1 - The Waikato River
The mighty Waikato River is New Zealand's longest at 425km in length, and during its journey from the snow-covered slopes of Ruapehu to the sea at Waikato Heads, it shows a number of characters. When it reaches Hamilton, it is generally full and tranquil, no longer rushing and churning as in the beginning, near Taupo. The shores of the Waikato offer many scenic walks and cycle-paths. Over 100 km of tracks are there for walkers, runners and cyclists along the banks of the river. River-sports, such as rowing, kayaking, or boating are popular, and fishing is a regular pastime. The river has its own riverboat, the Waikato Explorer, with a range of cruises available, including a wine tasting cruise.
2 - The Parks of Hamilton
Hamilton Lake (Lake Rotoroa) Domain is within the city and, although not suitable for swimming, a number of activities take place here. There is a walking track around the Lake, 3.8 km long. The ducks and swans that flock here are always ready to be fed. The Hamilton Gardens are a beautiful place to visit, with rolling lawns and gardens to admire. The themed gardens feature plantings from a number of countries, including a New Zealand Maori garden. There are also roses, a number being rare varieties. Claudelands Park borders the Showgrounds and Event Centre in Hamilton East, with Jubilee Bush close by. Jubilee Bush is a spot of the original Kahikatea bushland. Memorial Park is more central, close to the River, and offering a Spitfire plane, artillery, an anchor and 'The Rangiriri' on the riverside. There is also a jetty in the Park. Parana Park is a children's park, with play being paramount. There is a paddling pool, and Kowhai is the theme featured in the slide and fountain there. The Taitua Arboretum is 20 Ha of trees, pasture and gardens that have a wonderful bird presence and a wander through their many paths is a delightful way to spend a day.
3 - Kids In Hamilton
The first place that one thinks to take the kids is to the Hamilton Zoo. With over 600 animals, native and exotic, and a large free-flight aviary there is always something fun to see. Visit the prehistoric Tuatara, a rare sight even in New Zealand, and see everyone's favourite, the Monkeys. The Zoo offers Face to Face meetings with Lemur, Tigers, Rhino or Chimps. Right next door to the Zoo is the Hamilton Observatory, which is open to the public on 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month, featuring a slide show of the heavens. Candyland, 'The Sweetest Place on Earth' is close to Hamilton, and the kids love visiting here. Watch the lollies getting made, and get the chance to make your own lollipop. See the Chocolate making room. Queen Candy and her elves run shows on every weekend day.
All through the year, the Hamilton Museum features events that are current and entertaining. There are special children's events that educate as well as engage a kid's interest. A large percentage of the exhibitions have a Maori flavour, to increase our knowledge of the Maori and their culture. They also have a permanent collection of Tangata Whenua artefacts (People of the Land), as well as Visual Arts, Social History and Science. There is a specialized Museum in nearby Huntly, which is a coal town. Recently moved, the Coal Museum is now set up in an Old Railway Station at Lake Puketirini, and tells about the history of coal in the Waikato, the disasters that struck, costing lives of miners, and displaying all sorts of coal-related artefacts. Back in Hamilton proper, another specialized museum is the Classic Car Museum, which has a number of cars, and they are beauties! The collection includes a heap of motoring paraphernalia as well from fuel pumps to oil bottles, vintage toys and pedal cars.
5 - Out and About Hamilton
There are some major attractions in the towns around Hamilton. Everyone's favourite destination is 'Hobbiton' in Matamata, just out of Hamilton. Visit the Shire where all the Hobbits lived while they were being filmed in 'Lord of The Rings' See the Green Dragon where they drank in the evenings and enjoy the beauty of the location.
Another major attraction close to Hamilton that must be seen is the Waitomo Caves, which are actually three caves, all very different in character. Two highlights are the Glow-worms and the Black Water Rafting. The Glow-worm grotto is not to be missed.
Cambridge is also very close to Hamilton and is a typical English style town, complete with a river and colourful trees. Cambridge is the Equestrian capital of New Zealand, with millions of dollars-worth of horseflesh grazing the green pastures around the town.
6 - BONUS - A Little Extra
Every June the rural community of New Zealand converge upon Hamilton for the southern hemisphere's largest agricultural event, the National Field days. Located at Mystery Creek, the Fieldays are a major part of a local farmers calendar, showcasing all the latest in agriculture and associated industry.
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