Hamilton (Kirikiriroa in Māori) is an inland city in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island. The Waikato River, New Zealand's longest river, flows through the middle of the city. This effectively cuts the city in half, with Hamilton West containing the Central Business District and main shopping areas. Hamilton East, among other things, is home to The University of Waikato, resulting in a large student population.
Long-distance buses can be sometimes full, and sometimes empty, so it can pay to book a few days in advance. Booking in advance (particularly on the internet) can also save money - up to half the fare in some cases. In any case, travelling by bus is generally a cheap option, albeit a bit slow at times.
- InterCity Coachlines, +64 9 583 5780, is New Zealand's national coach company and operates over 150 services to more than 600 destinations nationwide.
- Naked Bus, is New Zealand's budget national bus service and go through Hamilton many times daily.
- BUSIT services from towns in the region.
Because New Zealand's major highway (SH 1) cuts through the city, getting to Hamilton is simple. Drive south down State Highway 1 (SH 1) from Auckland. Drive northbound on SH 1 from Taupo, or connect to SH 1 from Rotorua or the Bay of Plenty.
The Northern Explorer train runs 3 days a week from Auckland to Hamilton (departs 7:45AM, arrives 10:15AM), at $48 per person one way, then continues to Wellington. It runs from Wellington to Hamilton on 3 other days a week (departs 7:55AM, arrives 4:30PM), costing from $139, and providing an opportunity to take in some beautiful New Zealand scenery, and the famous Raurimu Rail Spiral. See also: Rail travel in New Zealand.
Hamilton Airport hosts only domestic flights (services from Australia ceased in 2012). Air New Zealand has regular direct flights from:
- Palmerston North – 50-minute flight
- Wellington – fares start at $70 one way for a 70-minute journey
- Christchurch – fares start at $135 one way direct for a 1 hr 50 minute journey (fares start at $70 if you stop in Wellington for half an hour)
There are often limited specials available to/from Hamilton available on Grab-a-seat, Air NZ's website for its specials.
The airport is 14 km (9 mi) from town, so allow time for airport transfers. Taxis and shuttle buses are available. Passengers who arrive on flights late in the evening on Fridays and Saturdays should arrange transport in advance as taxis can be scarce. Also, be aware that fog can close the airport on winter mornings.
The CBD and shopping area is easily walkable. To get to other destinations, there is a bus service provided by Environment Waikato. Bus routes and times are available online , and cover the whole city. A single way ticket costs $3.10 and lasts for one hour. If you intend to use the bus service frequently, it may be worth investing in a BusIt card, an electronic card that although costs $5, will possibly save you money due to the discounts it provides on fares - a single way ticket with a BusIt card costs $2.30 and there is an opportunity to buy a full Day Pass for $7.00.
- 1 Hamilton Gardens. A nice place to visit. In addition to 'normal' gardens such as a rose garden and the Rhododendron Lawn, you can see 'themed' gardens, such as the Chinese Scholar Garden, or the American Revolutionist Garden, among others. Some of the themed gardens are inaccessible after 7:30PM (8PM in the summer). Free.
- 2 Hamilton Zoo, Brymer Rd, ☎ . Daily 9AM-5PM, with last admission at 3:30PM. Home to over 600 native New Zealand and exotic animals. Kids especially enjoy it. To get there, enter Hamilton from the north or south on SH1, and look for the signs on the section of SH1 called Avalon Drive (Te Rapa area in the north). $20, children $9.
- 3 Waikato Museum, 1 Grantham St (south end of Victoria St), ☎ . Daily 10AM-4:30PM. General art and culture displays and exhibits about New Zealand and international cultures. Free entry; charges may apply for some exhibitions.
- 1 Agricultural Fieldays, Mystery Creek Events Centre, 125 Mystery Creek Road. Hosted at Mystery Creek, brings thousands of people (130,000 in 2016) from around the world. Taking place every June, this is a must-see for an insight to farming in New Zealand. $25.
- Hot Air Balloon Festival. Each April is worth a look, especially the night glow event.
- Hamilton Garden Arts Festival. Takes place every year at the end of February. Hosted in the renowned Hamilton Gardens, it includes music, theatre and film.
- Waikato Stadium (FMG Stadium Waikato), 128 Seddon Rd, Whitiora. The home stadium of the Chiefs (Super Rugby) and the Waikato Rugby Union (Mitre 10 Cup), and beginning in 2017–18 also home to New Zealand's stop in the World Rugby Sevens Series. A place to visit for fans of rugby union.
