One of the best perks of business trips is the occasional chance to fit in some international travel to a busy schedule. I was lucky enough to head to beautiful New Zealand on business recently, and can’t say enough positive things about this pristine country.
Forget about the traditional tourist traps though, the key to experiencing this country like a local is to head to some of its hidden gems. One of these, as I found out, is Hamilton.
Nestled in the North Island’s farming region known as Waikato, Hamilton is a city of stark contrasts. On one hand, it’s a bustling metropolis bursting with unique bars, a thriving nightclub scene and mega malls shoppers and kids will adore. On the other, however, it’s an untouched oasis of flora and fauna, with vast stretches of greenery interspersed with tranquil bodies of water. Need more convincing? Check out three of my favourite things about this enticing city.
Ask any local or tourist the first thing you should do when you head to Hamilton and they will point you in the direction of the gardens. Just a stone’s throw away from your hotel, this lush area will instantly transport you out of the hustle and bustle of the city and into a peaceful and serene setting.
Full of stunning plants from different countries, the gardens are extremely well maintained and bursting with beauty. Visit Te Parapara, New Zealand’s first traditional Maori garden, before settling on the grassy banks for a picnic in the sun.
Admission is free and you’re invited to roam around the gardens for as long as you like. You’ll need to set aside a few hours to truly take in everything this incredible attraction has to offer.
Waikato River activities
The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest body of water, and runs right through the heart of Hamilton. I loved simply strolling up and down the banks on my lunch breaks, taking in the exquisite houses on each side of the river and pausing to enjoy a bit to eat with a brilliant backdrop. Other Hamiltonians can be seen zipping along on bicycles and roller blades all hours of the day, and I’m told joggers love it as a place to start their morning run.
See the city from a new angle with a kayaking experience down the waterway, or hop aboard one of the cruise ferries that roams up and down the river on a regular basis.
Hot air ballooning
Hot air balloons are such a staple in Hamilton that it hosts its own Balloons Over Waikato festival every year. Every morning during the March event, homeowners can find balloons drifting over their houses into the rising sun. It’s a truly magical sight, culminating in an evening Nightglow event, where hundreds of balloons are lit up in time to orchestrated music and fireworks.