A visit to Hamilton Gardens is a must-do Hamilton activity. This free attractions tells the story of gardens through themed garden collections which explore different civilisations and historically important times, and includes an onsite café offering tempting treats, and plenty of space to explore.
The Waikato region has a rich history and there’s no better place to delve into it than at the Waikato Museum. Here you’ll find interesting exhibitions telling the stories of local arts, history, culture and science along with interactive and educational exhibitions for children of all ages.
Highlights include Exscite, a science gallery the kids will love, and the Te Whare Waka o Te Winika exhibition which tells the story of Tainui and the King movement and includes the spectacular Te Winika 200 year old Maori war canoe.
Classic Car Museum
Another Hamilton museum worth visiting is the Classics Museum. Not only a display of an impressive collection of classic cars, the museum also includes petrol memorabilia, women’s fashion and pedal cars, making it one of the top things to do in Hamilton.
The onsite Jukebox Diner features a 13m-tall replica of a Wurlitzer jukebox and staff members dressed in 50s-style diner outfits add a touch of authenticity any visitor will appreciate.
Hamilton Zoo boasts more than 600 native and exotic creatures spread over 25 hectares.
With a tuatara house and native reptile corner, which features the vulnerable Hochstetter’s frog, a variety of monkeys, the rare Southern white rhinoceros and Australasia’s largest free flight aviary Hamilton Zoo is popular with both locals and visitors alike.
A popular attraction at Hamilton Zoo is the Face2Face encounters, which allows visitors to get up close and personal with the likes of Lemurs, Rhino’s, Chimps and more.
SKYCITY Hamilton is not only home to a large casino, it also boasts multiple restaurants and cafes, tenpin bowling and regular live entertainment.
Enjoy a meal while you watch the footie, grab a quick bite while the kids play tenpin bowling or meet friends for a tapas platter, a burger or cocktail from one of the new restaurants in the SKYCITY Dining precinct.
Zealong Tea Plantation
Nestled among the rolling green fields of the Waikato region is the Zealong Tea Estate, Hamilton - and New Zealand’s - only tea plantation.
Tea lovers will enjoy the 90-minute tours on offer here as you learn how tea is made and all about its history, and experience a traditional tea ceremony.
Treat yourself to a high tea or light lunch at the Camellia Tea House – accompanied by a cup of the plantation’s finest tea with stunning views out over the tea plantation.
Golf at St Andrews
Arguably the top Hamilton golf club, the St Andrews course is one of the Waikato region’s - and New Zealand’s - best. The course can be played year-round, has holes bordering the Waikato River and is challenging whatever your golfing ability.
Walking and cycling
Meandering alongside the Waikato River is one of the best Hamilton walks. The peaceful walk takes in great views of the mighty Waikato River, parks and playgrounds and offers ample bird watching opportunities. For an easy Sunday stroll, head for Hamilton’s Lake Rotoroa. The 3.8km loop around the lake passes by stately homes and grassy parklands and the large children’s playground and café makes for the prefect spot for a bite to eat while the kids burn off some steam.
Taitua Aboretum just west of town is also a popular walk featuring an impressive selection of mature trees spread across 22 hectares of open spaces.
Hot air ballooning
There’s something magical about drifting slowly over a city at sunrise in a hot air balloon. Hamilton, home to the popular Balloons over Waikato hot air ballooning festival is one of the best places around to experience that magic.
The crisp dawn air will awaken your senses as you float lazily through the sky, enjoying the views of the city, its lake and river and the rolling pastures the Waikato region is famed for from a unique perspective.
Hot Air Balloon flights are also available to book.
From beginner horse treks across farmland to advanced rides around landmarks such as Mt Pirongia, there is plenty of choice.
The Waikato Equestrian Centre runs a riding school and various events, and for budding horse riders Pony Tales is well worth a visit. It offers pony parties and rides, and private riding lessons.
Delve into Hamilton’s history with a relaxing Waikato River cruise. There’s no better way to explore the Waikato region. Cruises take you past native bush, historic bridges, waterfalls and much more. The Waikato River was once a busy highway used by early Maori, and entertaining guides will fill you in on this as you go.
All this sightseeing can work up an appetite, and the Waikato River Explorer has a fully licensed bar and café food for sale.
Read more about the Waikato River Explorer.
When it comes to culture, there’s no shortage of things to do in Hamilton. This Waikato, New Zealand city has a range of theatres and venues which run regular plays, musicals, concerts, films and much more for your viewing pleasure with everything from – opera and ballet, to art-house films and comedians.
Restaurants & Nightlife
The Hamilton nightlife and dining scene has developed in recent years to become one of New Zealand’s best. Whether you’re out for a casual drink or a big night on the town, a lazy brunch or light lunch, a five-star dinner or a quick coffee and snack on the run, this vibrant city has something for you. Japanese, Mediterranean, European, Mexican and Moroccan food are readily available all over Hamilton, alongside delicious kiwi fair and top local produce.
Hamilton is a metropolitan hub boasting an array of shopping choices. Boutique stores, malls, farmers’ markets, designer fashion stores, art galleries and much more is on the Hamilton shopping agenda. Not to mention the country's largest shopping complex, Te Awa at The Base.