The region’s main metropolitan hub of Hamilton is situated on the banks of the mighty Waikato River, and its rich cultural mix and vibrant centre makes it a perfect place to experience the friendly Kiwi lifestyle. A sophisticated and thriving restaurant and cafe scene has cemented itself as one of New Zealand’s best, with award winning dining options dotted throughout the city. Its mix of modern urban eateries and cafes offer visitors a variety of tasty Asian and Mediterranean inspired cuisine alongside delicious local Kiwi fare. The southern end of central Hamilton, near the modern SkyCity Hamilton casino, is abuzz with wine bars, pubs and clubs showcasing local and imported beverages and an eclectic range of DJs and live bands.
Hamilton City and the wider region also bosts regular world-class international, national and local events, all contributing to the region’s reputation as one of New Zealand’s leading events centres. With events including the National Agricultural Fieldays, Balloons Over Waikato Festival, Gallagher Great Race and Festival One, along with sporting matches, concerts, expos and more all making up the regions events calendar, there is always something happening.
Meanwhile Cambridge, just a short drive down SH1, adds to the mix with its great café scene and boutique-style vineyards including Mystery Creek Winery and Vilagrads Winery, on the city’s outskirts, so you can relax over a glass or two of fine local wine amid the rolling countryside.
When it’s time to go shopping, expect to find everything you could want in Waikato Region. Boutique stores throughout the city sell high-end fashion and gifts. Check out the Spanish-style Casabella Lane for its unique setting and gift stores and convenience is offered by way of the city’s large modern malls, including the country’s largest shopping complex, which cover the range from clothing to books and electronic goods. Towns like Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Te Aroha and Matamata feature top antiques, boutique homewares and gift stores in charming rural settings. There are also bustling weekend markets, with local produce for sale along with arts, crafts and gifts or browse the number of galleries dotted throughout the region for quirky arts and craft.
The Waikato River is one of Hamilton city’s iconic features and the simplest way to enjoy it is by taking a stroll or bike ride along its banks. You can also take one of the Waikato River Cruise options with the chance to learn more about the city’s history and culture. Another perspective altogether is offered by way of a magical hot air balloon ride, rising serenely above the city and with great views of the green countryside. The Waikato region has perfect conditions for such flights. Time your visit and you could see dozens of balloons floating above the city and region as part of the country’s premier ballooning festival, Balloons Over Waikato.
Culturally, the Waikato region has a thriving artistic community and the Waikato Museum features a diverse range of art, interactive and historical exhibitions. Over five levels, and on the banks of the river, the museum showcases the cultural heritage of the region as well as showing national and international exhibitions. There are also a myriad of boutique galleries and art studios dotted around the city and surrounding region.
Other arts and cultural attractions around the region include the hugely popular Hamilton Gardens which celebrates the history of gardens with an array of specialist gardens from Italian Renaissance to traditional Maori.
The Waikato Region offers everything you could want from a vibrant modern region, whether you’re looking for nightlife, shopping, great food, wine and arts, or family fun.