16 Aug 19: Hamilton's history of death, war, beer and progress

This tour acts a bit like the tall glass of water you'll need at the end of it - a thirst for knowledge about this fair city's past and present will be well quenched.

Waikato Museum's Hamilton History Tour takes you on a loop around the city centre. You'll learn about key architecture, statues, artwork and historical landmarks.

Just throw on a headset, turn up the volume and let bubbly and informative volunteer tour guide Peter Gillies do the rest. 

Stepping out onto the main drag our first stop is Tongue of the Dog. Hundreds drive past it every day, but what appears to be a colourful water-feature actually portrays the Māori legend of how Waikato River came to be. 

It's said that a brother (Tongariro maunga) and a sister (Taupiri maunga) were separated. Taupiri pined for her bother, so he sent his dog to cut a path to her to make her feel better.

Down the footpath is Chim Choo Ree, a high-end restaurant at the base of Victoria St and the former home of the Waikato Brewery in the 1860s.

The business almost went bankrupt twice under the eye of its owner Charles Innes, but the woman of the house was able to bring it back to health, Gillies tells the group.

"She ran it very successfully when she took over, along with bringing up 10 children" Gillies says. But there's suspicion about the husband's cause of death - apparently he died in one of the brewery's bathtubs. 

Moving on, Gillies wanders through the trees towards the river, rattling off dates and titbits about the Band Rotunda (built in 1916) and the towering London plane trees early settlers planted in Ferrybank Park "trying to recreate Britain".

Along the river, Gilles points out Māori Pā sites dotted along the east bank and the remnants of PS Rangiriri, a steam engine that brought militia up the river to remove them.

The land was bountiful, which is why they didn't want to sell the land, Gillies said.

"It was obviously a very big Māori population - very affluent - and they were pushed out by the militia."

Through a path in riverside bush and up through the acclaimed Victoria on the River park and onto the main street again, Gilles turns to new building developments around the city and how it's similar to the building boom in the 1900s.

We amble on down to The Bank, our final stop. The building on the corner of Hood and Victoria streets was one of the first concrete buildings to come to Hamilton, Gillies says.

"It showed a bit of confidence in the fact that things were going to be happening here." 

If you have a spare hour and $20, there's so much more to learn about this fair city. While it is just a taste, it still leaves you refreshed.