- New Zealand Sevens. early February. The annual rugby sevens tournament, the fourth on the World Rugby Sevens Series circuit, will move to Waikato Stadium for at least the 2017–18 and 2018–19 seasons after having been played at Wellington's Westpac Stadium (aka "The Cake Tin") from the series' creation in 1999–2000. The event, held in early February, involves teams from 16 countries. When held in Wellington, the event attracted over thirty thousand spectators annually. The tournament has become one of New Zealand's leading sporting events. It also has a reputation for a party atmosphere, with a large proportion of attendees choosing to wear fancy dress. Recent years have seen large groups of costumes that vary from Fred Flintstone and Wilma to Care Bears, dance troops, wrestlers and many other interesting costumes. More recently items of recent media interest or advertisements form a key theme. Impersonators of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and George Bush have made appearances. Movie figures such as Men in Black (MIB) and Austin Powers are crowd favourites and an impersonator of Austin has been a regular feature each year performing to the crowd.
- River cruises run daily from Hamilton Gardens.
- Centre Place Mall, Cnr of Ward and Worley Sts. M-Th & Sa: 9am-5.30pm, F: 9am-8.30pm, Su: 10am-4pm. Located in the city centre, the mall includes cafes, restaurants and clothing stores.
- The Base Te Rapa, Cnr of Te Rapa Road and Avalon Drive. M-Sa: 9am-6pm, Su: 10am-5pm, Te Awa mall open to 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Located on the northern outskirt of the city, The Base includes a mall (Te Awa) and many department stores.
- ArtsPost Galleries, 120 Victoria St, ☎ . An art gallery showcasing local work. Well worth a visit, and also offers a range of items for sale, from paintings to glass blown paperweights. Daily 10AM-4:30PM. Free.
- Casabella Lane is located on Barton St and contains many boutique stores, and many cafes.
Make your way to the developing vibe of Hamilton East's Grey Street. A place to find a unique store or funky café or bar.
- Domaine Restaurant, 575 Victoria St.
- Iguana, 203 Victoria St, ☎ . A central city restaurant offering mainly pizza and salads.
- The Londoner, 596 Victoria St, ☎ . An English-style pub at the end of Victoria Street.
- Metropolis, 211 Victoria St, ☎ . Offers decent coffee and cafe food.
Most of Hamilton's clubs are located with easy walking distance of each other, in the Victoria/Hood/Alexandra Street area.
- The Outback, cnr Victoria & Hood Sts. A typical student bar and the main bar for the university orientation week.
- Zone Bar, Skycity, Level 2, 346 Victoria St. The main sport bar in the city. Located in the Skycity casino building. Includes a deck with views over the river. Also on the same floor as a bowling alley and laser tag activities.
- 1 Eagle's Nest Backpackers, 937 Victoria St, ☎ . On the north end of Victoria St, approx 10 mins walk from the bars. $28 for a bed, $60 for a double room.
- 2 Microtel Backpackers (formerly YHA), 140 Ulster St, ☎ . Nice hostel, but single rooms are tiny. $29 for a bed, $49 for a single room, $69 for a double.
- 3 Backpackers Central, 846 Victoria St. Central location and breakfast is included, but some rooms don't have windows and so get hot in summer
Bed & breakfast
- City Centre Hamilton Bed and Breakfast, 3 Anglesea St, Central, ☎ . A studio cottage sleeping up to three people and includes a kitchenette, bathroom, off-street parking, free Internet access. Five minutes walk from central Hamilton.
- Shailers Bed & Breakfast, 1447 Kakaramea Rd, ☎ . Luxury homestay / farmstay twelve minutes drive from Hamilton, in the heart of New Zealand's most fertile region, the Waikato. Tours of the three-hundred cow dairy farm.
- Quest Apartments Hamilton, 42-47 Ward St, ☎ . Features 29 apartments (26 x 1 bedroom units and 3 studio units) in central Hamilton. Easy access to the main bars, casinos, shopping and Hamilton's information centre
- Novotel Hamilton, 7 Alma St, ☎ . The city's largest hotel and the only 4.5 star rate hotel. Located next to Hamilton's only casino, right in the centre of town.
- Ibis Tainui, 18 Alma St, ☎ . Located on the riverbank, with many rooms including a view of the city's majestic river.
- Ventura Inn & Suites Hamilton, 23 Clarence St, ☎ . Centrally located.
- Matamata is about 45 minutes away - follow SH 1, turning off towards Tauranga onto SH 29, and then turning off towards Matamata onto SH 27. A small rural community of about 12,000 people, its main claim to fame is that it was the filming site for the Lord of the Rings - in particular the Shire. Visitors are able to visit Hobbiton, though reservations need to made in advance.
- Raglan is a beachside town about 50 km (31 mi) away. Simply follow SH 23 out of Hamilton to get there. The town is well known for its excellent surf beaches, including Indicators, Whale Bay, and Manu Bay. There are several buses a day here.
- Rotorua is a major destination roughly an hour and a half away. Follow SH 1 and then turn onto SH 5 at Tirau.