Located in the Waikato region on New Zealand's North Island, occupying the land on either side of the Waikato River, Hamilton—or Kirikiriroa as it's known by traditional owners—is one of NZ's most well-known cities. Awarded the title of Most Beautiful Large City in New Zealand in 2020, Hamilton delivers a well-balanced experience of big city events & attractions with a small-town feel, and plenty of fun things to do.
Starting its life as Hilldale Game farm way back in 1969, Hamilton Zoo is one of the landmark attractions of the area. Home to over 600 native and exotic animals with 25 hectares of habitat to enjoy, the Zoo has you covered with anything from American Bison to the African Zebra, as well as boasting the largest walk-through aviary in the country, dedicated to the amazing native birds and fauna that call the Hamilton area home.
You can choose from one of the Face2Face encounters for a more up-close animal experience or catch a "Meet the Keeper" talk highlighting interesting behaviour and other fun tidbits.
Hamilton Zoo is also committed to the conservation of animals and their environment, participating in various conservation and research projects and contributing to breeding programmes for endangered species.
In keeping with many of New Zealand's most popular destinations, Hamilton is also an ideal spot to get your grub on. Whether it's a quick coffee and a bite or a celebratory sit-down, the city of Hamilton has something to offer.
Try The River Kitchen for all your breakfast needs and a pristine view of the nearby Waikato River. The cuisine is designed to celebrate the river that gives its name, life, and flavours to this conscious establishment. If you're looking for a local place to eat lunch, look no further than Gothenburg, whose eclectic tapas menu takes inspiration from the owner's Carl and Susanna's travels across Sweden, Spain, Thailand, South America, Belgium and Canada.
One of Hamilton's most popular and well-known attractions, Hamilton Gardens is a must-visit for garden enthusiasts, international travellers, and casual visitors. Owned and managed by Hamilton City Council, the gardens were initially created after the Hamilton Beautifying Society lobbied for a public garden way back in the 1950s, remaining primarily unchanged until 1980 when the gardens began to take their current shape.
In contrast to many public gardens, which may focus on native or exotic flora, Hamilton Gardens is unique, with a mission of showcasing the meaning and context of gardens within human culture over the past 4,000 years. This concept has seen the creation of a vast range of curated garden & landscape experiences that transport visitors thousands of miles away, to anywhere from Japan, China, India, England, and more. Visit the Ancient Egyptian Garden to return to the land of the Pharaohs, teleport to the equator in the Tropical Garden, or relax and rewind in the Italian Renaissance Garden. Hamilton Gardens is open all year round and free to enter, but there are also guided tours for those looking for a more educational experience.
One of the most exciting ways to drink in the beautiful sights of the Waikato Basin is to take on your very own hot air balloon ride. Head down to one of Hamilton's picturesque lakes at dawn before floating off into the clouds to enjoy the view, where you'll be able to take in the surrounding city, farmlands and the mighty Waikato River. On clear sunny days, lucky passengers will even get to see the mountains of Ruapehu, Pirongia, Te Aroha, and Taranaki.
With the only commercial balloon rides available in Hamilton, Kiwi Balloon Company is your go-to operator. Flights last approximately one hour, where the wind will decide the exact route of your balloon. Once back on the ground, you'll help pack the balloon away before returning to the launch site for a traditional celebration of complimentary snacks and beverages.
The newly realised version of Hamilton's Cherry Blossom Festival, Blossfest, is all about sharing the amazing English Cherry Tree Manor with the public during its most amazing seasonal period, bringing diverse communities together in a celebration of life in Aotearoa. Moving to the property in 1996, Paul Oulton and partner Anne Cao have transformed what was once grass and bare land into an array of ponds, streams, waterfalls, drystone walls, bluebells, woods and, of course, the famous cherry blossoms, as well as rhododendrons, camellias, tulips, and lavender.
The festival started in 2017 after organisers recognised the vast amount of trespassers trying to get a glimpse of the garden. The 2022 Festival will run from Saturday to Monday, September 24-26 and Saturday to Monday, October 1-3, featuring themed days, private tents, food providers, entertainment, and more.
Zealong Tea Estate holds the title of New Zealand's only team plantation, growing their unique brand of tea organically in the rich soil provided by the Waikato area, finishing in some of the purest tea products in the world.
Zealong is also home to one of the most elevated High Tea experiences available. They combine their unique NZ hospitality with the purest tea and amazing bites to create a genuinely unmissable day for keen tea drinkers and cake lovers. The Zealong Tea Room offers a more dinner-friendly dining experience showcasing local ingredients, and there are Discover experiences and kids events on offer for the travelling family.
An absolute must-visit for any travelling automotive enthusiasts, Classics Museum in Hamilton boasts an extensive collection of over 100 classic cars of yesteryear, all with their own unique story, as well as hundreds of pieces of automotive and antique memorabilia. Owned by Hamilton entrepreneur Tom Andrews, Classics Museum came from humble beginnings, starting many years ago with Tom constructing a shed to house his expanding collection. Fast-forward to today, and the museum is now one of Hamilton's top tourist attractions.
With its very own 1950's themed Jukebox Diner and amazing collection of cars such as the 1969 McLaren M6 GT, the 1906 Allday & Onions, and the 1959 Messerschmitt K200, it's a great destination for travellers looking for something quaint, quirky, and historical.
We could go on and on about all the fun things you can do and see in Hamilton. Whether you're visiting with friends, family, or partners, there's always something new and exciting in this unique city.
Now that you're prepared to enjoy all the fun things to do in Hamilton, read some more of our top New Zealand holiday ideas and start planning your Hamilton accommodation for your kiwi adventure.