New Zealand. Kirikiriroa in Maori, Hamilton is the largest inland city in New Zealand, but its location on the picturesque Waikato River – the longest river in New Zealand – makes for ideal outdoor recreation. As the center of rich agriculture and pastoral lands, Hamilton offers excellent dining options that celebrate regional produce.
Hamilton Gardens celebrates the cultural significance of gardens over four centuries, a unique approach adopted in 1980. Parallel to the lovely Waikato River, twenty-six distinctive Garden areas have been authentically designed and constructed within six broader Paradise, Productive, Fantasy, Cultivar, and Landscape Collections. Visitors can meander through the Italian Renaissance Garden, stroll through the Bussaco Woodland, or relax in the Victorian Flower Garden before sampling garden-grown, locally made preserves and salad dressings at the Hamilton Gardens Café. The pristine oasis is open daily from 7.30am, or visitors can experience the Gardens on a guided tour at 11am every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Hungerford Crescent, SH1 (off Cobham Drive), Hamilton, NZ 3240, Phone: +64-78-38-67-82
Showcasing and celebrating artists in the Waikato region, ArtsPost is a dynamic artistic space located in a heritage building. Visitors can enjoy free entry into the three galleries, housed in a former post office, from 10am daily. New exhibitions of exclusive works by New Zealand artists are featured regularly. The building also hosts the Waikato Society of Arts and the Galleries are a proud branch of the Waikato Museum.
120 Victoria Street, Hamilton, NZ 3240, Phone: +64-78-38-69-28
In conjunction with ArtsPost Galleries, Waikato Museum is a hub of education and entertainment in the city of Hamilton. A veritable treasure trove of collections, interactive galleries, historic sites and public art works, Waikato Museum honours the rich cultural history of the region through its diverse exhibitions. The Museum curates rich and diversified education programs to ensure the legacy of the past is made relevant to visitors, young and old. Located in the heart of Hamilton’s cultural precinct, thirteen galleries exhibit over twenty-five new exhibitions every year. Open to the public daily from 10am – 5pm.
1 Grantham Street, Hamilton, NZ 3204, Phone: +64-78-38-66-06
Housing over 600 native and exotic mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians on 25 hectares of land, Hamilton Zoo was originally designated as a game farm in 1969. In its current capacity, Hamilton Zoo is committed to conservation, research and breeding programs for endangered species. Visitors can enjoy the largest walk-through aviary in New Zealand, a Face2Face encounter, or an enriching ‘Meet the Keeper’ presentation. Open from 9.30am daily, visitors have access to BBQ facilities, a children’s playground and picnic areas.
183 Brymer Road, Hamilton, NZ 3240
5.Hamilton Lake Domain
The heart of Hamilton recreation, Hamilton Lake Domain features an esplanade walkway around Lake Rotorua for passive recreationists to enjoy beautiful views with samplings from the Verandah Café. A popular fitness circuit and walking path, the esplanade is also popular with families. For the adventurous, Lake Rotorua is the center for water-based activities like wind surfing, dragon boating and raft racing. Innes Common extends to the east and west of Lake Domain Drive and is the site for major public events as well as being home to the Gallagher Hockey Centre.
Ruakiwi Rd, Hamilton Lake, Hamilton, NZ 3204, Phone: +64-78-38-66-99
Gifted to the city in 1973, Taita Arboretum is a collection of mature trees, open pastures, and lush woodland gardens. More than twenty hectares of tranquillity can be accessed by the numerous intersecting walking paths. Open to the public from 8am, the enchanting collection of trees and shrubs is a haven for locals and visitors alike, with great views of Hamilton to be enjoyed from Tills Lookout on Melva Street.
Taitua Road, Temple View, Hamilton, NZ 3289, Phone: +64-78-38-66-22
7.The Riff Raff Statue
© The Riff Raff Statue
For fans of the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show, this interactive public art display pays homage to the director of the film, Richard O’Brien, who cut hair in a barber shop where the statue now stands on Victoria Street. The life-size statue of Riff Raff is depicted in his time warping ensemble, with instructions on how to recreate the iconic dance steps in front of a camera, which broadcasts the bold and brave as they “jump to the left”.
210 Victoria Street, Hamilton, NZ 3204, Phone: +64-21-88-84-69
8.Ye Olde Berry Farm
During berry season, the farm is open daily from 9am, including public holidays. Visitors are welcomed to peruse the bountiful store, which offers a range of berry produce, including fresh and frozen fruits and ice cream. The farm also offers Pick Your Own weekends, with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries on offer during optimal harvesting periods, all grown under cover in tunnel houses to ensure an easy process. Staff are incredibly helpful and will provide assistance to visitors in any capacity.
