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.
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.
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 International Airport now hosts only domestic flights, with flights from Australia ceasing in 2012. It has regular direct flights from:
- Auckland - fares begin at $65 one way for a journey of 30 minutes (this flight is planned to cease in Feb 2016)
- Wellington - fares start at $70 one way for a 1 hour journey
- Christchurch - fares start at $135 one way direct for a 1 hr 40 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 New Zealand'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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Agricultural Fieldays. Hosted at Mystery Creek, brings thousands of people (125,000 in 2007) from around the world. Taking place every June, this is a must-see for an insight to farming in New Zealand.
- 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, 128 Seddon Rd, Whitiora. The home stadium of the Chiefs (Super Rugby) and the Waikato Rugby Union (ITM Cup). A place to visit for fans of rugby union.
- Centre Place Mall, Cnr of Ward and Worley Sts. Mon-Thurs & Sat: 9am-5.30pm, Fri: 9am-8.30pm Sun: 10am-4pm. Located in the city centre the mall includes good cafe's restaurants and clothing stores
- The Base Te Rapa, Cnr of Te Rapa Road and Avalon Drive. Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm, Sun: 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, ☏ . Is 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,as well as many good cafes. One of Hamilton's best kept secrets.
- 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.
- CBD Corner Pub, cnr Hood St & Alexandra St. A nice warm pub with good meals and a good atmosphere.
- Good Home, 27 Hood St. A great bar with a nice deck. Serves craft beer from many breweries from around the country.
- Monkey Feather. The club to hear local DJs and the best of electronic music.
- 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.
- Novotel Hamilton, 7 Alma St, ☏ . Is the city's largest hotel, and only 4.5 star rate hotel. Located next to Hamilton's only casino, right in the centre of town.
- Ibis Tainui, 18 Alma St, ☏ . Is 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 hotel.
- 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.
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.
- 3 Halletts Bed & Breakfast, 1380 Kakaramea Rd, Ngahinapouri, ☏ . Halletts Bed & Breakfast is a boutique lifestyle B&B, surrounded by views of green rolling pastures and mountain backdrops. $120.
- Shailers Bed & Breakfast, 1447 Kakaramea Rd, ☏ . Luxury homestay / farmstay twelve minutes drive from Hamilton City. It is 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
- 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, provided by Environment Waikato. Fares range from $5-10 one way, dependent on when in Hamilton you get on the bus!
- Rotorua is a major destination roughly an hour and a half away. Follow SH 1 and then turn onto SH 5 at Tirau.