The South Island of New Zealand gets a lot of publicity. With attractions ranging from skiing to surfing, sights from wild penguins to wine country, and the wonderful city of Queenstown, it’s no wonder it’s such a popular destination among all types.
The country’s North Island too, though, has plenty to offer, despite it’s not always getting quite as much attention.
This is particularly true for those willing to take the time to truly explore and get to know some of the cities and specific destinations. And it’s for that reason that we’re taking a look at one of the New Zealand cities that doesn’t pop up often enough in travel recommendations. These are our five recommendations for experiencing Hamilton:
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1. Spend Time Outside
It may be a popular recommendation to spend time outside in New Zealand – but perhaps less so in the cities. Nevertheless, we’d recommend you start at the Hamilton Gardens for a fun day outdoors. These technically comprise a public park, with many different kinds of gardens, including ones with historical significance and styles. There’s also a lake and several open lawns, along with a conference center (and a cemetery, though a rather nice one). With plenty to see and do, the park can keep you occupied all afternoon.
If you’re interested in engaging further with nature while you’re in town, you can also check out the Hamilton Zoo, where you can enjoy face-to-face animal encounters and a variety of other experiences.
2. Check Out Local Art and Culture
The Maori people are indigenous to New Zealand, having arrived on the land in the 1300s (from the Polynesian Islands). Since then, their distinct traditions and culture have become ingrained with the country, in a way that isn’t necessarily common where natives populations are concerned. You can check out some of that culture now through the ArtsPost Museum and Waikato Museum, and learn everything from what Maori art is like to how to speak a few words of the language.
3. Visit the Casino
Even if you’ve had a busy day sightseeing on the North Island, the local casino is worth going out for at night. SkyCity Hamilton is an impressive building, marked by a striking fountain and gold entrance. Even more impressive, though, is the inside, which offers an awesome selection of game tables and slots (what the locals call pokies) for an exciting night out.
It’s true, as you might hear if you look up this kind of attraction, that New Zealand has fairly extensive online gaming options as well. Various gambling sites and pokies sites with convenient payment options make gaming at a physical casino less than necessary. SkyCity’s merit though – besides providing the social component of casino gaming – is that it also offers all the bars, restaurants, and even games (like bowling and simulated golf) you could want in a whole night out.
4. Geek Out Over Your Favorite Movie
The fictional town of Hobbiton is a huge draw for tourists in and around Hamilton. The movie set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as The Hobbit series, is just as you may remember it, with Bilbo’s hobbit hole and circular blue door, as well as the hedges and paths that feature so prominently in the two film series. You can book a tour that will pick you up if you want to make things as convenient as possible (because Hobbiton is slightly outside of Hamilton), but you can make your own way to the sprawling set as well. Just make sure if you take the latter approach you still book a tour of the set because they don’t take walk-ins.
5. Sail Along the River
Last but not least, you can also take a riverboat tour through the city. The popular tour doubles as a floating café, with yummy treats to make the scenic trip that much more pleasant. You’ll find old bridges and sculptures along the way, plus native wildlife, and you may even get to wave hello if you see the local rowing crew out practicing! It’s all fairly low-key, but it’s an excellent option for a nice day if you just want to relax and experience Hamilton in a whole different way.
Disclosure: This post has been contributed to Owl Over The World.
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