Things to do in Hamilton New Zealand

Top 25 Things To Do In Hamilton New Zealand: Exciting Outdoor Activities, Museums And Beautiful Gardens

Last Updated: July 13, 2023By

There are unforgettable, exciting things to do in Hamilton, New Zealand if you’re planning a trip but not sure where to start. Known as the heart of the Waikato region, this vibrant city is brimming with attractions and activities.

Today, we’ve curated a list of the top 25 fun things to do in Hamilton, and it promises an action-packed journey showcasing historical sites, beautiful gardens, unique museums, adventurous outdoor activities and more! Ready for an adventure you won’t forget?

Article Summary:

  • Hamilton Gardens: Explore 18 themed gardens showcasing unique landscapes and enjoy locally famous ice cream from Duck Island.
  • Hamilton Zoo: Visit this sanctuary housing over 600 native and exotic animals, with interactive activities and an onsite cafe.
  • Classics Museum: Admire a collection of over 100 classic cars curated by passionate owner Tom, located near other attractions like Hamilton Gardens and Taitua Arboretum.
  • Waikato Museum: Immerse yourself in the region’s art, history, and heritage through guided tours and interactive displays.
  • The Sculpture Park: Appreciate over 100 sculptures spread along a nature trail that showcases Maori culture amidst natural beauty.
  • Rally Drive NZ: Experience high-speed racing at this adrenaline-fuelled attraction along the Waikato River.
  • Hamilton New Zealand Temple: Explore the first temple in the Southern Hemisphere with historical significance, surrounded by peaceful surroundings.
  • Inspirit Studio & Gallery: Discover diverse New Zealand artwork in a contemporary gallery setting amidst serene rural surroundings.

Top 25 Fun and Exciting Things to Do in Hamilton New Zealand

Explore the stunning Hamilton Gardens, visit the exotic animals at Hamilton Zoo, and admire classic cars at the Classics Museum and a whole lot more.

1. Hamilton Gardens


Hamilton Gardens, NZ

Hamilton Gardens, NZ


A visit to New Zealand’s Hamilton city is incomplete without spending a day at the internationally acclaimed Hamilton Gardens. Renowned worldwide for their uniquely themed and colorful landscapes, these gardens create an enchanting world that delights explorers of all ages.

As the number one attraction in Hamilton, you can lose yourself among 18 spectacular themed gardens each telling its own story – from ancient historic cultures to modern contemporary interpretations.

A leisurely stroll through the grounds reveals breath-taking views of the mighty Waikato River, providing a serene backdrop amidst nature’s colors. After a mesmerizing exploration, what could be better than treating your taste buds with some locally famous ice cream from Duck Island?

Although there’s an entrance fee to this popular garden oasis – visited by thousands annually – the captivating experience it offers is worth every penny.

2. Hamilton Zoo


Hamilton Zoo

Hamilton Zoo, Hamilton, NZ


A top attraction in the mighty Waikato region, Hamilton Zoo is an absolute must-visit for all animal lovers. Curled up across a sprawling 25-hectare area, this sanctuary is home to over 600 native and exotic animals – earning it a coveted spot on every tourist’s list of things to do in Hamilton New Zealand.

Visitors can enjoy their day out exploring the captivating creatures in remarkably tranquil surroundings.

As one walks along, friendly staff at Hamilton Zoo ensure everyone feels welcomed while facilitating a variety of interactive activities and encounters with animals. Not just that, but they also offer insightful information about different species housed here – helping visitors understand our cohabiting friends better.

After an adventurous tour around the zoo, guests can stop by the onsite cafe to grab a quick snack or refreshment before continuing their exploration of this vibrant city nestled alongside New Zealand’s longest river – Waikato River.

3. Classics Museum



Nestled in the heart of Hamilton, the Classics Museum is a must-see attraction for all car enthusiasts. Ranked as one of the top places to visit, this museum showcases an impressive collection of over 100 classic cars, carefully curated by its passionate owner, Tom.

Whether you’re a petrolhead or simply appreciate vintage aesthetics, every piece at the Classics Museum has an intriguing story behind it that’s sure to captivate your interest. What’s more? Your trip could be perfectly paired with other nearby attractions such as Hamilton Gardens and Taitua Arboretum for a full day of exploration!