487 Tauwhare Road, R.D.4, Hamilton, NZ 3284, Phone: +64-78-29-54-89
© Bluestone Steakhouse
Award-winning premier restaurant Bluestone Steakhouse offers a sumptuous menu, specializing in an 18-hour slow cooked rib-eye steak that is chargrilled prior to serving for maximum flavour. Signature steaks, delicious seafood, or delectable pasta – Bluestone serves an array of appealing choices, accompanied by an extensive drinks list, all served in a charming atmosphere. Bookings can be made in advance. The restaurant is open from 6pm, Tuesday – Sunday.
186 Victoria St, Hamilton, NZ 3204, Phone: +64-78-39-51-52
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10.Zealong Tea Estate
As the sole commercial tea estate in New Zealand, Zealong Tea Estate prides itself on producing the finest 100% certified organic teas. The lush estate began as a flowering camellia, which transformed into 1.2 million tea plants across 40 hectares, skilfully cared for by expert workers. Visitors can discover the rich history of the estate, including the harvesting of the leaves, the mastery of processing the leaves and the expert taste profiling on the Tea Walk guided tour. The tour is complete with a sampling of the Origin Collection in a traditional Tea Ceremony. The pristine location is also available for events, with a function and conference center a charming location for weddings and other private events.
495 Gordonton Road, Hamilton, NZ 3281, Phone: +64-78-53-30-18
11.Chim Choo Ree
© Chim Choo Ree
The quintessence of fine dining in a casually styled space, Chim Choo Ree charms with simple food made interesting with flavourful twists. The restaurant, which is currently housed in an historic Waikato brewery, was awarded a Chef’s Hat in 2014. Open for dinner from 5pm Monday – Saturday, visitors receive attention to detail in their contemporary New Zealand menu choices, with the possibility of modifying ingredients to suit personal tastes and dietary requirements.
The Brewery Building, 14 Anzac Parade, Hamilton, NZ 3204, Phone: +64-78-39-43-29
12.Foundation Bar Kitchen Lounge
© Foundation Bar Kitchen Lounge
Chic surrounds for socialising, fresh locally-sourced ingredients, friendly and efficient waitstaff – this is the self-proclaimed foundation of a fun outing. Open 7 days and serving brunch, lunch and dinner, reservations can be made in advance by phone or email. A gluten free menu is available, in addition to the standard menu, brunch, dessert, beverage and platters menus – Foundation provides the essentials for all visitors to enjoy their delectable dining experience. The establishment also hosts events, including All-You-Can-Eat Ribs on Tuesday after 5pm, Live Music on Friday evenings and Wednesday night Movie Night.
1 Maahanga Drive, Northgate, Hamilton, NZ 3210, Phone: +64-78-49-23-11
13.Smith and McKenzie Chophouse
© Smith and McKenzie Chophouse
A highly acclaimed steakhouse, strongly influenced by the old New York style eatery, Smith & McKenzie specialize in slow-cooked steak that is dry aged for 21 days on site. Steak is specially sourced to maximise the flavour experience; the Signature dish of Prime Rib is a suggested 24-hour pre-order to ensure availability. The 150-seat restaurant features a mezzanine and two garden bars to host a variety of functions, including the Chef’s Table 5-course degustation dinner. Openly daily, Smith & McKenzie also offer weekly events, including a Senior Set Menu, Tuesday Quiz Night and Friday Cocktail Hour.
13 Lynden Court, Chartwell, Hamilton, NZ 3210, Phone: +64-78-55-14-00
14.The River Kitchen
© The River Kitchen
Specialising in catering services, The River Kitchen is also a café that aims to share a story of regional agricultural richness and flourishing flavours. Adopting a strong focus on immersion in food-growing environments, the menu here celebrates the regional farmers, harvesters, foragers and handlers. Freshly baked bread, scones, cakes and the House Specialty Brioche can be enjoyed with ethically sourced fair-trade coffee. A tasty lunch menu is also available for a perfect picnic outing.
217 Victoria Street, Hamilton, NZ 3204, Phone: +64-78-39-29-06
14 Best Things to Do in Hamilton, New Zealand
- Hamilton Gardens, Photo: boyloso/stock.adobe.com
- ArtsPost Galleries, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- Waikato Museum, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- Hamilton Zoo, Photo: Ian/stock.adobe.com
- Hamilton Lake Domain, Photo: Natalia/stock.adobe.com
- Taitua Arboretum, Photo: tristanbnz/stock.adobe.com
- The Riff Raff Statue, Photo: The Riff Raff Statue
- Ye Olde Berry Farm, Photo: barmalini/stock.adobe.com
- Bluestone Steakhouse, Photo: Bluestone Steakhouse
- Zealong Tea Estate, Photo: Dany/stock.adobe.com
- Chim Choo Ree, Photo: Chim Choo Ree
- Foundation Bar Kitchen Lounge, Photo: Foundation Bar Kitchen Lounge
- Smith and McKenzie Chophouse, Photo: Smith and McKenzie Chophouse
- The River Kitchen, Photo: The River Kitchen
- Cover Photo: tristanbnz/stock.adobe.com