Located in New Zealand’s Waikato region, the city of Hamilton is known for its gardens, parks, vast farmlands and vibrant cultural scene. Whether you want to experience one of the most famous fantasy settings, enjoy the beautiful natural scenery along the Waikato River, fly in a hot air balloon or try your luck at winning a casino jackpot, this New Zealand city has something for everyone. In what follows, we break down five exciting activities to try out during your next visit.
Experience the Hobbit life
- R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth might be a fictional realm, but you can still step into the Shire™ by paying a visit to the Lord Of The Rings movie set, located just a 45-minute drive away from Hamilton.
In 1998, the LOTRs location scouts team was looking for the perfect place to represent the rolling hills and green pastures of Hobbiton™ and they stumbled upon a sheep farm at the heart of the Waikato. Nowadays, LOTR fans can access numerous reconstructed Hobbit Holes and have dinner at The Green Dragon™ Inn.
Walk alongside the Waikato River
Hamilton sits on the banks of the Waikato River, the longest river in the country. Stretching 425 kilometres from Lake Taupo to the Tasman Sea, the Waikato River is culturally significant to the Māori people, who consider it a sacred waterway.
If you wish to enjoy the stunning scenery and discover streams, suspension bridges and boardwalks you can walk, run or cycle along the river’s five trail sections. While the majority of trails are quite wide and smooth, others are trickier single-track trails ideal for more experienced hikers or cyclers. So make sure to choose your trail carefully.
Explore Hamilton Gardens
This is not your average botanic garden. Instead of learning about different flora species, you’ll be learning about the larger history of gardens and the various types of garden designs through 21 themed collections. Walk around the Italian Renaissance, Ancient Egyptian, Victorian, Japanese, Chinese and many other picturesque gardens.
Hamilton Gardens is open every day of the year and entry is free. Visitors who wish to get a deeper insight into the histories, cultures and philosophies behind the gardens can book a 75-minute, guided tour for a fee.
Watch hot air balloons over Waikato
If you visit Hamilton in March, make sure not to miss the legendary Balloons Over Waikato festival. You’ll get the chance of seeing colourful hot air balloons flying high in the sky. If you’re brave enough, you can also go up in a balloon yourself and enjoy a panoramic view of Hamilton, the Waikato River and the farmlands. Flights leave early in the morning and are accessible for a fee.
In addition to the stunning sight of numerous flying balloons, it’s also possible to enjoy quality food from truck snacks and live music and go on carnival rides.
Hamilton is one of the most exciting cities in New Zealand to visit. Both locals and tourists can enjoy numerous activities such as experiencing the LOTR movie set, walking alongside the Waikato River, exploring the Hamilton Gardens, and joining the Balloons Over Waikato Festival.