4. Hamilton Lake Domain

Located in the heart of Hamilton, New Zealand, Hamilton Lake Domain is a must-visit attraction for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Ranked #4 out of 63 things to do in the city, this picturesque park offers a wide range of water and land-based activities.

The domain is renowned for its unique ecological environment and is perfect for yachting, windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boating, and even model boating on its serene lake. But it’s not limited to just water sports – visitors can also explore the scenic Hamilton Lake Walkway that features an abundance of birdlife, boardwalks, playgrounds, and even a cozy cafe nestled amidst the greenery.

This popular spot draws runners and dog walkers alike with its beautiful surroundings and well-maintained trails. And if you’re feeling hungry after your adventures at the domain, there are plenty of nearby eateries offering delicious New Zealand cuisine as well as vegetarian-friendly options.

5. Taitua Arboretum

Tucked just outside of Hamilton City in New Zealand, Taitua Arboretum is a hidden gem spanning across 20 hectares. This expansive tree collection offers an idyllic setting for nature enthusiasts to explore and connect with the natural beauty of New Zealand.

With well-maintained walking tracks that wind through lush landscapes and serene lakes, visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll or embark on a peaceful picnic amidst diverse exotic trees.

Families with children will appreciate the engaging outdoor activities and the chance to spot various bird species that call the arboretum home. Conveniently located near popular attractions like Hamilton Gardens, Waitomo Glowworm Caves, and Hamilton Zoo, Taitua Arboretum is an essential stop for tourists seeking tranquility away from the city’s buzz.

6. Waikato Museum


Waikato Museum

Exhibitions at the Waikato Museum

The Waikato Museum, located along the picturesque Waikato River in Hamilton, New Zealand, is a must-visit attraction that offers a captivating experience. As one of the top 25 things to do in Hamilton, this cultural center showcases the region’s art, history, and heritage.

With guided tours and interactive displays, visitors can delve into the rich Māori history of the area and explore the diverse range of over 3,000 artworks on display. Situated conveniently at 1 Grantham Street in Hamilton, it provides stunning views of the city while immersing visitors in fascinating exhibits that are constantly evolving to offer new discoveries.

7. The Sculpture Park

The Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum is a must-visit attraction in Hamilton, New Zealand. Located along the beautiful Waikato River, this park offers a unique art-in-nature experience for visitors.

With over 100 sculptures and installations spread along a 2km nature trail, it’s no wonder that the Sculpture Park has become one of New Zealand’s top attractions. The park not only showcases stunning works of art but also highlights the rich Maori culture through its various artworks and installations.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a nature lover, the Sculpture Park provides the perfect setting to appreciate creativity amidst natural beauty. So make sure to add this artistic escape to your list of things to do in Hamilton!

8. Rally Drive NZ

Rally Drive NZ is a must-visit attraction in Hamilton, New Zealand. Located at 24 Bandon Street, this adrenaline-fuelled experience offers rally experiences and hot laps that will get your heart racing.

As part of the top 25 things to do in Hamilton, Rally Drive NZ allows you to channel your inner rally driver and experience the thrill of high-speed racing. Whether you’re a local looking for adventure or a tourist seeking an unforgettable experience, Rally Drive NZ is the perfect choice.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to test your limits and feel the rush of speed along the beautiful Waikato River.

9. Hamilton New Zealand Temple

The Hamilton New Zealand Temple is a must-visit attraction in the city. As the first temple built in the Southern Hemisphere and second in Polynesia, it holds significant historical and cultural value.

Located along the beautiful Waikato River, visitors can enjoy its peaceful surroundings. The temple is associated with other top attractions in Hamilton, such as the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre and Taitua Arboretum.

Whether you’re interested in religious history or simply seeking a unique experience, the Hamilton New Zealand Temple offers a spiritual atmosphere that shouldn’t be missed during your visit to Hamilton.

10. Inspirit Studio & Gallery

Inspirit Studio & Gallery is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts in Hamilton, New Zealand. Located on Pencarrow Road in Tamahere, this contemporary art gallery offers a spacious and creative environment to explore diverse and original New Zealand artwork and design.

