28 July 2014
Hamilton First XI: Tourist Highlights
From magnificent parks and gardens to a thriving cultural precinct, Hamilton offers a combination of fine dining and nightlife options as well as an eclectic mix of leisure, lifestyle and activity choices.
Come and explore
Meander through a lush tropical jungle, visit ancient China or indulge yourself in a Renaissance Prince’s 16th century garden at Hamilton Gardens. Telling the Story of Gardens through themed garden collections, the Gardens is a window into the story of civilizations around the world. Hamilton Gardens is the Waikato’s most visited tourist destination and is only a five minute drive from Hamilton’s central city. Open every day during daylight hours and entry and parking is free. Visit website.
Hamilton Zoo is home to over 600 native and exotic animals and boasts the largest free-flight aviary in New Zealand. Get to know New Zealand’s animals during free daily “Meet the Keeper” talks. For a special experience, go behind the scenes on a Face2Face encounter and meet Sumatran tigers, southern white rhinos, chimpanzees or lemurs. Hamilton Zoo aims to inspire conservation action through participation in various projects, and contribute to breeding programmes for endangered species. Visit website.
Never a dull moment
Located in the heart of Hamilton's cultural precinct, Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato and ArtsPost Galleries and Shop provide a rich experience of the arts and culture of the region. The Museum’s 12 galleries tell the stories of arts, culture, history and science through visual and interactive experiences. Highlights include the majestic 200-year-old carved Waka Taua - Te Winika, Ngaa Pou Whenua, the story of the four tribes of Tainui, art works by prominent New Zealand and regional artists and the engaging and quirky social history exhibition. Visit website.
The Hamilton City River walkway and cycleway runs for 10 kilometres through central Hamilton, along the banks of the Waikato River. The track is well signposted and can be accessed at multiple points along the river. It is suitable for riders of all fitness and experience levels. There are park benches and grassy areas along the track for riders who want to stop to picnic, or sit and watch the boats, birds and people go by. Visit website.
Hamilton diners are spoilt for choice with an abundance of top quality establishments from which to choose. From a vibrant nightlife scene, award-winning restaurants and wine bars to top cafes, artisan bakeries and delis the city has plenty to offer. Enjoy high tea at New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Zealong Tea Estate, partake in a brewery tour and tasting at Good George Brewery or pick up some fresh local produce from the Hamilton Farmers Market. Visit website.
Cruising on the river
Experience the beauty of the Waikato River and enjoy a relaxing scenic cruise as you travel through the heart of Hamilton, taking in the stunning views of the city. Departing from the Hamilton Gardens choose from options such as scenic cruises, wine tasting tour, and charter options for groups. Visit website.
Hit the shops
Boutique stores throughout Hamilton city sell high-end fashion and gifts, while the Spanish-style Casabella Lane is known for its unique setting and elegant gift stores. Check out the city’s large modern malls including Centreplace, Westfield Chartwell and New Zealand’s largest shopping complex, The Base – Te Awa. Towns like Cambridge, Tirau, Te Awamutu, Te Aroha and Matamata feature top antiques, boutique homewares and gift stores in charming rural settings, and bustling weekend markets are perfect for local produce and handmade arts, crafts and gifts. Visit Website.
Meet the Hobbits
In the heart of Hamilton and Waikato’s countryside is a place unlike any other; the Shire, including the Hobbiton movie set, the permanent set created for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ trilogies. Visitors will be treated to first-hand insights into the details that went into creating the set. The hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and other structures can be viewed, and you will see how this beautiful piece of farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-earth. Visit website.
An hour south of Hamilton, the mystical world of Waitomo awaits. Millions of years in the making, Waitomo’s awe-inspiring cave network draws people looking for adventure and those looking for a sense of wonder, providing a playground unlike any other. Weird and wonderful limestone formations emerge from the underground darkness, which is also punctuated by the twinkling lights of thousands of glow worms. Take a walking tour or boat ride through the majestic caverns, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the myriad abseiling, climbing, zip-lining and black water rafting activities on offer. Visit website.
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is an internationally significant conservation project encompassing 3,400 hectares of native forest. The ecological reserve provides a haven for native flora and fauna, and the opportunity to spot some native birds such as Kaka and Takahe. The reserve’s southern enclosure features easy walking trails, a 16 metre high forest canopy viewing tower, a 600 year old rata and Kaka feeding. Experience the Tautari Wetlands where visitors can get up-close with tuatara, and night tours which showcase the wonders of the New Zealand native bush after-dark. Visit website.
With its black sand beaches, world class surfing, tranquil harbour and laidback vibe, Raglan is a unique slice of kiwi paradise just 45 minutes’ from Hamilton. Raglan’s bohemian atmosphere and idyllic coastal setting makes it the perfect spot for an afternoon browsing amongst the boutique cafes and shops or lazing on the beach. Those with more adventurous activities in mind can try stand-up paddle boarding, take a surf lesson or head a short drive away to the beaches that make the area a surfing mecca. Visit website.
For more information on what to see and do while you are in Hamilton, visit: www.hamiltonwaikato.com
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