Hamilton is the most populous inland city in New Zealand, boasting an energetic vibe and dynamic tourism industry. Nestled along the banks of the mighty Waikato River – the longest river in the country – the city is known for its gardens, cafes, scenery, and nightlife. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Hamilton, the following are some musts for your weekend to-do list.
Traverse the Timber Trail
If you are on the North Island, visiting Pureora Forest Park is worth your time. The area is home to lush, exotic forests with ancient trees and diverse birdlife. With more than 80 miles of hiking and biking trails, including several one-way options, the Timber Trails are sure to be a rewarding part of your weekend.
The forest also has some of the most spectacular suspension bridges in New Zealand. The iconic bridges stretch hundreds of metres across the valley floor and provide views unlike anything else in nature. Just check out the evidence from the Timber Trail’s Instagram. Enough said.
Stroll the Hamilton Gardens
The award-winning Hamilton Gardens have become the city’s calling card. The most-visited attraction in Hamilton has distinct gardens dedicated to various beliefs, lifestyles, and traditions. Guests can enjoy the serenity of the Sung Dynasty Chinese Scholar’s garden one minute and adventure to the grandeur of the Italian Renaissance Garden the next.
Thanks in part to its free admission, the Hamilton Gardens host more than a million visitors each year. The facility offers several guided tours and other events, including plant scales, national shows, and exhibitions. Guests can also stop by the gourmet Hamilton Gardens Café, which serves up tasty seasonal dishes seven days a week.
Check Out the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
For more than 130 years, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves have ranked as one of Hamilton’s most coveted attractions. Guests can enjoy serene trips into the cavern as the glow from the cave ceiling lights the way. The thousands of bioluminescent worms create a radiant aesthetic, unlike anything you have ever seen.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves have two levels. The top allows you to study the intricacy of the cave formations, while the lower level provides passage through the glowing chamber. The authenticity is upped a notch knowing that each tour guide is a direct descendant of the Maori chief who first explored the now-famous cave grounds.
Take a Journey to Hobbiton
Relive all the magic of The Lord of the Rings trilogy at the real-life Hobbiton. The preserved movie set gives fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse via a guided tour that also includes visits to the Shire and Middle Earth. You too can fall in love with the pastoral artistry that drew in director Peter Jackson more than a decade ago.
If you are a diehard Lord of the Rings fan, be sure to book tickets for the private tour. It comes with a personal guide who will transport you across the 12-acre site, offering insightful and entertaining commentary about how the movie set came to be. You’ll also enjoy a Festive Feast when you stop for lunch in the Party Marquee.
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