Situated amidst the serene rural surroundings, just a short distance from Hamilton Airport, the gallery provides a tranquil setting that adds to the overall experience. Families will also find plenty to do nearby, with attractions like Hamilton Zoo and interactive kids exhibitions in close proximity.

Don’t miss out on exploring the sculpture garden within Inspirit Studio & Gallery’s premises, which further enhances your visit. With positive reviews and a strong online presence including over 2,480 Facebook likes, this gallery is definitely worth checking out during your time in Hamilton.

11. Waikato Stadium

Waikato Stadium, also known as FMG Stadium Waikato, is a renowned sporting and cultural events venue in Hamilton, New Zealand. With a capacity of 25,800, this versatile stadium offers excellent views and top-notch facilities for spectators.

Located along the picturesque Waikato River, it provides a stunning backdrop for various events. As the spiritual home of rugby in Hamilton, the stadium holds significant prominence in the local sporting community.

It has gained positive reviews from visitors who appreciate its comfortable seating and impressive atmosphere. Hosting a wide range of sports events, concerts, and cultural performances, Waikato Stadium truly deserves its place among the top 25 things to do in Hamilton.

Kirikiriroa Hamilton isite Visitor Information Centre

The Kirikiriroa Hamilton isite Visitor Information Centre is a valuable resource for tourists visiting Hamilton, New Zealand. Located at ArtsPost Galleries & Shop, this comprehensive and impartial center offers a wide range of information and booking services for accommodation, activities, attractions, and more.

Whether you’re looking to explore the beautiful Hamilton Gardens or learn about the region’s history at Waikato Museum, the Visitor Information Centre has got you covered. With its central location and knowledgeable staff, it’s definitely worth stopping by before embarking on your Hamilton adventure.

12. Hamilton River Walk


Waikato River Walk

Walking path along the serene Waikato River

The Hamilton River Walk is a must-visit attraction when exploring Hamilton, New Zealand. This scenic walkway stretches over 11 km alongside the majestic Waikato River, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding natural landscape.

With well-maintained paths and a peaceful atmosphere, it’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or more vigorous activities like jogging or cycling, the Hamilton River Walk has something for everyone.

Accessible at multiple points along the river, this top-rated attraction allows visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Waikato River and enjoy an unforgettable outdoor experience in Hamilton.

13. Riff Raff Square

Riff Raff Square is a unique and popular attraction in Hamilton, New Zealand. Located in the heart of the city center, this square features a larger-than-life statue of the character Riff Raff from the iconic Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The statue showcases Riff Raff in his distinctive alien attire, as portrayed by Richard O’Brien. With its intriguing and unusual art installation, Riff Raff Square adds to Hamilton’s vibrant cultural scene.

It is a must-visit spot for fans of the movie and contemporary art enthusiasts alike, providing a photo-worthy opportunity to explore something out of the ordinary in Hamilton.

14. Shaw’s Bird Park

Shaw’s Bird Park is a must-visit attraction in Hamilton, New Zealand. This 7-hectare bird habitat is home to over 500 native trees and a wide variety of birds, making it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts.

The park also boasts around 3000 introduced trees, adding to its natural beauty. Shaw’s Bird Park offers a beautifully paved environment that is perfect for both the birds and visitors alike.

It is no wonder why this park ranks among the top 25 things to do in Hamilton. Open seven days a week with free entry, Shaw’s Bird Park features a 2-kilometer paved walk that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

In addition to showcasing native flora and fauna, the park also serves as both a native bird rescue and duck breeding facility. Conveniently located on the edge of Hamilton, Shaw’s Bird Park provides easy access for visitors looking to explore this incredible natural haven.

15. Zealong Tea Estate


Zealong Tea Estate

Drone shot of Zealong Tea Estate, Hamilton, NZ


Zealong Tea Estate is an exclusive and interactive experience for tea enthusiasts located in Hamilton, New Zealand. As the only commercial tea estate in the country, Zealong offers a personalized tea walk that delves into the rich history and culture of tea.

With beautiful views and internationally recognized status, this $20 million investment provides visitors with a range of teas to sample, including green, black, and oolong varieties.

Additionally, Zealong Tea Estate goes beyond just tea by offering a high tea experience complete with a menu featuring various delectable dishes. Whether you’re a tea connoisseur or simply looking for a unique excursion during your visit to Hamilton, Zealong Tea Estate is definitely worth adding to your itinerary.

16. Balloons Over Waikato

Balloons over Waikato is an annual hot air balloon festival held in Hamilton, New Zealand since 1999. Organized by the non-profit organization Balloons over Waikato, this event has become New Zealand’s premier hot air balloon festival.

Lasting for five days, it offers a variety of activities centered around hot air balloons that both visitors and locals can enjoy. One of the highlights is the Zuru Nightglow, where the balloons illuminate the night sky in a spectacular display.

Drawing participants from around New Zealand and beyond, Balloons over Waikato showcases vibrant hot air balloon displays and has become a significant attraction in Hamilton’s tourism scene while contributing to its cultural offerings as well.

17. Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

Nestled in the heart of the Waikato region, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is an ecotourism gem that should not be missed. This sprawling sanctuary is New Zealand’s largest mainland fenced project, offering visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the country as it was before human intervention.

With its predator-free forest teeming with native wildlife and vibrant plant life, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari showcases the best of New Zealand’s natural beauty.

This award-winning conservation project takes visitors on an unforgettable journey through a recreated village, immersing them in Maori culture and history. The sanctuary also boasts an impressive Visitor Centre located on the Southern side of the mountain, providing valuable information about its attractions and conservation efforts.

18. Raglan Surfing


Raglan Surfing, Hamilton

Raglan Surfing, Hamilton, NZ


Raglan, located just 48 kilometres west of Hamilton in New Zealand, is known as the surfing capital of the country. With its world-class left-hand point breaks and incredible surf conditions, Raglan offers a paradise for surfers.

Manu Bay, Whale Bay, and Ruapuke Beach are popular spots where you can catch some epic waves. But even if you’re not into surfing, Raglan has a lot to offer with its black sand beaches, dramatic coastline, and bohemian atmosphere.

Make sure to visit Bridal Veil Falls, Ngarunui Beach, and Te Toto Gorge Lookout for stunning natural beauty when exploring this vibrant coastal town. And don’t forget to check out Raglan Surf School if you want to learn or improve your surfing skills.

19. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls, also known as Waireinga Falls, is a must-visit attraction in the Waikato region of New Zealand. This stunning waterfall is considered one of the best in the country, with a 55-meter drop and surrounded by lush vegetation.

The falls are located in the Raglan area, just a short drive from Raglan itself. A wide and easily accessible track leads visitors through native forest to two viewing platforms offering breathtaking views of Bridal Veil Falls.

The falls have formed a beautiful pool at their base over time, creating an enchanting sight. Although swimming isn’t permitted here, it’s well worth taking the time to experience this natural wonder during your visit to Hamilton and the surrounding area.

20. Lake Karapiro

Lake Karapiro, located in Hamilton, New Zealand’s beautiful Waikato region, is a popular destination offering a wide range of activities for visitors. With its calm waters and stunning natural beauty, it provides the perfect setting for on-water adventures such as kayaking and paddleboarding.

Whether you’re looking to explore the lake’s tranquil surroundings or enjoy a picnic by the water’s edge, Lake Karapiro has something for everyone. It is also conveniently situated near other attractions like Hamilton Zoo and the Waikato Museum, making it an ideal stop on your itinerary.

Don’t miss out on this must-visit destination that showcases the best of outdoor recreation in Hamilton!

21. Waikato Cycling Trails

The Waikato region is a paradise for cycling enthusiasts, with an extensive network of trails that offer breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re a road cyclist or prefer the thrill of mountain biking, there’s something for everyone here.

The Ngā Haerenga Great Rides are considered the premier cycle trails in New Zealand and showcase the stunning landscapes and must-see attractions of Waikato. From the peaceful Waikato River Trails to hidden coves and picturesque islands, these trails provide endless opportunities for adventure.

With initiatives and infrastructure in place to support cyclists, Hamilton and the wider Waikato region welcome riders of all levels with open arms. So grab your bike, explore this diverse landscape, and immerse yourself in all that these magnificent cycling trails have to offer.

These beautiful paths are part of New Zealand’s wider network of cycle trails, providing even more options for visitors seeking outdoor adventure. The scenery along the way is simply breathtaking: lush rainforests, enchanting waterfalls like Bridal Veil Falls, captivating native birds at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari – there’s so much to discover! And if you’re not bringing your own bike on your trip to Hamilton or New Zealand as a whole – don’t worry! There are plenty of rental services available where you can find quality equipment suitable for whatever trail you choose.

So get ready to pedal through nature’s finest settings as you soak up the unique beauty only found along these stunning cycling routes in Waikato.

22. Hot Air Balloon Tour


Hot Air Balloon Tour

Hot Air Balloon Tour of Hamilton, NZ

Experience the breathtaking beauty of Hamilton from a whole new perspective with a hot air balloon tour. Drift gracefully above the city, farmlands, and the mighty Waikato River, taking in stunning panoramic views that will leave you speechless.

The Kiwi Balloon Company offers exhilarating rides that allow you to witness the charm and splendor of Hamilton like never before. This unique adventure is not to be missed, providing an unforgettable experience for both locals and tourists alike.

Soaring through the sky in a colorful hot air balloon is truly a magical way to explore this captivating region of New Zealand.

23. Lake District Adventures

Lake District Adventures is a must-visit attraction in Hamilton, New Zealand. Located near the stunning Lake Karapiro, this adventure company offers a wide range of thrilling activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

From kayaking and paddleboarding to jet boating and jet skiing, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The beautiful surroundings of the lake provide the perfect backdrop for these exhilarating adventures.

Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or simply want to explore the natural beauty of the area, Lake District Adventures has it all. So gear up, get ready for some excitement, and make unforgettable memories at Lake District Adventures in Hamilton!

24. Duck Island Ice Cream

Duck Island Ice Cream is a must-visit spot in Hamilton, New Zealand. This popular ice cream shop offers an incredible range of flavors, guaranteeing there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Founded by chefs and ice cream enthusiasts in 2015, Duck Island prides itself on creating handcrafted, small-batch ice cream that has garnered rave reviews from both locals and tourists.

One standout flavor is their cookies and cream, a Kiwi ice cream staple. Located on Grey St in Hamilton, Duck Island Ice Cream is conveniently situated near other attractions like the Hamilton Gardens and Waikato River.

25. Hakarimatas Hiking Trail

The Hakarimatas hiking trail in Hamilton, New Zealand offers outdoor enthusiasts a challenging and rewarding adventure. Located in the scenic Hakarimata Scenic Reserve, this 12km-long walkway takes visitors through native bush, showcasing towering kauri and totara trees.

The highlight of the trail is the Hakarimata Summit Track, which leads hikers to an elevation of 374 meters, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Waikato Basin and down to Ruapehu.

Along the way, nature lovers can also spot glow worms that add a touch of enchantment to the experience. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a fun outdoor activity, exploring the Hakarimatas hiking trail is definitely one of the top things to do when visiting Hamilton.


In conclusion, Hamilton, New Zealand offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From exploring the beautiful gardens and museums to experiencing the thrill of hot air balloon rides and surfing in Raglan, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or adrenaline junkie, Hamilton has it all. So pack your bags and get ready to create unforgettable memories in this charming destination.

Things to Do in Hamilton New Zealand – Final Thoughts

1. What are the must-visit attractions in Hamilton, New Zealand?

Some of the must-visit attractions in Hamilton, New Zealand include the Hamilton Gardens, Waikato Museum, Raglan Beach, Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, and Waitomo Glowworm Caves.

2. Are there any outdoor activities to do in Hamilton?

Absolutely! There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in Hamilton such as hiking at Te Awa River Ride or Hakarimata Walkway, kayaking on the Waikato River, or exploring the nature reserves like Taitua Arboretum and Parana Park.

3. Is it worth visiting on a day trip from Auckland?

Yes, visiting Hamilton on a day trip from Auckland is definitely worth it. It’s only about an hour’s drive away and offers a different experience with its botanical gardens, cultural sites like Māori marae (meeting grounds), and nearby attractions such as Hobbiton Movie Set Tours.

4. Can I experience Maori culture in Hamilton?

Yes! You can immerse yourself in Maori culture by attending traditional performances at places like Taitamariki Marae or participating in guided tours that offer insights into Maori history and traditions. The Waikato Museum also showcases Maori art and heritage exhibits.

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